ReFo: Seahawks @ Rams, Week 8
The Seattle Seahawks likely won’t look back on this game with much fondness, but they will be pleased to walk away with a tight victory against a divisional opponent to extend their record to 7-1, maintaining their one-game lead in the NFC West.
At the end of the game their defense took the bend-but-don’t-break philosophy to its absolute limits by surrendering a near six-minute, 96-yard drive that came up a yard short for the Rams. The Rams got gains but the Seattle defense consistently came up with the tackles to prevent the play to break things in St Louis’ favor, and then the Rams did the Seahawks a favor to close the game with a low percentage, lofted pass toward Brandon Browner who had no interest in allowing Brian Quick to locate or adjust to the pass. After such a strong drive to that the point the Rams went out with a whimper.
For the Rams, their two-game winning streak has now turned to a two-game losing streak and at 3-5 they now sit at the foot of the NFC West at the crossroads of a season that could still represent a step forward, but is also teetering on the brink of a losing streak that could land them a high draft pick again. The Rams were absolutely in this game, and they got key performances on defense that with even one spark on offense might have been able to spring the upset on the Seahawks — but no such spark was forthcoming.
Seattle – Three Performances of Note
Golden Moments Swing the Game
When you’re in a game as tight as this one it isn’t always about winning every down, it’s about making the key plays to separate you from your opponent, and that’s exactly what Golden Tate did last night for the Seattle Seahawks. While there was an uncharacteristic drop on his only target against Trumaine Johnson, he got the big plays necessary on two of his five targets against Janoris Jenkins. On three other targets against Jenkins he was 3 of 3 for only 11 yards, but the two scores swung the game decisively in Seattle’s favor. The Rams might look back on each play and think they could, and should, have stopped the score, either of which would have put a different complexion on the game. On the first play Tate and Russell Wilson took advantage of confusion at the line of scrimmage between Jenkins and Cortland Finnegan (with the coverage still being debated when the ball was snapped) to slip a slant to the goal line before Jenkins could get around the rub of Doug Baldwin to recover to the receiver. Then on the second, the big play that was ultimately the difference between victory and defeat, Jenkins was beaten but will likely think he should have been able to make a play on the ball as Tate undercut him and broke upfield as Jenkins landed on his back unable to recover as Tate beat Rodney McLeod to the goal line (waving as he went) for the game’s big score.
While this may not have been a vintage performance from the Seattle defense, there were some utterly crucial and timely plays made by Seattle defenders that helped them seal the victory. This was brought into sharp focus on the final drive where they tested the bend-but-don’t-break philosophy to its fullest, always (just) coming up with the play to preserve the victory. After the Rams had dinked and dunked and ground their way into the Seattle red zone the Seahawks came up with at least four game-saving plays. The first came from Brandon Mebane who showed great effort tracking from his spot over the nose to fight through a double team and track down Daryl Richardson as he burst through the front seven. Earl Thomas may have had an angle, but if Mebane doesn’t track to that run Richardson, with his speed, has a head start to threaten Thomas inside the 5. Then came the two stops by Thomas (one with assistance from both Heath Farwell and Kam Chancellor) that proved the determination of the Seahawks’ defense to hold this lead. It is said to be a mark of the best teams that they are able to win when not at their best, and that was certainly true of Seattle in this game.
Pass Rush Held in Check
Three sacks might indicate a solid pass rush performance for any other defense, but this was a sub-par outing by the Seahawks who were unable to generate the sort of pressure that we have seen from them to this point in the season. Only one of those sacks worked off a blocker (one of them being a clean-up play and the other unblocked off the slot), and on the edge Chris Clemons (all four pressures in pursuit or unblocked), Michael Bennett, and Cliff Avril were largely held in check by the Rams’ tackles and tight ends. Is this a performance to raise concerns about the pass rush moving forward? No, we’ve seen plenty of positive from this unit before and they are stacked with talent and have a wealth of pass rush combinations to generate pressure in more games than not. However, it is a credit to the Rams’ pass protectors, particularly at tackle, that they kept the Seahawks’ to this point devastating pass rush in check. It is also an indictment of the Rams’ ability to exploit this performance, with Kellen Clemens only going 11 of 21 for 129 yards with two interceptions when not pressured. His NFL passer rating when not pressured was a mere 31.7, gaining only 6.1 yards per attempt.
St Louis – Three Performances of Note
Twin Terrors Make Their Mark
In previous seasons Robert Quinn has shown glimpses of his raw ability as a pass rusher but has never put it together consistently — this season he is making that stride to consistency by maximizing the favorable matchups he has been faced with. Quinn has recorded multiple pressures in all but one game this season, and last night recorded a pass rush graded above +4.0 for the fourth time in eight games as he made the most of the continued absence of Russell Okung to beat up on his replacement Paul McQuistan. Working inside and out, Quinn was relentless in the first half and also ran a well executed stunt to get across the right shoulder of Seahawks’ center Max Unger into the backfield to take down Russell Wilson on his third sack. Quinn was quiet in the second half, but on the opposite side Chris Long was more than happy to pick up the slack with his own trio of sacks on Wilson. This was Long’s best game as a pass rusher since opening day, and if he can maintain this sort of form then not many teams will be able to match up to the Rams’ pass rush.
Stacy Builds on his Form
Playing only nine snaps in the first month of the season, Zac Stacy has been a revelation in October earning his third positively graded running performance of the month with some crisp cuts and hard running against the Seahawks’ defensive front. This marks his first career 100-yard game, and he forced five missed tackles on the ground to take his total for the month to 15, which is more than all but 10 other running backs have forced in the whole season. Stacy was impressive both in terms of maximizing the yards on carries where his line gave him a crease, but also finding space and cutting around disruption when the Seahawks were able to get penetration into the backfield. The only thing missing was a breakaway run, with his 13-yard carry late in the first quarter the closest he got to that, brought down by an arm tackle from Kam Chancellor just as he was breaking into the secondary. However, this was another encouraging performance from Stacy and with the Rams appearing to have settled their running back conundrum, they will now be hoping the ankle injury he picked up on the final drive doesn’t affect him moving forward.
Making Good on the Investment
It would be a stretch to say that Jake Long is back to his absolute best form in terms of consistency, but he is playing very well and in isolation his performance last night was right up there with the best we have seen from him in his career. Surrendering no pressure in the passing game, Long also did plenty of hard work to open lanes for Stacy on the ground, earning a +3.1 run blocking grade as he consistently laid good ground work for both running backs to get consistent gains to his outside. The Rams rushed 11 times off left tackle and left end gaining 81 yards at 7.4 yards per carry, of which 39 yards (3.5 per carry) came before first contact. After a couple of injury riddled seasons to end his time in Miami, Long is slowly recovering his form this season and this exceptional performance capped a strong first half season as a St Louis Ram that sees him sit eighth in our tackle rankings. We’ll see if he can build on this consistency and reclaim the position he once held among the league’s elite left tackles.
– Matching Jake Long at left tackle, both Joe Barksdale (59 snaps) and Rodger Saffold (21 snaps) surrendered no pressure at right tackle.
– Growing into his role at linebacker, Bruce Irvin earned a positive grade (+2.5) for the fourth straight week since he returned from suspension.
– Seattle’s eight missed tackles were a season high for their defense, while St Louis’ two were a season low.
PFF Game Ball
The Rams got top-drawer performances in pass rush and pass protection, but while Chris Long and Robert Quinn split the load either side of half time, Jake Long did it the whole game long, excelling in pass protection and run blocking in his best game as a Ram so far.
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