SEATTLE — The most unprecedented season in Seahawks history turned into one of the most disappointing Saturday, thanks to a stunning, 30-20 home loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the wild-card playoffs.
Thus ended with a whimper a season that began with Super Bowl dreams and the best start in team history at 5-0.
Seattle was pushed around from the start by the same Rams team they had beaten at Lumen Field 13 days before claim the NFC West title.
But it was Los Angeles that got the win that really mattered. The Rams advance to the divisional playoffs after the Seahawks lost a home playoff game for the first time since the 2004 season. That snapped a streak of 10 in a row — and six under coach Pete Carroll.
It was the Rams that had to go back to injured starting quarterback Jared Goff after two series and played much of the second half without standout defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
Save for one drive, a Seattle offense that for much of the first half of the season was among the best in the NFL — and set a team record in points this season with 459 — did nothing, scoring as many TDs for the visitors as for themselves. Quarterback Russell Wilson had one his poorest performances, completing just 11 of 27 passes for 174 yards. He threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown in the first half that began to swing things toward the Rams.
And the defense, despite knocking out starting quarterback John Wolford in the first quarter and having to see the Rams go back to injured Goff, was outmuscled by a Rams offensive line that opened holes for 164 rushing yards, including 131 rookie Cam Akers, who did not play against Seattle two weeks ago.
And the usually sterling special-teams unit also did its part, with a fumble on a punt return by D.J. Reed, leading to a fourth-quarter Rams touchdown that put the game away.
Seattle finished the regular season 12-4. In the four previous season Seattle won at least 12 games it had gone to the Super Bowl three times and to the divisional round the other.
But in the eeriness of an empty of Lumen Field because of COVID-19 regulations, the Seahawks went down as quietly as could be imagined.
Seattle trailed 20-10 at halftime and fell behind 30-13 midway through the fourth quarter.
As would be expected, the Seahawks didn’t quit, driving for a score that made it 30-20 and helped make the scoreboard and some of the stats look a little better.
But nothing could paper over how the Rams just seemed to be the tougher, more determined team from the start.
The Rams took a 3-0 lead on their second possession but in the process lost Wolford.
Wolford had directed the Rams to the Seattle 20-yard line. But on a first-down designed QB run he went head first toward the ground, and his helmet was hit hard by the right shoulder of Adams.
Wolford lay prone on the turf for a few minutes as Adams knelt nearby, appearing to be upset. A flag was initially thrown, but it was determined that because Wolford was a runner on the play the hit was legal.
Wolford eventually got up and walked off, but he headed to the locker room and then to a hospital for precautionary reasons.
Goff entered and was sacked on third-and-five, and the Rams settled for a 40-yard field goal by Matt Gay with 3:52 to play.
It was the second consecutive year the Seahawks knocked out a starting quarterback early in a wild-card playoff. Last year a Jadeveon Clowney hit sent Philly starting quarterback Carson Wentz to the sideline.
The Rams took a 13-3 lead with 6:40 left in the second quarter when cornerback Darious Williams perfectly read a short pass to receiver DK Metcalf, jumped it and ran untouched for a 42-yard touchdown.
But Wilson is rarely flustered, and he immediately got the Seahawks back in it.
First, his 17-yard run — punctuated by a pump fake fast past the line of scrimmage — took it to the Rams 47.
Two plays later Wilson evaded a rush, and as he did the Los Angeles defense creeped toward the line and let Metcalf slip behind somehow unnoticed.
Wilson floated a pass to Metcalf, who took it 51 yards for a TD that made it 13-10 with 3:43 left.
But the Rams came right back with a drive on which Akers was the star. First he slipped past Seattle safety Ryan Neal to corral a short pass from Goff on third-and-9 and turn it into a 44-yard gain to the Seattle 30. Then he ran for 20 more to the 10, and then after a penalty against Seattle ran it the final five yards for a TD that put the Rams up 20-10 at halftime.
D.J. Reed’s 58-yard kickoff return to start the second half led to a field goal that cut the deficit to 20-13.
But the rest of the third quarter was a nightmare for the Seattle offense. Wilson was just 2 of 9 for six yards, and Seattle had just 45 yards on 17 plays in the quarter.
Much of it was played without Donald, sidelined because of a rib injury.
Capping a drive that began late in the third quarter, the Rams took a 23-13 with 11:33 to play on a 36-yard field goal by Gay.
On Seattle’s next drive, Chris Carson was stopped for no gain on third-and-1 at the 34 with 9:56 left. Seattle lined up to go for it, but there was a timeout as guard Damien Lewis was tended to on the field and then headed to the sideline.
Seattle seemed unprepared for the play clock to have started and broke the huddle with just five seconds on the clock. On the play, guard Jordan Simmons was called for a false start — even tough officials did not throw a flag for delay.
Simmons had just moved to right guard to take the place of Lewis, moving over from the left side, with Mike Iupati playing there.
Seattle then punted, with the Rams taking over at their 20 with 9:21 left.
The Seahawks held.
But Reed fumbled the ensuing punt, and the Rams recovered at the Seattle 36 with 7:02 to play.
That led to a 15-yard TD pass from Goff to a wide-open Robert Woods and a 30-13 Rams lead.
Seattle drove 80 yards for a quick score against a Rams defense playing soft, the TD coming on a 12-yard pass from Wilson to Metcalf to make it 30-20.
But the Rams recovered the onside kick. Seattle would get the ball one more time but that series fittingly ended with a sack with just over a minute left.