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Danny O'Neil covers the Seahawks for The Seattle Times.

October 1, 2012 at 10:35 AM

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What we learned: Rams 19, Seahawks 13

Three things we learned
1. Seattle's defense isn't entirely impregnable.
St. Louis entered the game having completed five passes of 20 yards or more, fewest in the league. Well, not only did the Rams have a 52-yard pass against Seattle -- the longest play from the scrimmage the Seahawks allowed this season -- but St. Louis converted five third downs that required 10 yards or more. The Seahawks' defense didn't allow a touchdown, and played well enough to win, but there is some room for improvement when it comes to getting off the field.

2. Coach Pete Carroll is feeling urgency to get the offense going.
Calling for an onside kick showed the lengths to which he'll go to jumpstart a unit that is struggling. The Seahawks have played four games so far, and the offense has scored multiple touchdowns in only one of the eight halves it has played. Of the team's 11 scoring drives, six started in opponent's territory. Seattle hasn't shown the ability to consistently sustain drives, which is why Carroll attempted the onside kick: You've got to do something to put yourself in position to score.

3. The Seahawks' formula for victory is very perilous.
Seattle's primary objectives each game are to run the ball well, play great defense and hold an advantage in special teams. Sounds easy, right? Well, it's more like a highwire act because if Seattle falters in even one of those areas, it hasn't shown the ability to make up the deficit by throwing the ball. On Sunday, Seattle's special teams allowed St. Louis' only touchdown on a fake field goal after the Seahawks players on the field neglected to count the number of opponents, and make sure no one was lurking by the sidelines. Seattle did get the benefit of a 69-yard kickoff return from Leon Washington, but lost the ball two plays later on an interception. Right now, the Seahawks are so deliberate and plodding on offense that they can't afford any slip-ups on defense or special teams.

Three things we're still trying to figure out
1. Is Russell Wilson getting better?
Carroll's decision to name Wilson the starter committed the Seahawks to not just a player, but a process. The rookie was going to need time to grow and progress and improve. Is that happening? Hard to say for certain, but the red-zone difficulties and third-down conversions are cause for concern. Seattle's defense is ready to be the backbone of a contender, and the Seahawks running game is moving the ball. How much longer can Seattle wait for Wilson to start extending drives and guiding the team to touchdowns?

2. Is turning Wilson loose really the answer?
That seems to be a solution that is being suggested repeatedly, the insinuation being that Seattle's lack of production in the passing game isn't a result of Wilson's play so much as the dialed-down, conservative nature of the play calls. That analysis might be very short-sighted, though, when you consider the biggest problem Seattle's offense has faced in the past two games is a lack of third-down production. Seattle has converted only four of its 20 third downs over the past two weeks, and all four of those conversions came as a result of running the ball. Wilson is 1-for-9 passing on third downs in those games for three years. He has been intercepted once and sacked twice, and before you go saying that's a result of the offense having its back against the wall and facing third-and-long, it's important to note that 13 of those 20 third-down plays required 5 yards or fewer. Seattle converted only three of those 13 opportunities, a rate that is simply not going to win games.

3. What was the deal with that third-down draw in the fourth quarter?
The Seahawks faced third-and-2 early in the fourth quarter. They were in the red zone, and Marshawn Lynch had just carried on back-to-back plays, picking up a total of eight yards. Seattle had rushed five times for 37 yards on the drive. So the Seahawks handed it to Lynch, right? Maybe even approach it as a two-down opportunity. Nope. Shotgun formation, quarterback draw, and Wilson was snuffed for a 2-yard loss. That play was part of football's chess match, and the Rams should be credited for countering the Seahawks attack. But there's something to be said for not attempting to fix something that wasn't broken, and the Seahawks had run the ball consistently without any subterfuge so why changeup?

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