Tell the Truth Monday has rarely been so harsh during the Pete Carroll as it was following Sunday’s 42-7 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
Not only did the game deal a likely fatal blow to any chance of winning the NFC West – and made simply getting to the playoffs a long shot – but it was also a stunning dose of reality about the current state of the team.
Seattle hadn’t lost a home game by more than seven points in the Russell Wilson era – in fact, Sunday’s 35-point margin almost equaled the combined 40 points of the eight previous losses since 2012 at CenturyLink Field.
It added up to one of the more somber Mondays at the VMAC of the Carroll era – the loss was the team’s worst since he took over in 2010, the previous being a 41-7 defeat to the Giants in his first year.
“They are quiet,’’ Carroll said of how the players were on Monday. “They did a good job of working out today, got the juice going. But they were quiet.’’
Carroll insisted, though, that by Wednesday the team will come back to work as it always has for Sunday’s game at Dallas, a contest Seattle has to win to keep its postseason hopes alive, with the same business-as-usual approach as any other game.
“No different than any other week,’’ he said. “They (players) always have to (show leadership). And coaches have to do their thing. It’s calling on all of us. We come back on Wednesday, we are ready to roll.’’
As for what happened Sunday, while nothing went right, Carroll pointed to three specific things that went wrong.
1. Run defense
Seattle held star Los Angeles running back Todd Gurley to 43 yards rushing on 14 carries in the first meeting, a key to the Seahawks’ then-seemingly-pivotal 16-10 win.
Rams coach Sean McVay later lamented that the Rams didn’t keep handing the ball to Gurley and vowed that wouldn’t be an issue this time.
It also made sense to use Gurley to attack a Seattle defense severely weakened since the first meeting with the loss of strong safety Kam Chancellor and linebacker K.J. Wright and with middle linebacker Bobby Wagner visibly slowed by a hamstring injury.
It all worked for the Rams as Gurley had 152 yards on 21 carries, including a stunning 57-yard TD on a third-and-20 late in the first half, a play that as much as any other typified the game for both sides.
Carroll said “you can’t deny’’ the difference in the run defense since Wagner went out with the injury in the second half against Jacksonville. But he said he thought Seattle would still handle the Rams’ running game better – the 244 rushing yards for the Rams were the second-most allowed by Seattle in the Carroll era topped only by 270 against Kansas City in 2010.
Carroll said players didn’t fit runs well early and also that “we got a little bit anxious. Tried to get after the quarterback too much. Got out of our run lanes and gave them some stuff.’’
Carroll also said he thought not having Wagner and Wright in practice all week as well as other veterans missing practice in recent weeks might have contributed to sloppy tackling and some lax detail.
“I think we were a little off there fundamentally in a game where we needed to play with great fundamentals,’’ Carroll said. “We’ve had a lot of guys on the injury list and we’ve made it through it. But I think it finally caught up to us a little bit.’’
Carroll said Wright should be back this week and there’s “a really good chance’’ Wagner will play, which should help against Dallas.
2. A stagnant offense
While the defense had some ready excuses for its struggles, the offense didn’t. Everybody was healthy and theoretically ready to go.
But Russell Wilson missed some throws early, the running game went nowhere and Wilson was sacked seven times, tying the most of his career. And with the Rams offense rolling, the Seahawks could never counter with a drive to get Seattle back in the game.
“Anywhere in there if we had put a drive together or a sequence there where we could get on the board, it makes a big difference,’’ Carroll said.
Instead, Seattle didn’t get past the Rams 49-yard-line until it was 40-0.
Two early holding penalties on Duane Brown hurt, as did a fumble on the first series by Tanner McEvoy and then a fumble by Wilson when it was 20-0 on the only play Seattle ran in the first half inside Rams territory.
Los Angeles scored quickly to make it 27-0 and that was pretty much that.
Seattle finished with just 143 yards, its fewest since a 2013 game against the Rams in St. Louis, which the Seahawks won 14-9.
3. Too many happy returns for the Rams.
Another key to Seattle’s win in the first game was making the Rams have to move long and far to score – Los Angeles’ average drive start in that game was its own 29.
Sunday, the Rams’ average drive start was its own 47 with seven of possessions beginning at midfield or in Seattle territory.
Three of those were set up by long punt returns of 53, 26 and 26 by Pharoh Cooper.
The first went to the 1 and set up a TD that made it 13-0.
Carroll noted Monday “we had him surrounded. On the big one there were six guys right there and it got through and we missed two opportunities to tackle him.’’
After that, Carroll said “we got a little bit cautious to make sure it didn’t happen the next time and it kind of compounded for us.’’
So basically, everything went wrong leaving Seattle needing to not only win its final two games but also needing two losses by Atlanta and one by Detroit to get into the playoffs.
Carroll planned to have Monday night’s Tampa Bay-Atlanta game “on the screen’’ as he went about preparing for the week.
But he said he wouldn’t lay out the scenarios for his players.
“We don’t go that way,’’ Carroll said. “We just have to take care of our business.’’
After Sunday, that seems like more than enough to worry about.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.