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Commentary: Seahawks’ two losses to the Rams maddening for team dreaming of deep postseason run

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford is pressured by Seattle's Julian Love during Sunday's game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California.  (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)
By Matt Calkins Seattle Times

They are 4-6, have been dripping with injuries and entered the game as a 200-to-1 bet to win the Super Bowl.

They lost by 23 points to the Cowboys two games earlier, by 17 to the Packers last week and look about as daunting offensively as a Furby.

They are the Los Angeles Rams, who for the past season and a half have been the antithesis of the team that raised the Lombardi Trophy two Februarys ago. They also may end up as the most infuriating reason the Seahawks miss the playoffs.

Twice now, Seattle (6-4) has been unable to subdue these SoCal spoilers. First it was a 30-13 bludgeoning to open the season at Lumen Field, and on Sunday it was a 17-16 loss at SoFi Stadium.

It’s not that these defeats against the Rams count any more than the ones vs. the Bengals or Ravens or whoever might knock the Seahawks off next. But given how shoddy L.A. has looked vs. most teams not based in Washington state, these losses likely are the most maddening.

Sunday, after all, should have been the last four-quarter respite Seattle experienced before its toughest stretch of the season. Coming up for the Seahawks are San Francisco (7-3) on Thursday, Dallas (7-3) the Thursday after that, a road rematch with the 49ers two Sundays later, then a contest vs. Philadelphia (8-1) on Dec. 17.

Losses to any of those teams — home or away — would be understandable should they happen over the next few weeks. In fact, faring any better than 1-3 over that stint likely would be considered a success.

But two L’s to the Rams? These Rams? It’s the kind of thing that can haunt you for a whole offseason.

“We should have won that game,” said Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett, whose team led 16-7 in the fourth quarter. “I mean, the feeling mentally that we’re just giving that game up is really tough.”

There is a caveat to this giveaway narrative, because Seattle spent two (short) fourth-quarter drives without starting quarterback Geno Smith, who injured the elbow on his throwing arm. But that didn’t mean the following didn’t happen.

1) The Seahawks incurred 12 penalties for 130 yards. One flag came with 8:09 left in the game — just before a Rams touchdown — when cornerback Devon Witherspoon was called for pass interference on third-and-goal from the 5-yard line. Another came on a third-and-15 from the Rams’ 48 on their next drive — when cornerback Riq Woolen was called for an illegal-hands-to-the-face penalty — which eventually set up the field goal that put L.A. up 17-16.

“We made it really hard on ourselves so many times in this game, the calls that were made there,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “It really blew up on us and gave them a really good chance to take advantage of it, and they did.”

2) The Seahawks converted just five of their 15 third-down attempts. They came into the game 30th in the NFL in third-down conversion percentage (31.5), so I suppose Sunday was technically an improvement. But that didn’t mean gobs of points weren’t left out on the field. Had Seahawks kicker Jason Myers — who missed a 55-yarder in the final seconds — not connected on kicks from 54, 52, and 43 yards, Seattle’s offense would have been truly fruitless beyond its opening drive.

Again, backup quarterback Drew Lock led two fourth-quarter possessions — the first of which resulted in a punt and the second an interception. Smith returned for the final drive and nearly engineered a comeback victory in the minute and a half he was on the field, but Myers’ kick missed badly to the right.

Will Geno be back for Thursday’s home game vs. the Niners? Carroll on Monday said he expects Smith will play. But given how dominant San Francisco has been when healthy, the likelihood of the Seahawks surging back into a tie for first place on Thanksgiving is slim even with Smith behind center.

Other than that upset over the Lions in Week 2, there has been little indication that this Seattle team can make any kind of dent in the postseason. Despite sitting two games above .500, the Seahawks have still allowed two more points than they have scored.

Even so, just one win against this not-quite-middling Rams team would have set them up for a second consecutive playoff berth in the post Russell Wilson era. That’s something to be proud of. What has happened in two games vs. the Rams this year is quite the opposite.