By Nick Patterson
SEATTLE — On Thursday night the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams played a game every bit worthy of teams with NFC West title aspirations.
In the end the margin between the two was as narrow as the distance between the football and the right upright on the Rams’ Greg Zuerlein’s final field goal attempt.
Russell Wilson conjured up the magic to score the winning touchdown with less than three minutes remaining, then the Seahawks survived Zuerlein’s missed 44-yard field-goal attempt in the final seconds as Seattle defeated the Rams 30-29 at CenturyLink Field.
“Paul Allen today might have given a little (blow) on that last kick there,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll quipped, referencing the fact that the team’s late owner was inducted into the Seahawks Ring of Honor before the game.
“This is such a good team to be coaching,” Carroll added. “It’s a fantastic bunch, and leadership continues to keep these guys in check, keeps guiding them, and the younger players listen. … I feel we’re still growing together, we need these experiences, we need big challenges like this, and coming through makes you so much stronger mentally. It’s a blast, it couldn’t be more fun.”
Thursday’s game was the chance for Seattle, which won three of four division titles from 2013-16, to try and re-stake its claim over the Rams, who won the past two. Both teams came into the game 3-1, and what ensued was a wild back-and-forth affair that left everyone sitting on the edge of their seats until the final play.
But in a game with many stars, the one who shone brightest was Wilson. Seattle’s quarterback turned in an imperious performance, eluding defenders at every turn and making all the throws in his utility belt. He finished the game 17-for-23 for 268 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions, and he made the game’s decisive play when he avoided the rush and lofted a 5-yard touchdown pass to Chris Carson with 2:28 remaining — a moment that left the crowd gasping as the ball initially bounced off the wide-open Carson’s hands before he casually caught it on the second attempt.
“I thought Russell played one of the best games I’ve ever seen him play,” Carroll said. “I’ve just never seen him have so much. Speaking of magic, all the plays he came up with with his legs, not just to get out of trouble but to find receivers and make the throws, just one after another. … I thought Russ stole the show tonight.”
Seattle, leading 30-29, was then forced to come up with two separate defensive stands. The first was successful as Tedric Thompson made an acrobatic interception to seemingly thwart the Rams’ chances. But after the Los Angeles defense held and forced a punt, the Rams got the ball back one last time with 1:38 remaining. Los Angeles had no timeouts remaining, but Jared Goff led the Rams down the field, going 67 yards on 10 plays to set up Zuerlein for the win. But the 44-yard attempt shaved the right upright, sending the Seahawks and their fans into wild celebration.
Seattle got another strong performance out of Carson, as the bruising running back battled for 118 yards on 27 carries to go along with his touchdown catch. It was Carson’s second straight 100-yard performance following his two-fumble game in Seattle’s 33-27 loss to New Orleans.
Goff finished with a big night for the Rams, going 29-for-49 for 395 yards and one touchdown with one interception. L.A. running back Todd Gurley, who had been seeing his touches limited, was effective early, but ended up with just 51 yards on 15 carries. Gerald Everett (seven catches, 136 yards) and Cooper Kupp (nine catches, 117 yards) both had big receiving games.
Seattle was in control much of the second half — highlighted by Tyler Lockett’s incredible double toe-tap 13-yard touchdown reception in first quarter — and the Seahawks appeared set to take a 17-6 lead into halftime. However the Seahawks decided not to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the L.A. 30, and Jason Myers missed the ensuing 48-yard field goal wide right. The Rams, with 1:34 to work, quickly moved the ball down the field — with the aid of a Ziggy Ansah roughing-the-passer penalty on a third-down incompletion — and Goff hit Kupp for a 9-yard TD with 6 seconds remaining, cutting Seattle’s lead to 14-13 at halftime.
The Rams received the ball to start the second half and built on the momentum gained at the end of the first half, slicing through the Seattle defense for a six-play, 75-yard drive that concluded with Gurley dancing up the middle for an 8-yard touchdown run, giving Los Angeles a 20-14 lead.
Everything was going L.A.’s way as the Rams forced the Seahawks to punt on the next possession, but Ugo Amadi made a nice play on Michael Dickson’s punt, downing the ball at the 1. The Rams, backed into their own end zone, went three-and-out, and the subsequent punt gave Seattle the ball in L.A. territory. Wilson engineered a drive that was finished off by David Moore, who took a receiver screen, made a move to make the first defender miss, then scurried into the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown that restored the Seahawk’s lead at 21-20.
But once again Seattle’s defense was shredded as the Rams went 75 yards again on just four plays, with Gurley scoring on a 1-yard dive. L.A. went for two, and while Goff’s QB draw was initially ruled successful, on review it was overturned, and the Rams led 26-21. The teams then traded field goals before Wilson performed his magic on the winning drive.