3TFO: Rams @ Seahawks, Week 17

Trey Cunningham reviews the focal points of the Seahawks securing the top seed in the NFC against Jeff Fisher's Rams in another big NFC West battle.

| 3 years ago

3TFO: Rams @ Seahawks, Week 17

2013-3TFO-WK17-STL@SEAThe 7-8 St. Louis Rams will be fighting for a .500 season record in this NFC West showdown, while the 12-3 Seattle Seahawks will be fighting for the first overall seed in the NFC playoffs.

Seattle, who is considered by many to be the favorites to reach the Super Bowl, is coming off their first home loss in the Russell Wilson era to the Arizona Cardinals, another division rival. Seattle had previously gone 14 straight games undefeated and are in striking distance of securing the title of No. 1 defense in terms of overall yardage.

These two squads met back in week 8 on Monday Night football, with Seattle barely holding on to win 14-9. Can the Rams, on the road in arguably the toughest stadium to play in lately, follow through on the promise they showed in that initial contest?

Russell Okung vs. Robert Quinn

Former first-rounder Robert Quinn has been on a tear this season (leads the NFL with 18 sacks), owning by far the best pass rushing grade among his 4-3 defensive end peers. He hasn’t slowed down, either, with five sacks, two hits and 10 hurries in his last two games and was carried off the field by his teammates after the Tampa Bay game. It wasn’t a surprise that he wreaked havoc in the first meeting between these two teams with three sacks (including on back-to-back plays), two hits and a hurry.

A lot of Quinn’s damage came at the expense of back-up left tackle Paul McQuistan. Starting left tackle Russell Okung, also a former first-round pick, was injured early in Week 2 and did not return to the lineup until Week 11, and he will be available this time around to give Quinn some more resistance. Okung struggled a bit in his first few weeks back (-3.8 pass blocking grade in Weeks 11-13) but has been excellent the last few weeks with no pressure allowed in week 15 and only a single hurry last week. He does have a “sore” toe, but the Seahawks have a much better chance of dealing with Quinn this time around.

Janoris Jenkins vs. Golden Tate

One of the best matchups to watch in this game for will be WR Golden Tate vs. CB Janoris Jenkins. In that first contest Tate caught all five passes thrown at him in Jenkins’ coverage. Only one of those catches led to a first down, while another was a stop for Jenkins on a third-and-long. However, two of the catches were scores with one being a short-yardage crossing pattern while the other was arguably the most remembered play of the game. It was an 80-yard catch-and-run TD where Jenkins tried and failed to make a play on the pass, ending up on the ground as Tate continued to the end zone, blatantly taunting another Ram defender in the process. Can Jenkins get the last laugh in the rematch on Sunday?

Zac Stacy vs. Seahawks Run Defense

It took until Week 5 for the Rams coaching staff to begin giving rookie fifth-rounder Zac Stacy the majority of carries, and he’s repaid them with consistent production on the ground. Stacy has a healthy 4.1 yards-per-carry average, seven scores, 29 forced missed tackles, and the 13th most rushing yards, needing only 39 yards to reach 1,000 for the year. It’s worth noting that he did fumble last week, though.

Stacy had his most rushing yards (134) in that first game vs. the Seahawks, which was also his first 100+ yard performance. While defensive tackles Tony McDaniel and Brandon Mebane and defensive end Cliff Avril all earned positive grades in run defense in that game, five other Seahawks got ‘red’ grades in this area. Among those culprits were safety Earl Thomas (-3.4 run defense grade on the year) and defensive linemen Clinton McDonald and Chris Clemons. Will they let the rookie run wild on them again?


Follow Trey on Twitter

  • BigFishMcNish

    The run grades for defensive backs make no sense. The best game I’ve ever seen Earl Thomas III play was in the first rams game this year. I’ve watched every one of his games and he was the most impactful versus the run. Our d line struggled to stay in their gaps and kept over pursuing the ball consistently. Earl was the one who would make the tackle. now because Stacy was already ten yards down field, a lesser safety would have stopped him maybe 15-30 yards past the LOS. Earl makes the stop right as Zac breaks into the secondary. That’s literally the bets play a safety could make in the situation who is playing centerfield DEEP. He made those plays throughout the game. Yet he gets a horrendous score for it. It’s not like he’s a linebacker who couldn’t get off a block and missed a tackle and Zac got ten yards. He’s a safety who didn’t even have run duties that snap yet makes a play as faster than anyother player in the league could given that circumstance. I don’t understand how anyone could watch that tape (I rewatched the all-22 after i saw your guys’ negative score for it) and say Earl had a bad game defending the run let alone a horrible one and he literally was the sole reason stacy didn’t run for 300 yards against us.

    • Daniel Dannen

      Yea, Pro Football Focus often messes up on the grades they give players in specific games. I sometimes wonder if they even watched the game, or if they use bizarre, counter-intuitive criteria for what constitutes a “good” performance. But I think their cumulative grades are pretty accurate.

      I don’t know about Earl Thomas’s performance in the last Rams game. I watched the game, but didn’t pay particular attention to him. But I know in general that Thomas is too ambitious and aggressive when he’s closing in on ball carriers. He invariably takes off like a rocket towards the ball carrier, and often just gets juked and misses the tackle. This hyper-aggressiveness wouldn’t be a bad trait in a linebacker, but Thomas is a free safety and often the last line of defense. An example of what I’m talking about is the long Frank Gore run in the San Francisco game, where Thomas gives a clinic on how not to tackle in space.

      • Scott Humphreys

        Earl Thomas is not a good fit for a grading system, its easy to say that he missed a tackle on such and such a play. How do you grade all the plays where nobody else would have had the range to be in position to miss a tackle?

        • Daniel Dannen

          A free safety’s primary responsibility is to prevent big plays, not to make highlight film tackles at the line of scrimmage. I wouldn’t dock a free safety who lacked the “range” to do something he shouldn’t have been trying to do in the first place.

          • Scott Humphreys

            Who’s given up fewer big plays than the Seahawks D? Earl Thomas is often the only player back so he must be doing a heck of a job?

            My point is that he more than makes up for whatever negative plays he has by flying around and getting to everything.