Untimely penalties end Seahawks' hope of toppling Rams
SEATTLE (AP) — The scenario was all lined up for Russell Wilson to lead the Seattle Seahawks to a 25th career fourth-quarter comeback and end the unbeaten run of a division rival.
Needing just a field goal to take the lead, the Seahawks were already in range for Sebastian Janikowski. A few more yards, milk some time off the clock and Seattle would have had a chance at a field goal to knock off the Los Angeles Rams.
With two untimely penalties, Seattle's plans of a late comeback fell apart. And instead of making the NFC West a race, the Seahawks already trail the Rams by three games after Los Angeles' 33-31 victory on Sunday.
"Russell, his way to make big plays, put us in a position to win and in the end we get knocked out of field goal range with a penalty. Really disturbing that that happened at that time," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.
Seattle was more than a touchdown underdog at home to arguably the best team in the league. Thanks to a rejuvenated run game led by Chris Carson and his 116 yards, and three TD passes from Wilson, Seattle gave itself a chance in the fourth quarter to knock the Rams from the short list of unbeaten teams.
After Cairo Santos hit a 39-yard field goal to give Los Angeles a 33-31 lead, it took just two plays for Wilson to get Seattle in field goal range. He hit Tyler Lockett for 44 yards to the Rams' 32. There was less than 5 minutes remaining and Seattle was in perfect position to pull the upset.
A false start penalty against Germain Ifedi came first, although it appeared Seattle would have been called for delay of game if not for the early movement. But the most damaging penalty came on second-and-13, when D.J. Fluker was called for holding against Ndamukong Suh. The Seahawks were suddenly facing second-and-23 outside of field goal range and after two straight incompletions — one batted down by Cory Littleton — the Seahawks were forced to punt with 3:38 remaining.
Seattle never saw the ball again. Fluker didn't agree with the holding call, although on replay it appeared he had a clear tug on Suh's shoulder.
"They called a penalty. It cost us the game. I don't think it was a penalty," Fluker said. "But at the end of the day, we all played hard. We all played physical."
Carroll was upset about the flag.
"We ran the ball 32 times on the day, they ran it 30, there were 60-something runs in the game and it comes down to, 'We're going to throw the flag right there,' and unfortunately it happened. They got a great break out of that," Carroll said. "It was a great break for them. I haven't seen the play. There's a lot of plays in that game that probably could have warranted a penalty throw and it happened on that play right then. It really pissed me off that that was how this thing ended. It's unfortunate."
Carroll's clock management was also debated. He called timeout with 1:39 remaining after the Rams came up short on third-and-1 at their 42-yard line. Preserving the clock seemed the wise choice, but it also allowed Los Angeles a chance to reconsider its options after initially sending out the punt team. The Rams ended up going for it on fourth-and-1 and Jared Goff converted the QB sneak to clinch the victory.
The Seahawks tried to find a few positives before their trip to London to face the Raiders next weekend.
"This could be a turning point. For us to go against an offense, or a team like that because they have a stacked defense, and give them their hardest test to this point in the season really shows just where we're at," safety Bradley McDougald said.