Don't count the Seattle Seahawks out just yet
The mighty Los Angeles Rams -- coached by the mad scientist Sean McVay and his pick-your-poison offense coupled with that feared defensive line -- barely escaped a new-look Seahawks team in Seattle.
Take a few of those mishaps back Sunday, the two offensive-line penalties on that final drive namely, and we could've been looking at a Seahawks team that just upset the early-season favorite to win the Super Bowl. Instead, they lost; their chances of keeping up with the Rams in the NFC West may have slipped away, too.
But that doesn't mean the Seahawks got nothing out of the game.
"We appreciate the vibe today 12's," defensive end Frank Clark tweeted Sunday post-game. "Y'all had it stooopid lit! We gone be straight, just gotta adjust a few things."
That's the key: a few things.
Before the season, the consensus among pundits was the Seahawks were a lot more than a few tweaks away from getting back to relevance. With the Legion of Boom gone, a non-existent run game, shaky pass protection, an offense that relied too heavily on Russell Wilson magic and two new coordinators heading into the season, the outlook was gloomy.
It shouldn't be as dark anymore.
Yes, the Seahawks are now 2-3. But they kept up with (arguably) the best team in football. And they don't have to play the Rams every week. Why can't how they played Sunday be replicated the rest of the season?
A Wild Card spot in the NFC playoffs shouldn't be out of the question.
"This could be a turning point," Seahawks safety Bradley McDougald said after the loss Sunday. "For us to go against an offense, or a team like that because they have a stacked up defense, and give them their hardest test to this point in the season really shows just where we're at. We've got a couple things to correct. We've got to get off the field on the defense. Offense has to keep the running game going and keep diverting down field.
"We do a couple things right and we are one bad team to mess with."
Following a first couple games marred with inconsistency under first-year coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, the Seahawks' offense appeared to have finally found its identity against the Rams.
It had its most efficient outing across the board Sunday, finishing with a season-best in third-down efficiency (7-of-12) and rushing yards (190). Under center behind a much-improved offensive line, Wilson had a season-best in passer rating (132.5) and QBR (88.3).
Tyler Lockett, who signed a multi-year extension in August, has emerged as a de facto No. 1 receiver. With 347 yards through five games, Locket is on pace to surpass the 1,000 yards threshold for the first time in his career. If Doug Baldwin can find a way to get going this season, in spite of his lingering knee issues, that's two top targets for Wilson.
The combination of Chris Carson and Mike Davis, too, have given Seattle a jolt in the backfield it hasn't seen since the Marshawn Lynch era. The Seahawks have had a 100-yard rusher in each of the past three games (two by Carson, one by Davis). The last time that happened for the franchise was six years ago.
"You can tell what kind of team we are now (on offense)," head coach Pete Carroll said. "You know who we are. We know who we are, too. We're just getting warmed up. That's really important for us as we go through the middle part of the season. ... you can see the magnitude of the running game sets up the passing game and allows us to do stuff that we want to do down the field, too."
In its first game without Earl Thomas, the Seahawks' defense took a couple steps back. Some open-field tackles were missed and Seattle paid a price on yards-after-catch. But did the defense even play that bad? The Rams scored 33 points. It doesn't sound very good but it tied a season-low for L.A. The Seahawks did as well containing the Rams' prolific offense as anyone else has this year.
And tasked with replacing a transcendent talent at free safety, Tedric Thompson had a strong debut as starter. He hit Rams receiver Brandin Cooks so hard it gave him a concussion (Thompson forced a fumble on the play that was called back by a penalty) and recorded the first interception of his career.
Thompson's comfort with the first-team defense in games should only grow as the season wears on.
"He did his job (Sunday), plain and short," McDougald said of Thompson. "I'm sure there are things that he's going to want to feel like he can go back, look back on the film and think he could've done better with the lot of us. We are going to watch it, grade it, and move on."
The Seahawks' defense stood out in the first few games this season as the offense struggled. Against the Rams, the offense finally found its momentum but the defense regressed a bit. How good can the team be if it puts the entire package together?
The London trip to face the Oakland Raiders this week will be critical in that sense.
"We're always disappointed when we lose," quarterback Russell Wilson said Sunday. "But I do think that it's very upbeat in the sense that we're right where we want to be and in the sense of we're about to turn a corner. ... we're a really young football team and we're on a really hit and miss curve on where we want to be and how we want to play. Physical, fast, smart, all those things. There's great enthusiasm in that sense. I don't see why we wouldn't think anything different."
Maybe we, the onlookers, shouldn't either.