LOS ANGELES – Once again, the Seattle Seahawks had their chances.
Once again, they couldn’t quite make the most of them.
The Seahawks made a game of it against the NFC West-leading Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, but a costly fumble, a head-scratching onside kick and a failed last-minute drive buried their chances as they headed back to Seattle with a 36-31 defeat that pushed them back below .500 for the season.
Seattle held a lead going into the fourth quarter but watched it slip away, leaving with a 4-5 record as it returns home for a tough matchup against the Green Bay Packers (4-4-1) at CenturyLink Field on Thursday night at 5:20 p.m. That game will be broadcast on the official home of the Seahawks, Q13 FOX.
"That kind of fight and that kind of battling will take you a long ways," coach Pete Carroll said after the game. "We don't care where we go or who we're playing - they don't matter. We're gonna go and we're gonna battle 'em."
The Seahawks got on the board quickly, marching down the field on their opening possession on the strength of some solid rushes by backup running back Mike Davis, two personal-foul penalties and a video-game-esque 18-yard run by wide receiver Tyler Lockett. They capped it off as Russell Wilson threaded a beautiful pass into the end zone and tight end Nick Vannett somehow pulled in a 9-yard touchdown reception to put Seattle up 7-0 with 11:16 left in the first quarter.
Just as quickly, however, the Rams answered back. Los Angeles marched 86 yards down the field on a drive in which they never even made it to third down. The 10th play of the drive saw quarterback Jared Goff hitting receiver Gerald Everett for a 10-yard touchdown, tying it at 7 with 6:41 left in the first quarter.
Seattle fought back. More accurately, rookie running back Rashaad Penny fought back. Penny broke two long runs over the course of an 82-yard drive, breaking off a 38-yarder to put the Hawks in Rams’ territory and then sealing the deal with an 18-yard touchdown run that put the Seahawks back up 14-7 with 3:42 left in the first quarter. The run and drive put the Seahawks over 100 rushing yards for the seventh consecutive week.
It was early in the second quarter before either team would end a drive without a touchdown. The Seahawks finally got the Rams to a fourth down, forcing a 38-yard Greg Zurlein field goal that pulled Los Angeles to 14-10 with 14:48 left in the first half.
Things settled into a somewhat less frenetic pace, as the teams traded punts – including a 68-yarder by the Seahawks’ Michael Dickson – until late in the first half. The Rams found their rhythm again on offense, driving 86 yards on nine plays capped by a 17-yard Todd Gurley touchdown run with 2:48 to go in the second quarter that put them on top for the first time, 17-14.
The Rams tacked on another field goal midway through the third quarter, with Zurlein knocking in a 37-yarder to finish off a 10-play, 56-yard drive.
Dante Fowler Jr. helped the Seahawks out a couple of times, committing third-down penalties that gave Seattle first downs instead of fourth downs. Notably, his 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty late in the third quarter set up a 23-yard Tyler Lockett touchdown reception two plays later that gave the Seahawks a 21-20 lead with 4:20 on the clock.
Failure to stop the Rams on third down caught up with the Seahawks again early in the fourth quarter. L.A. was facing a 3rd and 15 at its own 46-yard line, but Goff found Robert Wood for 35 yards and two plays later found Tyler Higbee in the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown. The Rams’ 2-point conversion was stuffed, but they went up 26-21 with 14:54 left in the game.
The Seahawks fought back within 2 on their next possession. They drove 60 yards highlighted by a 21-yard Wilson scramble and a 15-yard Doug Baldwin reception, but Wilson was ultimately sacked on a third-down play on the Rams’ 8 and Seattle settled for a 33-yard field goal.
The Seahawks attempted an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, but the gamble failed miserably and the Rams wound up with the ball and great field position. Seattle’s defense held as best it could, forcing a field-goal from the 2-yard line that made it 29-25 with 7:34 left to play.
But Fowler would make up for his costly penalties. With just under 6 minutes to play, he strip-sacked Wilson to give the Rams the ball on the Seahawks’ 9-yard line, and a jet-sweep on the very next play gave Brandin Cooks a 9-yard touchdown and the Rams a 36-24 lead.
The Seahawks gave themselves another shot late in the fourth quarter. They drove 90 yards in 12 plays, with Mike Davis getting in the end zone on a 3-yard reception that made it 36-31 with 1:56 left.
The Rams couldn’t do anything with the ball after they got it back, and Seattle ended up with the ball on its own 25-yard line with 1:24 to play after a punt. They made their move, getting as far as the Rams’ 35. But ultimately, the last-gasp drive fell short as Wilson’s 4th and 10 pass to Lockett didn’t connect.
The Seahawks managed to stay in it despite some bad news before the game, when they learned that running back Chris Carson and guard D.J. Fluker would both be inactive with injuries.
It instead became rookie Penny's day to shine. Penny carried the ball 12 times for 108 yards, with a long of 38 yards and a TD run of 18 coming on the same drive.
“Fantastic job by Rashaad,” Caroll said. “Great to see him bust out like that.”
Russell Wilson had a bit of an odd day, failing to produce much in the first half but ending the game completing 17 of 26 passes for 176 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also had his biggest rushing game in recent memory, carrying the ball nine times for 92 yards.
"This may not seem like what you think I would say here, but I really loved that football game today," Carroll said. "It was hard. It was tough. You’re ahead, you’re behind. You’re battling, you catch up, you go ahead again, you just keep fighting."