The Seattle Seahawks (9-4-1) defeated the Los Angeles Rams (4-10), their first win against the Rams since December 28th, 2014. This long-time-coming win also sealed the NFC West title for the Seahawks, their third division championship in four years. The Arizona Cardinals (5-7-1) will play the New Orleans Saints, and the San Francisco 49ers (1-12) will play the Atlanta Falcons, on Sunday, December 17th.
The Defense Brings The Heat Again
In 14 opening drives this season, the Seahawks’ offense has gained 13 first downs (with 5 three and outs), for 316 yards gained (23 yards/drive) and have scored only 4 times (1 TD, 3 FGs). Out of the Seahawks’ four losses and their 1 tie, the offense scored only once on its opening drive. In all their losses and their tie, they did not score first. Assuming you were a member of the Seahawks defense, this would be your weekly reality about just the offenses’ first drive, never mind the rest of the game. So Richard Sherman is making a fair point when he says, “We go out there, we sacrifice, we battle. We don’t give away our battle, you honor our sacrifice.” Being a member of Seahawks defense is being asked to be a giant every single week, knowing they will get little support and constantly be under the gun. Knowing they must hold the game scoreless until the offense scores, or else the game will be lost.
With the score at 0-0, and with four minutes left in the first quarter, the Rams’ offense was facing 4th and one from the Seahawks’ 7-yard line. In other words, this was potentially the game deciding play.
The Rams are in a run formation with most of the offense in to block. The key players begin at center Tim Barnes (61) and move south, including offensive guard Roger Saffold (76), offensive tackle Greg Robinson (73), and wide receivers Brian Quick (83) and Pharoh Cooper (10). Tight end Lance Kendricks (88) goes in motion to the bottom of the formation, creating a diamond shape where wide receiver Brian Quick (83) is the tip, and Cooper and Robinson are the edges. The key defenders are defensive end Frank Clark (55), linebacker KJ Wright (50) and cornerback Jeremy Lane (20) at the edge.
Initially, Clark shifts inside to cover up Saffold. Wright and Lane remain to handle the diamond. Wright moves inside, anticipating jumping between Quick and Robinson. Wright launches into the backfield, turning Quick around and obstructing Robinson from moving south with the rest of the offensive line. Wright’s purpose is to prevent Robinson from leading the charge to take out linebacker Bobby Wagner (54). However, it’s not only Wright’s actions complicating Robinson’s life. Lane has stood up an attempted block from Cooper, not only preventing Cooper from creating a run lane but dragging Cooper laterally toward the sideline. Lane’s effort pinches the space between himself and Deshawn Shead, who is being blocked by Kendricks. Gurley’s only option is to run into Wagner. Wagner absorbs the hit, preventing the first down conversion.
Or, did he?
Lane dragged Cooper so far toward the sideline that most of Gurley’s momentum went into Cooper instead of Wagner.
Lane’s celebration is well earned. Most defenders make their living fending off blocks. In this instance, Lane established leverage on a receiver and drove him back against his will. Not bad for a 190lbs nickel back.
The return of the left step! And Good Work.
Play Calling Is An Issue
Russell Wilson bounced back from a down performance, going 19/26 (73%) for three touchdowns and one interception, yet the offense struggled to score confidently. No set of downs was a greater source of frustration than the drive to close the third quarter, where Richard Sherman and Pete Carroll shared words over its execution. Afterward, Sherman indicated he was concerned with the play calling. Did he have a point?
It starts when Jimmy Graham catches a pass and then proceeds to boom and bang his way to a 31-yard gain at the Rams’ 15. After a timeout to avoid a delay of game penalty, Wilson completes a pass over the fingertips of defensive end Eugene Sims (97) for a 9-yard completion to Luke Willson (82). Next, Rawls (34) takes a run for an additional yard. It’s first and goal from the Rams’ 3-yard line. If there was ever a time to put an exclamation point on a drive, it was now. Instead, this red zone series incurs its second penalty. Willson jumps early and costs the team five yards on a false start.
On the next play, offensive guard Germain Ifedi’s (76) attempt to block defensive tackle Aaron Donald (99) is a failure. Ifedi falls onto his hands and knees, and Donald plows into the backfield. His tide sucks in cornerback Lamarcus Joyner (20). This is a broken play. For almost every running back in the NFL, this is a tackle for a loss. Rawls plants his right foot and explodes away from both Donald and Joyner. Remarkably, Rawls not only escapes them, he crosses the entire line. Rawls sneaks in behind Willson’s block, stutter steps Cody Davis (38), and drops a shoulder into Alec Ogletree (52), finally going down at the 2-yard line.
Seeing what Rawls just did, being 2nd and goal from the two-yard line, what does offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell call? He chooses a throw. The result is a defensive holding penalty drawn on Jermaine Kearse, resetting the downs. It’s 1st and goal from the one-yard line, the seventh down in the red zone, does Bevell choose to give Rawls a chance?
A sixth offensive lineman—Rees Odhiambo (70)—is brought in with two tight ends, Willson and Graham (88), hugging either side of the line. Newcomer Marcel Reece (44) is lined up as a fullback. If there was ever a formation to get one yard, this is it. Bevell chooses to bypass Rawls, sending Graham out as a receiver. Linebacker Bryce Hager (54) never has a chance at Graham. Assuming Wilson gets his foot planted, he could put a high floater to the corner of the end zone that Graham and only Graham could catch. Wilson discounts the read and continues running. He flicks his arm, pulls it down, and then finally unloads. By now, Graham is almost out of bounds, so Wilson must laser it in. Wilson under throws the pass, creating a juggling contest between Graham and Hager, for what at first appeared to be an interception, but would later be ruled an incomplete pass.
At this point, Bevell has called two throws at the goal line, both having little chance of being caught. On the next play, Bevell calls a play that brings in rookie Tanner McEvoy (19) and Paul Richardson (10) as the only receiving targets. Combined McEvoy and Richardson have 20 receptions and 330 yards out of Wilson’s 305 completions and 3,611 yards for the season, so the Rams are probably not worried about a third pass. Even though Bevell is willing to call a running play, he bypasses Rawls, having Wilson hand off to fullback Reece. Reece gets in one solid step before being wrapped up by Ogletree. The defense converges and Reece is swallowed by white.
On the next play, Baldwin gets the touchdown. (See above).
This drive did end in points, but whew, that was a lot of work. Maybe give Rawls an opportunity to punch it in?
Sherman certainly thought so.
Alls Well That Ends Well
Then again… THE SEAHAWKS BEAT THE RAMS! WHO CARES WHY, WHO CARES HOW, THEY WON. Glory, glory, Hallelujah. Ding dong, the witch-Fisher is dead. Monkey officially off the back. And so ends the weirdest three-game heads-ups losing streak of recent NFL memory. Finished. Terminated. Dead and buried. Over.
I hate the Rams.
In case you missed it…
Week 1, On One Leg | Week 2, The Spread Will Save the Seahawks, Exactly Like It Did Last Year | Week 3, Could Trevone Boykin Be The Future? With Doug Baldwin, He Might. | Week 4, Kam Chancellor’s Modified Role Improves Entire LoB, Takes Defense to New Level | Discombobulated But Still Dangerous, The Cardinals Lie Ahead – Seahawks Bye Week Special | Week 6, Seahawks Defense Comes Up Strong, Team Passes First Test | Week 7, Defense Wins Championships But This Vanilla Offense Needs An Attitude | Week 8, As Injuries Mount, Seahawks Still Poised For A Super Bowl Run | Week 9, The Hawks Deal Blows To The AFC East, Real Test Comes This Sunday | Week 10, Bam Bam Kam Is Prosise-ly What The Hawks Need, Finally Time To Put The Hurt On The NFC | Week 11, Seahawks Dash Eagles Playoff Aspirations, Red Hot November Continues | Week 12, Seahawks’ Offense Was Outgunned and Outcoached, Did Buccaneers Call Psychic Hotline? | Week 13, Redemption Win Against Panthers Proves Bittersweet; Minus Thomas, Team Must Overcome Greatest Challenge Yet | Week 14, The Seahawks Are A Dark Horse To Win The Super Bowl. They Probably Like It That Way.