The Seahawks season opener got off to a promising enough start, with Geno Smith and the offense scoring on its first three possessions to take a 13-7 lead. Smith looked sharp, DK Metcalf scored a touchdown after getting open with a great route, and Kenneth Walker III was picking up yards on the ground.
That encouraging start to the season came to a screeching halt in the second half, however, as the Rams took over the game, eventually pulling way for a 30-13 victory.
Here are five rapid reactions to the Seahawks' season-opening loss at Lumen Field:
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1. Welcome back, Bobby Wagner.
By his own admission, Bobby Wagner figured that, once he was released by Seattle last year, he wouldn't ever wear a Seahawks uniform again. But when he became a free agent once again this spring, Wagner ended up back in Seattle, leading to a pretty memorable moment prior to the game when the starting defense was introduced. After the other 10 starters came out of the tunnel, Wagner was the last player introduced, and he was welcomed by a huge ovation from the crowd.
And Wagner didn't waste much time to make his mark in the game once it started, recording Seattle's first tackle of the season on a run play he stopped for no gain. He also helped blow up a run play on the Rams' opening possession, sharing a tackle for loss with Uchenna Nwosu, and Wagner finished the game with a team-leading 19 tackles, a total that is one short of the single-game record he shares with Jordyn Brooks. Unfortunately for Wagner and the Seahawks defense, he was able to pile up so many tackles in part because the defense was on the field for 78 plays.
2. The Rams won the game by winning on third down.
Plenty of things contributed to the Seahawks falling short in the opener, but no stat told the story of the game more than the third-down conversion rates of both teams.
While the Seahawks played well against the run, it didn't help much because of the way Matthew Stafford was able to get the job done in the passing game, making big throw after big throw to receiver Tutu Atwell and Puka Nacua, who picked up the slack with top receiver Cooper Kupp out due to injury.
The Rams went 5 for 5 on third down on their opening possession, which ended with a touchdown, and on their way to taking a third-quarter lead they would never give up, the Rams were 8 for 10 at one point on third down, with one of those two non-conversions coming on third-and-28 following two penalties. With so many third-down conversions—the Rams finished 11 for 17, they were able to dominate time of possession (39:23 to 20:37), keeping the Seahawks offense off the field for long stretches of the game.
Seattle's offense also struggled on third down, going 2 for 9, and as a result Seattle ran only 46 plays on offense compared to 78 for the Rams. Fittingly, the Seahawks' best offensive possession was a 12-play touchdown drive on which they never even got to third down.
3. The pass rush wasn't able to affect Matthew Stafford nearly enough.
One reason Stafford and his weapons had so much success on third down is that he was rarely under pressure from Seattle's defense. The Seahawks, who put up solid pass-rush numbers last season, did not record a sack in the game despite Stafford attempting 38 passes, and they had only two quarterback hits, one of which came on a nickel corner blitz from Coby Bryant.
4. The run defense looked good.
If you're looking for a silver lining in an otherwise tough loss, consider the performance of Seattle's run defense. A year ago, the Seahawks ranked 30th against the run, and a big focus this offseason was improving in that area. And after the Rams produced a couple of modest gains early in the first quarter, they weren't able to get much going on the ground the rest of the way. Cam Akers, who closed out the 2021 season with three straight 100-yard games, including one in Seattle, was held to 29 yards on 22 carries, while as the team the Rams managed just 92 yards on 40 carries, averaging only 2.3 yards per carry.
Again, it didn't end up making a big difference for Seattle because of the damage Stafford and company were able to do in the passing game, but for a defense that struggled to stop the run last season, it's a positive development to build on going forward.
5. Seattle's tackle depth was tested.
The Seahawks saw right tackle Abraham Lucas leave the game with a knee injury in the third quarter, and not long after that left tackle Charles Cross left with a toe injury. They were replaced by Jake Curhan and Stone Forsythe, and what was already a challenging day for the offense became even more difficult.
While there was a lot more to it than just a change at the two tackles spots, the second half proved to be a big challenge for the offense, which after a solid first half, punted on all four of its second-half possessions, picking up just one first down along the way.
Check out some of the best action shots from the season opener vs the Rams at Lumen Field on September 10, 2023. Game action photos are presented by Washington's Lottery. This gallery will be updated throughout the game.