SEATTLE—Of all the things the Seahawks have accomplished under head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider, one of their most impressive feats has been their ability to be competitive in nearly every game they have played for the last six-plus seasons.
Even on their worst days, even against their toughest opponents, the Seahawks give themselves a chance to win almost every single time they take the field, which is why heading into Sunday's game they had lost by double-digit margins only three times, postseason included, dating back to middle of the 2011 season.
So what transpired Sunday at CenturyLink Field was a little hard to believe as it unfolded because it was so foreign, but by the time the dust had settled, the Los Angeles Rams had seized control of the NFC West by beating Seattle 42-7 to take a two-game lead in the division.
"We've not seen us play like that and seen that kind of result," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "So it's on all of us to hold ourselves accountable. We didn't do that right, from any aspect of it. I give (the Rams) a lot of credit. They've been playing terrific football all year long. This was an opportunity for us to match up for first place, and they obviously were on it, and we weren't. I don't think there is any one place that you can point to that made a difference in this game. There was just a lot of stuff that looked really good for them and didn't look very good for us."
The Rams won big because they dominated field position, starting every scoring drive at midfield or in Seahawks territory; they won because their running game, which the Seahawks stifled in a Week 5 win at Los Angeles, piled up 244 yards against a depleted Seahawks defense, including 152 and three rushing touchdowns by Todd Gurley, who also had a receiving touchdown; they won because their front-seven was a handful, sacking Russell Wilson seven times; and they won because they forced two turnovers and made big plays on special teams. The Seahawks will look at all of those things on film and try to clean up the mistakes that cost them Sunday, then they'll immediately turn their attention to Sunday's game at Dallas, knowing the postseason is still a possibility if they finish the season strong.
"What's really important is that we realize that we have two games to play here with a lot at stake and a lot that we have to turn towards," Carroll said. "We'll try to get this thing over with as soon as we can and see if we can leave this kind of experience behind us. You've been with me for a long time, and we haven't seen that before. We're going to crank it up and get going again."
Carroll made it clear on a few occasions that what happened Sunday wasn't the result of any individual failings, but as he described it, it was "a we thing," meaning everyone, coaches and players alike, need to improve after what he called "a really dismal performance by all of us."
"This is everybody," he said. "Every player in there, we talked about it in the locker room, that everybody's accountable. Everybody has to take the step forward together and hold themselves in the kind of regard that we can pull out the best we have to offer down the stretch here. So we'll see if we can do that."
For players, part of that accountability process will be feeling the sting of what was the worst loss most of them have experienced as professional football players.
"Obviously it was an embarrassing game," receiver Doug Baldwin said. "A rough game for us. Not taking anything away from the Rams; it is a great team over there that we just played, obviously, but that wasn't the style of football that we like to play. We didn't put our best foot forward and we didn't play Seahawks football. So I told (teammates) to let it burn and remember this feeling. Come back tomorrow, we will correct our mistakes, get it cleaned up and get ready for Dallas."
Asked why he wanted teammates to "let it burn," Baldwin said, "Because that is the only way you grow. When you make mistakes, when you go through adversity, you got to let it burn. You got to remember that feeling and that emotion, so that you learn from it. We can't waste this. This loss can't be in vain. We have to utilize this to the motivation of our players, the coaches, everybody to clean our stuff up and get ready for Dallas."
With two games left the 8-6 Seahawks are still in the playoff hunt, though they made things more difficult on themselves with Sunday's result. The process of getting back on track began almost as soon as Sunday's game had ended, starting with Carroll's message of accountability.
"The key is to learn from it, study on what we can get better at, then process it like any other game," quarterback Russell Wilson said. "Like any other win or loss, we have to be super accountable, hold each other accountable, come together and figure out how we can be that much better, and find a way to make some key plays when we need to. I think that's really the core of it. There's no panic. I don't think there's any panic by any means. I think that more than anything, it's keeping our head down and continuing to go back to work."
The Seahawks fall short 42-7 against the Rams in Week 15 at CenturyLink Field.