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Seahawks Lose Russell Wilson, Unravel in Second Half in 26-17 Loss to Rams

Replacing Wilson under center, Geno Smith attempted to rally Seattle back from a two-score deficit in the fourth quarter, but a late interception sealed the team's fate and dropped them to 2-3 on the season.

Through his first nine-plus seasons, Russell Wilson has been the NFL's iron man, never missing a single start and rarely missing action due to injury. But that run of incredible fortune came to a crashing thud at the worst time as he exited with a sprained middle finger on his throwing hand in the second half and the Seahawks fell to the Rams 26-17 at Lumen Field on Thursday Night Football.

After limiting Los Angeles to three points and under 175 yards of offense in the first half, Seattle's defense folded after halftime, allowing nearly 300 yards of offense in the final two quarters and letting quarterback Matthew Stafford and receiver Robert Woods carve them up for 150 yards by themselves. Geno Smith led two unexpected scoring drives after Wilson departed, but his heroics weren't enough when Tyler Lockett fell running a route and he was picked off by Nick Scott with just outside of two minutes to play.

Here are five quick observations from a devastating home prime time loss for the Seahawks:

1. Smith gave the Seahawks a valiant effort in his first meaningful game action since 2016.

Aside from playing the closing minutes of a blowout win over the Jets last season, Smith hasn't had a chance to play in two-plus seasons in Seattle with the durable Wilson in front of him. But once he took the field early in the fourth quarter, he played with poise and a quiet confidence, leading a remarkable 98-yard scoring drive that culminated with a 23-yard touchdown to DK Metcalf. Completing all five of his passes on the possession, he showed no rust despite throwing all of nine passes since the 2018 season, excelling working through his reads and displaying outstanding accuracy.

Trailing by nine on the scoreboard after a Rams field goal, Smith led another scoring drive, cutting the lead back down to six on a Jason Myers field goal. Once the Seahawks defense made a stop inside three minutes to play, the former West Virginia star looked primed to pull off the most unexpected of comebacks, but it wasn't meant to be. Nonetheless, his play should give the team a little more optimism if he needs to play against the Steelers in Week 6.

2. Missed opportunities on offense in the first half wound up coming back to haunt Seattle.

The Seahawks had a 7-3 lead going into the third quarter and received to open the second half. But their situation could have been even better if they had been able to capitalize on several opportunities in the first 30 minutes. In the first quarter, facing a 4th and 2 from the Rams 30-yard line, Collins was stuffed on a zone run to the left by superstar Aaron Donald, turning the ball over on downs. Moments later to kick off the second quarter, Quandre Diggs was gifted a pick on a poor decision by Stafford, once again giving the Seahawks' offense a chance to get on the board first. But only four plays later, Wilson was a tad late trying to get the ball to Lockett on a curl route and cornerback Jalen Ramsey got a piece of the ball, poking it in the air for a pick by linebacker Troy Reeder.

Then at the tail end of the half, poor clock management after a 28-yard reception by Dee Jay Dallas may have cost them points. After choosing not to call a timeout and letting precious seconds melt off the clock following the catch, a holding penalty by Duane Brown coupled with a missed 35-yard field goal by Jason Myers left the team empty-handed going into the break. Between those three possessions, the Seahawks may have taken at least nine points off the scoreboard with mistakes, which made all the difference in an ugly defeat.

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3. New week, same coverage breakdowns for a defense that can't get out of their own way.

In the first half, the Seahawks did almost everything right on defense. They limited Stafford and the high-powered Rams to a mere 175 total yards, forced four punts, and didn't allow a single third down conversion. But the defense from the last three games returned to action in the second half with a vengeance. Momentum swung to Los Angeles' sideline at the 9:27 mark in the third quarter when an underthrown third down pass by Stafford landed in Desean Jackson's hands between Jamal Adams and Sidney Jones in coverage and the speedy receiver raced into the red zone on a 68-yard catch. Two plays later, running back Darrell Henderson scored from five yards out to give the Rams their first lead of the game. 

After the Seahawks went three-and-out on offense, Stafford went right back to work, leading a five-play, 82-yard touchdown drive that ended with a 13-yard connection to Tyler Higbee, who beat Adams on a corner route. Even after Smith breathed life back into the Seahawks with his touchdown to Metcalf, the defense provided a pathetic response, letting the Rams march 73 yards on just six plays and push the lead back to 23-14 on a two-yard Sony Michel touchdown run. Overall, the Seahawks gave up nine passes of at least 17 yards, which would all qualify as explosive for coach Pete Carroll. Not good...

4. Stopping the run continues to be an unexpected problem for Seattle's defense as well.

After ending the 2020 season as a top-five run defense, the Seahawks haven't come close to replicating that success through the first four weeks of the season and those troubles carried over into Thursday's loss. In the first half, they only allowed 51 rushing yards on 16 attempts, botting up Henderson and Michel. But once the floodgates opened with Stafford, Woods, and Cooper Kupp ripping apart the linebackers and secondary with wide open crossing routes like a 7-on-7 tournament, the run game started to click off of it for the Rams.

With Seattle's front line getting fatigued and gap assignments falling by the wayside, Henderson ripped off 70 yards on only 11 carries in the second half, including busting a 29-yard run, while Michel scored what turned into the game-winning touchdown. Along with getting scorched for 365 yards through the air by Stafford, that duo of backs added 117 yards on the ground for a solid 4.3 yards per carry to compliment the aerial attack. This has become an all-too-familiar feeling in the second half of games and much like the Swiss cheese-like pass defense, the run defense remains a significant concern moving forward.

5. Props to Michael Dickson for arguably the oddest play of the entire Pete Carroll era.

Drawing unprompted praise from Carroll following the game, Dickson may have turned in the highlight of the evening on a spectacular, bizarre play midway through the third quarter. Taking the snap from Tyler Ott, Dickson's punt was initially blocked and rolled to his left. Alertly, the fourth-year punting ace scooped up the ball one-handed and scrambled to his left, eventually kicking the ball a second time and getting a favorable bounce for an extraordinary 68-yard punt.

Officials threw a flag and convened, as it appeared nobody knew whether or not it was even legal for the punter to punt a second time as Dickson did. But after a brief discussion, the flag was picked up and the Rams took over at their own 14-yard line instead of deep in Seahawks territory. It proved to be all for naught when the defense surrendered another touchdown drive, but the incredible effort by the punting magician can't be overlooked.