Published December 13, 2011
SEATTLE – Sam Bradford played on a bum left ankle behind a makeshift offensive line, with several other St. Louis starters on the bench.
The outcome really should not have been a surprise.
"It's hard to win in this league when you're constantly shuffling the offensive line. You don't have any chemistry there," Rams running back Steven Jackson said Monday night after a 30-13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
"When you're shuffling a lineup, trying to get guys to do things and when you have to go back to Week 1 stuff, coaching that up, it stalls you from trying to move forward."
Doug Baldwin, an undrafted rookie out of Stanford, blocked a first-quarter punt that was returned by Michael Robinson 17 yards for a touchdown, then caught a 29-yard TD pass from Tarvaris Jackson in the third quarter as the Seahawks pulled away.
Seattle (6-7) won for the fourth time in five games and kept alive its slim hopes for reaching the postseason. The Seahawks likely would need to win out to potentially make the playoffs, but they're at least back in the conversation after a 2-6 start.
Marshawn Lynch topped 100 yards for the fifth time in the last six games, finishing with 115 on 23 carries. He scored a touchdown in his ninth straight game on a 16-yard run with 2:57 left to put away Seattle's 13th win in its last 14 games against the Rams.
Seahawks fans threw bags of Skittles into the end zone as Lynch celebrated his ninth rushing touchdown this season, and he tied a franchise record with nine consecutive games with a TD.
"It's just really disappointing. We played to win, hoping to win a game on defense, and we didn't do quite enough to do that," Rams defensive end Chris Long said. "I'm disappointed we let Marshawn Lynch go 100 yards. He's a good back, he deserves credit. But we missed a lot of tackles."
Playing after barely practicing all week, Bradford struggled through one of the worst performances of his young career. He started despite a high left ankle sprain that's bothered him for nearly two months and forced him to miss last week's game at San Francisco.
His lack of practice showed, as he was rusty and made poor decisions. Bradford was 12 of 29 for 193 yards, was intercepted by Brandon Browner on the first play of the second half and was nearly picked off on a handful of other throws.
"I felt like I was able to move good enough to play tonight," Bradford said. "Could I move as well as I could at the beginning of the year? Probably not. But I definitely think the ankle was good enough."
Bradford's struggles were only compounded by a general lack of consistency by the Rams' offense. During the second and third quarters, St. Louis had just 43 total yards until a 50-yard screen pass from Bradford to Steven Jackson when the Rams caught Seattle on a blitz.
Steven Jackson had 50 yards rushing on 11 carries by halftime, including dashes of 11 yards twice and 10 yards once. He was limited to just 42 yards on 15 carries when the teams met a few weeks ago, with the Rams trying to exploit the Seahawks' secondary. But this time, Jackson disappeared in the second half — aside from his 50-yard catch-and-run — and finished with 63 yards rushing on 20 carries.
Perhaps more surprising was seeing Jackson standing on the sideline with his legs crossed during a goal-line possession in the fourth quarter while Cadillac Williams got the first crack at scoring
The Rams eventually ran five plays from the 1 without Jackson touching the ball — thanks to a taunting penalty on Seattle's Richard Sherman. Jackson finally got a carry on a second third-and-goal and scored, but only after screaming on the sideline.
Jackson's score pulled the Rams within 23-13, but the outcome was already decided. He said it wasn't an issue that he didn't touch the ball until the sixth snap from the 1.
"We take drives, we're all rotating and everything. ... It was his drive and he was doing a great job of running the inside zones," Jackson said of Williams getting the first shot. "I mean, it was only right to let him try to finish off the job."
Asked if he finally asked for the ball, Jackson said: "You're making a lot of a situation that was really nothing."
Baldwin's influence on the game was evident from the start, when he took a pitch from Leon Washington on a kickoff reverse and returned it beyond the 40. Seattle was later forced to punt, but it was Baldwin racing from the outside to down it at the Rams 6.
Then he made the biggest of his three fine special teams plays.
Coming almost entirely unblocked off the right end, Baldwin took the punt off the foot of Donnie Jones. The bounding ball hopped up into the arms of Robinson, who went the final 17 yards for an early 7-0 Seahawks lead.
Aside from a few receptions, Baldwin was mostly quiet on offense until late in the third quarter, when Tarvaris Jackson found Baldwin and he got just inside the pylon to give the Seahawks a 14-point lead.
"We just expect that out of him now," Tarvaris Jackson said. "We expect him to go out and make plays every week."
Notes: St. Louis lost defensive backs Craig Dahl and Josh Gordy to injuries during the game, although Gordy returned. ... Seattle has won 13 of the last 14 vs. St. Louis. ... Browner's interception was his fifth of the season. ... Bradford's 49.9 QB rating was the third-lowest of his career and his lowest of this season. ... Steven Jackson's 1-yard TD run in the fourth quarter was St. Louis' first offensive TD in Seattle since September 2008.