Seahawks hope this late stumble leads to another playoff run

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RENTON, Wash. (AP)Even in their seasons that ended playing for championships, the Seattle Seahawks were apt to throw out a clunker late in the regular season.

The latest one, a 28-12 dud against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday night, could end up being more painful than others if it ends up costing Seattle (10-3) a division title and a home playoff game. The Seahawks still have complete control of a route to the NFC West title if they win their final three games.

But the loss to the Rams cost Seattle direct control of the No. 1 seed in the NFC. And for a team that’s made three Super Bowls all in years when it had home-field advantage throughout, that’s a big deal.

“Regardless of what would have happened last night we have to do the exact same thing we have to do this week. And the next week and the next week,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “We’re fortunate to be in that position. We’re not waiting on anybody else. We’ve kind of been in this situation before and we’ve gotten through it and I hope we can do it again.”

In the previous years when Seattle had a late-season stinker, it was able to learn from the experience. The adage of a late loss being a good thing proved to be true several times. In 2013, the year Seattle won the Super Bowl, it lost twice in the final month, at San Francisco and at home to Arizona. In 2015, when Seattle was a wild-card team after it lost to the Rams in December.

Even last year, Seattle stumbled with an overtime loss in December at San Francisco, which finished with four wins.

“For us, I just think that we haven’t lost in a while. It’s good for us to lose,” Seattle wide receiver Tyler Lockett said. “Nobody wants to lose, but everything works together for the good. You just look at the game, you kind of take the pros and the cons and you just move on.”

The concern for Seattle is twofold. Its defense was disorganized in the first half when Los Angeles rolled to a 21-3 halftime lead. And its offense failed to sustain drives and rally in the second half when the Seahawks started to get stops on the defensive side.

Seattle also took a hit offensively with the loss of running back Rashaad Penny for the season due to an ACL injury. Penny was injured on his first offensive play on Seattle’s opening drive and Carroll said the emerging running back would be out for the season.

WHAT’S WORKING

The acquisition of safety Quandre Diggs for a fifth-round draft pick continues to look like an absolute steal. The arrival of Diggs has changed the way Seattle plays coverage in the secondary and his two interceptions against the Rams – one of which was returned for a touchdown – only amplified his importance. In his four games with Seattle, the hard-hitting Diggs has three interceptions, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and 13 tackles.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

It’s been a tough few weeks for Lockett. He suffered a significant leg contusion against San Francisco in Week 10 that required two nights in a hospital. He returned from the injury only to get struck by a nasty flu going through the team. In his past three games, Lockett has just five catches for 81 yards. The inability to push the ball downfield to Lockett has impacted the rest of Seattle’s passing game. The Seahawks had just two pass plays of more than 20 yards against the Rams. Carroll said while Seattle wanted to take its shot with Russell Wilson, either pressure by the Rams’ defensive front or coverage in the back forced Wilson to throw underneath on several occasions.

STOCK UP

WR DK Metcalf took over the NFL lead in yards and catches among rookies after having six receptions for 78 yards against the Rams. With Lockett struggling to get back into the mix, Metcalf has 25 receptions over the past five games.

STOCK DOWN

Wilson’s MVP candidacy may be finished. Through the first half of the season, Wilson was a front-runner along with Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson. But Wilson’s last four games have been more pedestrian and less MVP caliber. He’s completing 63% of his passes, thrown four touchdowns and four interceptions and had an 82.7 passer rating during those four games. Wilson was 22 of 36 for 245 yards and one interception against the Rams. Seattle won three of the four games, but needs Wilson to find that form from earlier in the season going into the playoffs.

INJURIES

Aside from Penny, there’s some concern about rookie LB Cody Barton, who played through knee and ankle injuries against the Rams while starting in place of Mychal Kendricks. Barton was set to have an MRI. The status of Kendricks (hamstring) likely won’t be known until the end of the week. Carroll said DE Ziggy Ansah will practice but whether he plays this week depends on the strength in his shoulder.

KEY NUMBER

430.5 – The Seahawks are giving up 430.5 yards per game in the last six matchups against the Rams. In the last four, the Seahawks have allowed 455 or more yards to Los Angeles.

WHAT’S NEXT

It’s almost become a yearly trip for the Seahawks traveling to Carolina. This will be Seattle’s sixth visit to face the Panthers since 2012, five of those being regular-season games. Since Carroll’s arrival in 2010, the Seahawks are 7-2 against Carolina overall.

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