After reviewing the film of Sunday's 34-31 loss at St. Louis, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll saw a lot of the same things he saw while watching the game in real time. The Seahawks did a lot of things well—more than enough to win a game—but were out-executed in enough big moments that the Rams were able to win despite the Seahawks scoring touchdowns on defense and special teams, winning the turnover battle 3-1 and having significant time-of-possession advantage.
"After looking at this game, that was a really well-played game by the Rams, they did a nice job, they did a lot of good things in it and they got a good win," Carroll said. "The way we look at it is that we never should have lost that game. We had plenty of chances and opportunities to really take the game in command, and we didn't seize those opportunities as we came down to the end of the football game in the fourth quarter and in overtime. We had chances on both sides of the ball. We didn't finish the way we needed to, so they get a great win and we go home trying to regroup and get right and play better.
"When you have games where you get plus turnover ratio, you score on defense and score in the kicking game, any one of those three factors generally wins games for you, and we had all of those, time of possessions, all that stuff. When that happens, they made some plays and did some things at the right time that we didn't, and it gets away from us. It's a frustrating game for us in that regard."
As for how the Seahawks managed to lose when so many things went well, Carroll addressed some of those issues Monday, as well as some positives for the Seahawks. Here are five things we learned from his Monday press conference:
1. Richard Sherman could be a "real factor" as a nickel corner.
Through his first four seasons in Seattle, Richard Sherman has played almost exclusively as a left cornerback, though he has moved around at times because of specific matchups. On Sunday, however, Sherman played a significant number of snaps covering a slot receiver when Seattle went to its nickel package with DeShawn Shead coming in at left corner. That might not be something the Seahawks do every week, but Carroll also said it wasn't necessarily just a one-game experiment.
"He did great," Carroll said. "He's going to be a real factor in there whenever we use him in there. It's a real plus that we've had the opportunity to mix him in. It depends on the matchups each week and how it goes and the different things that we're trying to get done, but it's nice to have that flexibility; we've never had that before. He has really taken to it."
Asked how playing in the slot differs from being on the outside, Carroll said, "At times there are more variables, there are more things going on, you have more things you can draw from. There's route combinations and things that you can look at to see what's going on. Some of the best nickels are the guys who are the most savvy, have the best all-around awareness. Ronde Barber was a famous nickel guy, he could see and feel everything that was happening. Richard has a lot of awareness and he has been kind of excited about all the stuff that goes on in there. He's pretty charged about trying to figure it out and work with the position and all. He should be really, really good in there just because of all of that."
2. There was no single reason for the Seahawks giving up big plays in the passing game.
The Seahawks gave up 32 pass completions of 20 or more yards all of last season, the fewest in the NFL, so when they gave up eight in one game to the Rams, people are going to want an explanation. What Carroll made clear on Monday, however, is that there was not one single issue that allowed the Rams to make so many game-changing plays.
"That was one of the difference in the game that was significant," Carroll said. "… That's out of the norm for us. They did a nice job getting the ball in behind us, they did well on some screens and some one-on-one situations and they made some extra yards. So they did a good job with it, and when you allow that, that's the field position changes that kind of change the perspective of time of possession—they didn't need the ball as long because they covered more ground with their plays."
"There were a couple of tackle situations on screens, they got in behind us a couple of times in zone; they made some nice plays and did some good things… In this game there were just more plays that got away from us than normal for various reasons. There's no one thing, it's not that easy ever."
3. The overtime kickoff was supposed to be pooched towards a Rams offensive lineman.
There seemed to be some confusion Sunday about Carroll saying the final kickoff, which at first glance looked like a failed onside kick attempt, had simply been mishit, so he was asked again about that play Monday. Carroll explained that he Seahawks had noticed that there was a pretty big space behind the Rams' first line of blockers and the next group, and to the side where Steven Hauschka kicked the ball, the next person after that initial group was an offensive tackle.
"We were kicking the ball deep to the big tackle, we wanted him to return it and see what he could do with it, which is something we had in the game plan," Carroll said. "They had left him there throughout the game so there was a shot at it, the ball was supposed to go all the way down to the 25-yard line, that didn't happen, we just missed the kick. I haven't seen the TV copy but somebody said by my reaction you could tell that something was wrong. That was not what we expected to see."
That play wasn't Seattle's only special teams miscue, as the Rams also returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown on a day where the Seahawks were otherwise strong on special teams coverage.
"We got blocked a little bit at the line of scrimmage," Carroll said. "They did an interesting job of getting after Ricardo Lockette—they went after him with three guys and set up their return that way. We've had great coverage and we have a lot of confidence that we're going to get that done properly, but on this one the right side of our coverage team got collapsed down, and (Tavon Austin) took off. He's really tough to get once he gets rolling."
4. The offensive line should continue to improve.
Offensive line coach Tom Cable came away from Sunday's game encouraged by the growth he saw from his offensive line, a group that, as currently constructed, has only been practicing together for a few weeks. A day later, Carroll agreed with assessment, saying, "We improved. It was a game of improvement during the day. We were struggling a little bit early, but it seemed to right itself a little bit where we found more continuity. We had some drives; we had four drives that we were on the field for 10 plays plus, even right off the bat on the first drive. So there's a lot of hope there that we'll play things well and continue to improve. They can't help but get better. They're just so young together that it'll be a steady improvement hopefully as we go through the early part of the schedule."
The line improved as the game went on, but on the final play of the game, a fourth-and-1 Marshawn Lynch run that was stuffed in the backfield, the Rams just won the battle in the trenches.
"They won the line of scrimmage on that play and did a nice job attacking, and we just weren't able to get the crease that we needed," Carroll said. "It's a good play for us, a good concept for us that's been really successful for us for a long, so we went with a real base thought, and they played it better than we did."
5. Tyler Lockett is more than a return specialist.
When the Seahawks drafted Tyler Lockett in the third round, the initial talk was about what he could do as a kick and punt returner. Lockett obviously has excelled in that area, but he also showed that he is ready to contribute right away as a receiver, catching four passes for 34 yards while playing 70 percent of Seattle's offensive snaps.
"After a long evaluation of him, our guys thought he was a really good route runner and saw a lot of positive things and all of that," Carroll said. "We just didn't know until we got him what it would really be like. He has got strong hands, he's a really sure catcher, he catches the deep ball well, he does everything well. It's just a real plus. We had hoped and we had said from the start, we'll cut him loose at the receiver spot and see where it fits, and he has jumped at it and been very impressive. He's a receiver that returns kicks, I don't think it's the other way around."
Carroll said free safety Earl Thomas played "very well" despite playing in the season opener without any work in preseason games. Thomas, who had offseason shoulder surgery, had a team high 9 tackles and a forced fumble, which was recovered by Bruce Irvin to give Seattle's its second of three turnovers in the game.
"Earl was all over the place, did a nice job on all the stuff they tried to get up top," Carroll said. ".. He tackled pretty well, and I think he found his confidence as he went through the game. He needed to play and get going, he felt enthused by it, that 'I'm back, I'm ready' and all that after the game."
And speaking of Pro Bowl safeties, Carroll again reiterated that there is nothing new with Kam Chancellor, saying, "nothing new. I wish I could tell you more, there's nothing new."
The Seahawks opened up the 2015 regular season on the road at the St. Louis Rams, falling in overtime 34-31.