SEATTLE - Seahawks' quarterback Russell Wilson left CenturyLink Field Sunday feeling, as he put it, "upbeat."
That word wouldn't typically escape the lips of a professional athlete that had just lost a gut-wrenching, 33-31 home game to a NFC West Division rival such as the high-powered Los Angeles Rams by blowing an opportunity in the fourth quarter to steal an upset win. But that's how Wilson rolls. His feelings weren't exactly misguided. Seattle (2-3) looked strong on offense, ran the ball at will and were a couple of costly penalties away from having a chance to grind the clock before winning the game with a field goal in the final moments.
"We've got a lot of season left," Wilson said. "We're right where we want to be. That's one of the best teams in the game."
True. But this is the NFL, a league where weekly the very best of teams routinely find themselves in close games against lesser teams and so-called upsets are commonplace.
The argument here, for now, is the latter. Seattle played about as well as it is capable of playing yet still lost to the clearly superior team. As well as Seattle ran the football (190 yards) with Chris Carson and Mike Davis, Los Angeles running back Todd Gurley was far and away the better talent. As brightly as wide receivers David Moore (two touchdowns) and Tyler Lockett (98 yards, one touchdown) shined, the Rams' trio of Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods shined brighter. Seattle's defense had its moments, but in the end, surrendered a whopping 468 yards of total offense despite Cooks and Kupp missing a large chunk of the game with concussions. Also, it's no secret that the Rams' secondary was banged up.
So while Sunday proved to be a closer game than most expected, and thus quite entertaining, a loss is still a loss and Seattle finds itself below .500.
"I was pretty frustrated about this because we put ourselves in position to win," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.
That they did. Seattle completed a 44-yard to pass from Wilson to Lockett to the Rams' 32 with 5:19 remaining. Carroll said the plan was to "run the clock down and kick a field goal and win the football game and go home.
"It's tough but we have to be more disciplined at that time," Carson said regarding the costly penalties.
In those minutes, the championship-caliber team made the plays needed to win while the middling team failed to close. That's typically the difference between contenders and pretenders in the NFL. As it stands, Seattle has just two wins with one coming on a late field goal at Arizona (1-4). That is not the mark of a playoff contender.
After the game, left tackle Duane Brown appeared dejected but remained positive.
"It's a tough one to take on the chin," he said. "But we got some encouraging effort out of it."
Following Goff's successful fourth-down conversion, things became a little chatty on the field, according to defensive end Frank Clark. Consequently, tough talk about facing the Rams again wasn't difficult to come by.
Fluker also made a point of looking forward to the second meeting Nov. 11 in Los Angeles. "I can't wait for it," he said.
Such bravado is all well and good, but between now and then, Seattle must prove that today's performance should be taken seriously. Coming close to taking down the Rams will not mean a damn thing unless Seattle takes care of business against the three opponents between now and Nov. 11.
Seattle plays Oakland (1-4) in London on Sunday followed by an off week, then at Detroit (2-3), and then home against the Los Angeles Chargers (3-2).
If the Seahawks win two out of three, they will sit at 4-4 heading into their second meeting with the Rams. However, if Seattle loses two out of three it would be 3-5 heading into that game and nobody will recall, or care, that the Seahawks once upon a time almost defeated the Rams on Oct. 7.
Seattle's players certainly left CenturyLink fired up about the win that got away.
"It should piss everybody off," Fluker said.
The measured Wilson, of course, would never say such a thing in public. Instead, he talked about the great enthusiasm surrounding the team and how it feels like they are "about to turn a corner."
The question is, what type of team will they truly be on the other side?