SEATTLE – The torch has passed. A glorious era has ended for the Seahawks.
For the diehard Seattle fans, as loyal and dedicated as any in the NFL, it was painful to watch. The Los Angeles Rams - younger, tougher and hungrier - humiliated the Seahawks in a 42-7 victory before a stunned crowd at CenturyLink Field.
“That, obviously, was an embarrassing loss,’’ said Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin. “Am I concerned? Yes, in the loss and the way we lost.”
Baldwin had a meeting with the players after the game.
“I told them to let it burn,’’ Baldwin said. “Remember this feeling.”
The Rams are 10-4 and the Seahawks are 8-6 in the NFC West. Officially, the division title isn’t over. Unofficially, it’s over in so many ways.
Everyone in Seattle has seen the signs this season, but no one wanted to admit it. They wanted to keep believing in a team that has accomplished so much under Pete Carroll since he became the head coach in 2010. This was the worst loss of the Carroll era.
“I wasn't happy about anything,’’ Carroll said afterward. “That was a really dismal performance by us. It’s all on us and we have to hold ourselves accountable. It’s hard to explain something I haven’t seen from us.”
This is not the team that went to back-to-back Super Bowls in the 2013 and 2014 seasons. It’s not the team that made the playoffs for five consecutive seasons.
This is a bruised and battered lot that was trying to hang on against all odds. Seattle was missing four Pro-Bowl players from its defense Sunday -- linebacker K.J. Wright, defensive end Cliff Avril, strong safety Kam Chancellor and cornerback Richard Sherman. Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner was playing with a bad hamstring injury.
However, if you think the Seahawks lost this game just because of injuries you are fooling yourself. The Seahawks lost to the team they used to be _ young, talented and confident.
A team with an up-and-coming quarterback in Jared Goff and a dominant running back in Todd Gurley, who rushed for 152 yards Sunday and scored four touchdowns. And it’s a team with a dominant defense and scary pass rush. Russell Wilson was sacked seven times.
That’s who the Seahawks were. It is not who they are. It’s who the Rams are now under rookie coach Sean McVay, a shoo-in for Coach of the Year honors. And go ahead a list wise old sage Wade Phillips the top assistant coach as the defensive coordinator.
“That was a tremendous showing by the Rams,’’ Carroll said. “I give them a lot of credit. They’ve played well all year long.”
The Seahawks still could win their last two games and possibly make the playoffs. If so, it’s an illusion. This is the first time the Seahawks have lost three home games in a season since 2011, the last time they failed to make the playoffs.
“That was not the game we expected to play,’’ Wilson said. “They were way better than us. Where do we have to get better? I don’t know where to start.”
The team has to face facts. Major changes are needed. It must get younger. It must find a quality running back. And it must get better on the offensive line.
Even if Avril, Chancellor and Sherman all return in 2017 (not likely with the neck injuries to Avril and Chancellor) they are aging players whose better days probably are behind them. The truth is the Seahawks can’t keep all these guys together anyway because of salary-cap issues.
This isn’t about starting over. Seattle still is a team with plenty of quality players, along with one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in Wilson. It’s not time to rebuild, but it is time to retool and upgrade in a few key spots.
The injuries and the weak spots caught up with the Seahawks Sunday, but the best team won. And the Rams are a team that should be good for a long time.
The sooner the Seahawks admit that fact, the faster they can get back to who they were.
“We’re struggling right now,’’ Baldwin said. “Through adversity is when you find out who you are.’’