The whole idea in football is to gain yardage. The teams take turns running or passing the ball toward a goal line and it usually works, at least a little. But not in this game, not for the Seattle Seahawks.
Playing against the Los Angeles Rams in the Kingdome, the Seahawks were stunningly inept. They set a National Football League record for futility that might never be broken. They gained no yards. In fact, they LOST yards.
How Did This Happen?
Nobody could have seen this coming. The Seahawks were a relatively new NFL team, playing in only their fourth season, but they seemed to be on the rise. The previous Monday night they had scored their biggest victory. Using trick plays and improvisation by their scrambling quarterback, Jim Zorn, the Seahawks came from behind to beat the Atlanta Falcons 31-28. The national television audience couldn't help but be entertained by the plucky underdogs from the Northwest.
The Rams, meanwhile, had lost three straight games and would be playing before a hostile crowd in Seattle's dome. But when they met, everything went right for the Rams and wrong for the Seahawks. One-sided games happen, but this was ridiculous.
No First Downs, No Yards, No Nothing
The Seahawks simply could not move the ball. At halftime the Rams had a 21-0 lead and the Seahawks had no first downs, meaning they weren't able to gain 10 yards in any four-play sequence. The crowd of 62,048 was getting restless and surly.
The Seahawks' first play of the second half was a completed pass from Zorn to Steve Largent, the future Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver and Congressman from Oklahoma. The play gained 11 yards -- good for a first down, a meager accomplishment that would be shown repeatedly that week on Coach Jack Patera's television show.
For Seattle, that was as good as it got. The Seahawks never earned another first down. And they never got closer to the goal line than that, eight yards shy of midfield. The Rams had lost quarterback Pat Haden and running back Wendell Tyler to injuries in the first half, so the second half was an unrelieved display of two offenses that couldn't do much, if anything. The Seahawks at one time got their offensive total up to 23 yards, but the Rams kept tackling Zorn for losses while he was trying to pass. For the last quarter of the game, the only suspense was whether the Seahawks could raise their net yardage into the black.
They couldn't. When time ran out, mercifully, the Rams had a 24-0 victory and the Seahawks had minus-seven yards. It truly was a sub-zero performance, worst by two yards in the league's 57-year history, a stinker for the ages.