Re-Focused: Rams @ Seahawks, Week 14

| December 13, 2011

When the schedule makers put this game on Monday Night football, they thought it had a chance to be meaningful. It was between the two best teams in the NFC West last year, but even then that wasn’t saying much. Now the Seahawks are a long shot for the playoffs, while the Rams have been out of contention for practically the entire season.

It wasn’t the most interesting first half of football you’ll watch. Neither offense could do much with the ball and the only thing that separated these teams was a punt blocked by Seattle returned for a touchdown. In the second half Seattle got its act together. Good play by the defense as well as special teams led to good field position for the Seahawks. The offense in turn made some big plays of its own, as well as not making any big mistakes.

It wasn’t a pretty victory, but that is how most of Seattle’s wins have gone. In the end we didn’t learn much more about these teams. The Seahawks win with running and defense, while the Rams just don’t win.

 

St. Louis – Three Performances of Note

Lack of Pass Game

You simply can’t win when you aren’t accurately throwing the ball. Prior to the last drive of the game in garbage time, Sam Bradford (-2.4) had an accuracy percentage of 47.8% with just nine complete passes. There was only one wide receiver or tight end who had more than one catch on the day, and that was Brandon Lloyd (+1.9) who had five catches for 82 yards. There was an occasional solid play, but there wasn’t any consistency as the good play was typically followed by an incomplete pass or a sack which ends up killing the drive. While it would be tempting to blame the offensive line which has been decimated by injury, that wouldn’t be a fair assessment. As a unit they allowed just seven overall pressures in the game. The lack of pass production lies mostly on Bradford and his receivers.

 

Makeshift Coverage

The Rams have gone through more than their fair share of injuries at defensive back, and it has shown. There were seven different defensive backs that played in this game, and they never settled on which combination they wanted to use for their nickel and dime defenses. If the Seahawks wanted a first down, they knew they could throw the ball at Josh Gordy (-1.6) who allowed all four passes thrown his way to be caught. Three of these went for first downs, and the fourth led to another.  If Seattle wanted a big play, they could throw at Darian Stewart (-2.9) who also allowed three first downs, as well as the late third quarter touchdown that put the game away. While it almost feels bad blaming a unit that has been devastated with injuries, they made Seattle look good in the area of the game they are weakest at.

 

At Least they can Rush

While there hasn’t been much to like about the Rams this year, at least they have a group of young pass rushers that can give St. Louis fans a reason to be optimistic. As usual Chris Long (+4.0) led the group with a hit and four pressures. Rookie first round pick Robert Quinn (+2.2 pass rush) has seen his snaps increase in recent weeks, and his 55 snaps in this game are the most he has seen. In that time he managed two hits and two pressures. Finally C.J. Ah You (+1.7) had his best game back after missing the first half of the season with an injury. He had a sack and three pressures and lined up across the line. While the play of the line wasn’t nearly enough to come up with a victory, it still slowed down Seattle’s offense and helped the team not lose by more.

 

Seattle – Three Performances of Note

Riding Lynch to Victory

It’s hard to remember the last time a running back has been worked as much as Marshawn Lynch (+3.1 rushing) has been recently. He’s had 22 or more carries for six straight games. While one day he might see his production go down from being over worked, that day hasn’t come yet. He had seven players miss tackles on him which is a season high, and managed 115 yards despite never having a run beyond 16 yards. The passing game for the Seahawks was hit and miss, but pairing the good pass plays with a consistent ability to run the ball led to points. His biggest help in the run game was Paul McQuistan (+4.9 run block) who consistently controlled anyone he was asked to block in the second half. It was in large part thanks to McQuistan that Lynch averaged 6.7 yards per run when running to the left, and just 1.9 when running to the right.

 

Unknown Secondary

You might not be able to name the players that line up in the defensive backfield for the Seahawks, but it’s about time you know who they are. At cornerback Seattle has been using Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner, while at safety they have Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. The Rams rarely used three or more receivers, so the Seahawks could consistently call plays from their base defense, which typically involved the cornerbacks typically giving the wide receivers some space, and one of the safeties going into the box. The group had five passes defended and an interception compared to seven passes allowed. When you can have nearly as many good plays as bad plays as a secondary, you know you’re doing something right. The only problem was with Sherman, who had four penalties in this game, which is more than some elite corners have all season.

 

Undrafted rookie star

There have been a number of rookie receivers who have made an impact this year, and one of those players is Doug Baldwin (+2.8 receiving). He played 21 pass plays, with 20 of them coming while lined up in the slot position. He caught 7-of-8 thrown his way for 93 yards, with 74 of them coming after contact. His blocked punt led directly to Seattle’s first touchdown, and a 29 yard catch gave Seattle their second touchdown. There were four plays in the game where the Seahawks lined up three wide receivers on the same side. All four were throws to Baldwin right after the snap while the other two receivers blocked for him. Three of those four plays were first downs, while the fourth was a nine yard gain on 1st and 10. It says a lot when you can run the same play four times in one half, and the other team is completely unable to stop it. This was definitely a game to remember for this undrafted receiver.

 

Game Notes

- James Laurinaitis had 11 tackles in this game which ties his season high, but only two of them were stops.

- Despite playing in all 37 pass plays, middle linebacker David Hawthorne and safety Earl Thomas were not targeted.

- Harvey Dahl of the Rams had his third straight start at right tackle. He has allowed less pressure since making the move from right guard, and didn’t allow any pressure in this game.

 

PFF Game Ball

While a few different Seahawks could be considered, Doug Baldwin is the man I’ll go with. He directly contributed to a lot of the points put on the board, and was able to move the ball down the field when they needed him.

 

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