Because Greg Zuerlein missed a 44-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter of Thursday night’s game, the Seahawks have received plenty of praise for the performance of quarterback Russell Wilson and other key plays from a variety of other players, from Tyler Lockett to Will Dissly to Chris Carson to D.K. Metcalf to Tedric Thompson to others. If Zuerlein had made a kick that has gone from being a 50-50 proposition in the ’70s to a virtual chip shot in 2019, the narrative today would be that the Seahawks blew the game with a couple of head-scratching decisions.
The most glaring blunder came after Thompson’s interception positioned the Seahawks to seal the game with a single first down. Facing third and two from the Rams’ 43 yard line and with defenders jammed together to stop a run up the middle, the Seahawks dialed up a bizarre option play that quickly disintegrated as Wilson found himself quickly surrounded.
In a split-second of what seemed to be panic by Wilson, who otherwise was unflappable all night long, he flipped the ball toward receiver Tyler Lockett, with Rams cornerback Marcus Peters nearly in position to pluck it out of the air and return it for a touchdown.
Instead, the ball made it to Lockett, Peters quickly tackled him, and third and two became fourth and 10 became a punt that was fielded at the six and returned for one yard became the fast-moving drive that ended with Zuerlein’s field goal attempt.
So why did the Seahawks opt for an option play that was bungled so badly that it nearly cost the home team the game?
“Razzle dazzle,” coach Pete Carroll said after the game. “Didn’t quite work out like we had planned. But we had a play that gave us a chance for us to make something happen if . . . everybody jumped on Chris [Carson]. . . . And Russ read that properly. And he came out and he was trying to duck up and he just didn’t quite get it done. So he had to flip it out there in kind of desperation. When you have players like that, the reason that Tyler’s there because he’s such a great football player the two of those guys figure that kind of stuff out when everything’s breaking loose. That’s why we believe in those guys.”
Wilson wasn’t asked about the play after the game. Lockett was.
“It wasn’t drawn up like that, of course,” Lockett said. “We were just handing it off, handing it off. They started trying to close in on it. When [Wilson] took it out, it was kind of like two on two. I’ll take that any day and he’ll take that any day. The biggest thing was, I just told myself, just hold onto the ball and catch the ball. If he pitches it, just catch it. There’s no telling what’s going to happen. I know a lot of people were probably scared out there. Probably talking about why would they do that? At the same time, if it were to work, they would say, ‘That was an amazing play.’ For us, it ended up working out in our favor. If we would’ve lost, people would have looked at that play, but we won. So we just scratch out that play.”
But it’s still worth looking at that play, because it nearly did cost the Seahawks the game. And it’s a game the Seahawks seemed to be on track to potentially win easily in the first half, leading 14-6 and driving for another score. Facing fourth and one from the L.A. 30, the Seahawks opted to try a field goal. Jason Myers missed it, the Rams went right down the field and scored a touchdown to make it 14-13, and then to start the third quarter the Rams pulled off the Bill Belichick double dip by quickly scoring another touchdown, flipping 14-6 into 20-14.
So what was Carroll thinking when he chose not to go for it on fourth and short, in an effort to extend the lead to 21-6?
“I was thinking we were going to win the football game, keep [making] the decisions you’re going to win the football game, [don’t] go desperate — I just figured Jay’s going to kick it in because he’s such a good kicker,” Carroll said. “Unfortunately it didn’t go. They missed their field goal, we missed our field goal. But fortunately it wasn’t the end of the game.”
But it gave the Rams an opening to take the lead, and the Rams held that lead until Seattle scored that late touchdown. And the Seahawks thought the game had ended with Thompson’s interception and that “razzle dazzle” from Seattle’s offense gave the Rams one last chance to ruin the night that the franchise put the late Paul Allen into the ring of honor.