Burned here multiple times before, the Seahawks tried to beat the Rams at their own, special-teams game.
And after spending all offseason believing — knowing — Marshawn Lynch could gain 1 yard with the game on the line — he got the chance this time but could not. Not behind Seattle’s remade, swarmed offensive line.
Those were only two of many galling, inexplicable moments during Seattle’s 34-31 loss in overtime to St. Louis in the 2015 opener on Sunday at the suddenly noisy Edward Jones Dome.
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“It’s always weird with the Rams,” Richard Sherman said following Seattle’s third loss in four games here.
The Seahawks, overrun by St. Louis’ defense for most of three quarters, rallied with 18 straight points in the fourth. They took a 31-24 lead on new cornerback Cary Williams’ sack, strip and fumble recovery for a touchdown.
It was so weird that Sherman, the All-Pro cornerback St. Louis avoided most of the day, got uncharacteristically beaten on an outside route by Stedman Bailey. A perfect throw by new Rams quarterback Nick Foles set up St. Louis’ go-ahead field goal in overtime.
That was after coach Pete Carroll’s fateful decision to try a lofted “pooch” kick to begin overtime. It backfired when Steven Hauschka woefully mis-hit the ball barely 10 yards instead of 20-plus yards over the heads of the Rams’ first line of their kickoff return unit. St. Louis recovered, and all it took for the Rams to get in position for the lead was one first down, the pass over Sherman. That led to Greg Zuerlein’s go-ahead field goal to begin the extra period.
“The kick was off,” Carroll said afterward, immediately dismissing the idea he called what it ended up looking like: an onside kick.
On Seattle’s ensuing drive that had to end in a score per NFL overtime rules, Lynch tried to run left on fourth and 1 from the St. Louis 42. Carroll said the play was to go any number of ways, based on Lynch’s zone reads.
But the league’s leading rusher since 2011 had no zone to read. The Rams swarmed every hole along the 314 area code. Lynch got engulfed by half their defense to stunningly end it.
The Rams ran around the field to deliriously celebrate. The Seahawks simply trudged off the field knowing they got stymied again in St. Louis — and knowing they go to NFC contender Green Bay (1-0) next Sunday night.
“Every game is growth when you’ve got young players in the game,” Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett said, a reference to 2014 rookie practice-squad player Dion Bailey making his first career start at strong safety for holdout Kam Chancellor and three guys in new spots on the offensive line.
“As long as we stay together. Everybody’s going to turn around saying this and that, ‘Kam Chancellor this and this…’ But we were still in the game. Regardless of what the situation was, we had more opportunities to win the game. We just didn’t.”
Seven months earlier, the Seahawks didn’t give the ball to Lynch on from 1-yard line in the final minute of the Super Bowl. Russell Wilson’s interception instead and that loss to New England has stung the Pacific Northwest since.
This one had far less on the line. But it was close to as galling.
“It’s a good play. It’s fourth and 1,” said Wilson, who was sacked six times while rallying to complete 32 of 41 passes for 251 yards.
“We’ve got the best running back in the National Football League,” Wilson said of Lynch, who finished with 73 yards on 18 rushes. “We think we should get it.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t.”
Wilson’s harried day peaked with his touchdown throw to Jimmy Graham that got Seattle within 24-21. It started the Seahawks’ frantic rally into the lead with 4:39 remaining.
Then the Seahawks felt the sting of Chancellor staying home and blowing off his $267,647 game check.
Rookie Tyler Lockett had taken the first ball he touched in an NFL regular-season game back 57 yards for the Seahawks’ first punt-return touchdown in eight years.
New tight end Graham caught the touchdown pass that began an 18-point rally in the fourth quarter.
Williams then continued the new-guy touchdown parade. He blitzed free onto Foles’ blind side, knocked out the ball, recovered the fumble and ran 8 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
“The trifecta,” said Williams, the former Philadelphia Eagle, calling it his first such play at any level.
But for the second time in as many real games, the Seahawks’ defense that has been the NFL’s top-rated the last two seasons failed to hold a fourth-quarter lead.
The Rams drove 84 yards in 3:46. Bailey, who last week said he hoped the Rams would target him because it would make his “coming-out party more exciting,” fell down trying to cover tight end Lance Kendricks down the left side. Kendricks caught the pass easily from Foles for the touchdown that forced overtime.
Bailey spent a few moments alone on the Seahawks’ bench after the tying score, looking into the ground with his forearms on each thigh and hands on his chin. A parade of veterans later came up to try encouragement. They know Bailey is likely to be in there again next week against the Packers — unless Chancellor’s holdout suddenly has an ending no one foresees.
“I just fell down,” a dejected Bailey said, sitting deep into his locker. “It’s something that just can’t happen.
“I was just too flat-footed. My foot got stuck in the turf and I tried to open up. Fell down. At that point, I’ve got to tackle him. Tackle him and just fight to live another day.
“I gotta go 100 percent on my opportunities. I missed a big one today. I’ve got to learn from it.”
So Seattle went to the first overtime in its 15 trips inside this dark cavern.
Carroll just about scoffed at the thought he had called an onside kick to start OT.
“No, no. We just didn’t execute that. That is not what was supposed to happen,” the coach said. “No, we were kicking the ball to a certain area of the field, and we didn’t hit it right.”
Yet he and special teams coach Brian Schneider called an unusual kick to try to exploit what they thought would be a hole in the Rams’ kickoff-return unit: a skied, shorter boot perhaps 20-25 yards downfield into a dead spot of St. Louis’ alignment.
“The plan was to get the ball,” said defensive back DeShawn Shead, a member of the kickoff team. “I think it was a bloop, I believe, a bloop kick. But our plan was to get the ball back, by any means.”
Hauschka said he’s never struck an attempt to loft a kickoff so poorly.
“No, not like that,” he said. “So that was a mistake on my part.”
One of so many in game one.
“I disappointed across the board that we weren’t sharper,” Carroll said.
“We had a chance to finish the game. We didn’t finish it.”
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