The Seattle Seahawks fall to 10-3, miss a chance to clinch the playoffs definitively and relinquish the first seed to the only NFC team with 11 wins, the San Francisco 49ers. Before I talk about this game, I want to talk about the outcome implications a little bit.
In terms of playoff-clinching, Seattle now stands at 98% chance of playoff clinch, with a host of likely scenarios occurring in the next week meaning all that is really up for debate is where Seattle will seed.
The key fixture for the Seahawks future is Week 17 against the aforementioned 49ers as this will decide the #1 seed. It is okay to be a game behind going in because a victory will even the teams’ record and give the Seahawks the tiebreaker. In the case of a split head to head where the 49ers win, the best divisional record wins, which given the most likely outcomes of all the games, means 49ers will advance as the 1 seed. As long as Seattle wins the next 2 games against sub .500 and falling teams (Carolina and Arizona), it all comes down to the 30th of December at CenturyLink Field.
What this means is that this game is not crucial, however, it is worth noting the obvious upside of the win, to keep pace with the 49ers and improve division record.
After 6 ½ minutes with 11 plays covering 54 yards, Seattle’s opening drive was ended by a suffocating 3rd down sack. During this opening drive, Rashaad Penny suffered a “significant injury to his knee” according to Coach Pete Carroll. Monday testing will give a clearer picture of the injury.
A Field Goal was successfully attempted by Jason Myers, who has 26/32 FGs in 2019, and has hit 8 straight but would end up missing a PAT in heavy winds later in the game. Myers is 33/36 in terms of extra points in 2019 and previous to today had completed 12 of his last 13, with a miss against Tampa Bay.
For the Rams’ opening drive, the Seahawks were dedicated to the run-stuffing style. This focus on the run allowed passes of 19, 15 and 33 yards in the drive. There were 4 runs, 4 passes.
Seattle’s defense continues to aggressively play the run, after comments of Coach McVay that he will be using Todd Gurley more. However, in the passing game, the cover 3 zone was being exploited with many varied concepts and well-targeted routes. Jet sweeps also were used to attack the tunnel vision on Gurley. Through the first quarter, Jared Goff completed 6 of his 7 passes. Many of these plays are very simple reads, which reduces the stress of Goff, who seemed to struggle in a complicated system designed and previously implemented by McVay.
The 2nd quarter begins with the rams making it 14-3 the Seahawks started their 3rd possession. After a stalling drive with another attempted inside zone on 3rd and 2, the Seahawks moved it much further downfield, just outside the red zone, where a contested-catch by Malik Turner goes incomplete on 4th down. The Seahawks were 4 of 7 on 4th down conversions until this point.
After only the 13th 3-and-out all year for the Rams and a terrible option play by Russell Wilson the ball goes back to the Rams which allow further gouging of the defense with crossing and horizontal intermediate passing plays, as well as deep passing plays attacking the middle seams that are the weak points of the Seattle cover 3. The Rams cap a 240 yard half with another touchdown to go into the locker room with an 18 point advantage.
Here’s what I wrote as I sat down at halftime. I believe these are the keys to the Rams’ success.
- A higher emphasis on the run game, which opens up the passing game for Goff.
- Lack of pressure on Goff in order to allow free throwing motion. Bootlegs, movement and PA instrumental here
- Great interior run-stuffing to stop inside zone from the shotgun in key situations
- Good passing defense to consistently contest catches.
- Good schematic match-ups to exploit deep inside seam routes and crossing routes to exploit the 4-3 scheme Seattle uses.
- Despite high pressure, the relative success of Gurley in the run game.
I am not optimistic about the second half as the main problems for the Seahawks are deep-seated schematic exploits or pure talent problems on both sides of the ball from the rams, as well as great off fieldwork from McVay.
In the first drive, a rare pressure from the Seahawks came from a stunt of Shaquem Griffin, a pressured ball caused an off-target throw, which was intercepted by Quandre Diggs, his 2nd interception (3rd Turnover) of the season since he joined Seattle in week 10. Diggs ran uncontested into the endzone for a Pick 6, but Jason Myers missed the extra point, partially due to high winds.
The very next drive, the increased pressure was noticeable, with another Quandre Diggs interception, (which obviously makes 3 INTs) and several bad balls from Goff as the defensive line is allowed to pursue the passer as a higher priority than the run. With this focus shift, Gurley is able to generate more production in the run game, such as another run to the edge. The first Seahawks possession of the 2nd half was a 3 and out from inside the Seahawks’ 10-yard line.
Gurley’s production continued to increase as the 3rd quarter progressed but the drive results in a blocked field goal, with Rasheem Green making another big play. Seattle was unable to get points in the ensuing drive, and so the 4th quarter begins with an 11 point differential and the rams with the ball. They escape the shadow of their own endzone with a bootleg and flip inside to the tight end. Well balanced plays and a strong physical run by Gurley extended the difference to 19.
A long drive by the Seahawks, ending in a 34-yard field goal cut the deficit to 16, and technically a 2 score game, but with 7 minutes to go the chances were slim. A drive-extending first down by D.K. Metcalf was a beautifully executed stop and go. Metcalf tends to run a lot of comebacks and his large frame makes it difficult for defenders to get at the ball, meaning they aggressively attack the turn, and undercut it, leaving a free over the top route for Metcalf.
The defense forced a 3 and out (#16 for the Rams all year) to give the ball back to the offense with five minutes to go, who respond with two incomplete passes and a sack. Josh Gordon converts the 4th and 18 for just his 6th catch with the Seahawks. The drive continues past the 2-minute warning until after consecutive holding penalties where Wilson launches a ball into the end-zone to be intercepted, and the clock is run out by LA with a first down.
Cody Barton made a positive impact several times with a batted ball and a good tackle in the red zone. Starting for the injured Mychal Kendricks. He was unsuccessful in setting the edge as effectively as Kendricks, whom he was replacing. The rookie racked up 4 total tackles was briefly injured but returned. While having a quiet performance in the second half, he was partially at fault for some outside breaking intermediate routes but he was put into the role of a vastly different style of linebacker and overall I would say he was passable as a replacement for Kendricks and could be more valuable if given a role tailored towards his strengths.
Shaquem Griffin. After an early-season of mediocre and very limited line-backing play, Shaquem has turned into an impactful pass rusher. Here he has been an absolutely different player. His explosive first step, great ferocity, and good speed allow him to create disruptions and movement in the pocket, but a lack of bulk and technique limits his effectiveness in power situations. He has flashes of power, such as fighting and slipping through a double team, and off-season bulk and training will certainly help. I am a firm believer in Belichick’s philosophy. Focus on what you’ve got, not what you lack. (See D.K Metcalf falling to pick 64 as proof of teams only focusing on drawbacks) he was able to affect Goff multiple times and help force the Pick 6 with his drive.
D.K. Metcalf was the most effective Seahawks receiver in both receptions (6/6) and yards (73) as he continues to be the most productive rookie WR coming into the game with 44 targets, 705 Receiving yards and was tied for second for touchdowns with 5. His body control, hands, and speed separate him already as a very impressive receiver, ranking in the top 30 of all wide receivers for yards. As the season develops, not only has he been successful with the “big man’s route tree” of fly’s, slants and comebacks, but he has had success with traditional routes such as digs, outs, and posts as well.
Bobby Wagner. Lest you forget that Wagner is the heart of the team, a 14 combined tackles, 11 solo tackle game. A Seahawks performance has not been matched since 2016 when Wagner did it again. David Hawthorne was the last player to do it in 2010. Only eight other times this year has there been an equal or better performance across the year. After a punishing first half, Wagner was central to the much stronger defensive performance in the 3rd and 4th quarters, allowing just 7 points.