Maybe it was a bad omen, or maybe it was just a reminder of how true the old "any given Sunday" cliché is in the NFL, especially when it comes to division games, but by the time the Seahawks and St. Louis Rams kicked off Sunday afternoon, the unbeaten Carolina Panthers had lost to the Atlanta Falcons, the 12-win Patriots had lost to the New York Jets, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, one of the hottest teams in the league, had lost to the Baltimore Ravens, losers of three straight, including back-to-back blowouts.
Three hours later, the Seahawks were another playoff-bound team coming out on the wrong end of a battle with a division opponent, losing 23-17 to the St. Louis Rams, who continue to be a tough matchup for Seattle.
A Seahawks offense that had been on fire for more than a month struggled to get going, thanks in large part to self-inflicted wounds, and for the first time since the last game of the 2011 season, an NFL-record span of 62 games, the Seahawks did not lead at any point during the game.
The Seahawks' inability to get out of their own way leads our five takeaways from a Week 16 loss to the Rams:
1. The Seahawks were their own worst enemy.
The Rams defense, and their front-seven in particular, were again a thorn in Seattle's side, and St. Louis also came up with some big plays on special teams, but Seahawks coach Pete Carroll couldn't help but feel after the game that his team's toughest opponent was itself.
That will happen when a team turns the ball over three times, commits 10 penalties for 83 yards, and has two bad snaps turn into big losses.
"This was a day that you want to forget," Carroll said. "We couldn't get out of our own way from the start. Really just made it so difficult for our guys to win. When you turn the ball over like that and the penalties happen like they did, then we really had a difficult time at the line of scrimmage, moving the football and protecting, it's just really hard. The 16-point deficit, we can come back from that, but we have to get out of our way, and again we made it really, really hard.
"I'm not going to take anything away from them, they had a nice win today. However, we snapped the ball crazy, and we turned it over three times, and we had the penalties. Those were our penalties. I think it was very much our doing it to ourselves."
Center Patrick Lewis, who had one snap go straight up in the air, and another roll past Russell Wilson, said "I take full responsibility" for those plays, and wouldn't use the soggy weather as an excuse.
"They executed, we didn't, and it ended up showing up in the game," Lewis said "… We couldn't get out of our own way. For what happened with the snaps, I'll take it all. I've got to be better. The conditions weren't an excuse. They will not be an excuse, that's unacceptable. I've got to be better for my teammates and my brothers. We're going to get that fixed this week."
The Seahawks looked nothing like the team that had won five straight before Sunday, clinching a playoff berth along the way, and that was especially true of an offense that has been putting up huge numbers, led by a historic stretch of play by Wilson, who threw his first interception since Seattle's Week 10 loss to Arizona.
"Offensively, we just didn't get it done at all, so it was really difficult," Carroll said. "Hopefully, this isn't a sign of anything other than we have to put it behind us and get moving forward. We rarely look like this, so we'll see if we can get it all squared away and fixed when we go to Arizona."
Yet as much as the Seahawks got in their own way, the Rams, and their defensive front in particular, played a big role in making things tough on Seattle.
2. The Rams have a lot of playmakers on their defensive line.
St. Louis, which had sacked Wilson 31 times in seven games prior to Sunday, added four more to that total, and more significantly, the Rams hit Wilson 13 times. William Hayes did the most damage this time, recording three sacks, four tackles for loss and six quarterback hits, but almost everyone on St. Louis' line came up with a big play or two.
"They're a talented front," running back Fred Jackson said. "They're probably one of the most talented fronts we've seen. Those guys show up and they play well. They rotate those guys and everyone comes in and plays well."
And it wasn't just the pass rush that gave the Seahawks trouble. The Rams also held the Seahawks to just 60 rushing yards, only 15 of which came from Christine Michael and Bryce Brown, ending Seattle's streak of 25 straight games with at least 100 rushing yards.
"When you become one-dimensional, it becomes easy for a defense to focus on that one dimension," receiver Doug Baldwin said. "It was tough on us. But like I said, we have to give a lot of credit to the St. Louis Rams. Their front-seven and their defense is really good."
3. It's better this happened now than later.
As ugly as this game was for the Seahawks, they are still playoff bound, and can still finish with the five seed in the NFC, which was their best-case scenario heading into Sunday's game.
"The good thing is that that wasn't our Super Bowl," defensive end Michael Bennett said. "We've still got a chance. We just need to get focused and keep grinding. Sometimes when you're riding high, those lows help make you get back to where you're going and stay focused. We've just got to go out there and win those games."
Or as receiver Doug Baldwin put it, this could be a chance for the Seahawks to "refocus. You win some, you learn some. We'll take this time to look at the film and get better. Some people can say it's a bad thing that we lost. I like to look at the positive in everything. This shows us that there are some things that we still need to correct. Granted, I'm glad we did it now during the regular season than in the playoffs, obviously. "
While no team wants to lose any game, a silver lining can come out of it if it helps the Seahawks clean things up moving forward.
"The good thing in we understand we're in the playoffs, but at the same time, you want to capitalize on these moments heading down the stretch," safety Earl Thomas said. "But you always want to find out if you have problems or not, and this is a good situation to look at yourself and really take ownership of it.
"You just want to find out your weaknesses and make them your strengths. You've just got to have accountability."
Of course for the Seahawks to use this loss as a potential building block and not have it be a setback, they need to respond well next week, and especially once the playoffs begin.
"I always like that kind of positive thinking," Carroll said. "Yeah, it could make a difference. We'll see how we bounce back from it."
4. Despite a loss, the defense played well for the most part.
While 23 points are the most the Seahawks have allowed in a month, that total isn't really reflective on how the defense played. The Rams scored once on fumble return, scored on a one-play drive after a punt return gave them the ball at the Seahawk 28-yard line, and got another field goal off a drive that began at midfield.
Overall the Rams gained just 207 yards, and the Seahawks held St. Louis to just 3.5 yards per carry on the ground. Rookie running back Todd Gurley, who came into the game having already rushed for 1,000 yards, was held to 85 yards on 19 carries, marking the 21st straight game the Seahawks have not allowed an individual 100-yard rusher.
In the end, however, the Seahawks needed a little bit more out of their defense, in particular a turnover or two to keep up with the Rams defense.
"Defensively, we hung in there pretty well, but we needed to get the ball away from them and score on defense on this day to do something, so we came up short there," Carroll said.
As for the Rams' biggest play of the game, the 28-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Britt, who beat Richard Sherman, Seattle's All-Pro cornerback said that was a rare mistake in his technique.
"Just bad footwork," Sherman said. "I just didn't get a good jam off the line and stepped under myself and made it easy."
5. Doug Baldwin continued his amazing run.
Following a loss, Doug Baldwin wasn't in much of a mood to celebrate what he has accomplished individually this season—"I'll think about it when I retire," he said—but in a game where little went right for the Seahawks, Baldwin was one of the few bright spots.
Baldwin was listed as questionable for Sunday's game because of a hamstring injury, but he not only played, he had a team-high eight catches for 118 yards and a touchdown, which was his 14th of the season, establishing a Seahawks record for touchdown receptions in a season.
On that 25-yard touchdown catch, his 11th in the last five games, Baldwin also went over 1,000 yards this season, making him the first Seahawks receiver to do so since Bobby Engram in 2007.
"It's so exciting, I told him after the game that I was really happy for him," Wilson said. "His work ethic is unrelenting. He's a true champion, on and off the field. You watch it, his leadership, his ability to make plays and all that; I'm not surprised. For him to go over 1,000 yards, it's exciting for him, I know that. I know he doesn't care about the personal accolades or anything like that. To score 14 touchdowns, he's an all-pro type of receiver, obviously. The stats show it. It's hard to cover him. I'm upset that he's not going to the Pro Bowl."
The last home game of the regular season ended with a 23-17 loss as the visiting Rams earned their first victory at CenturyLink Field since 2004.