The Morning After: Seahawks Unleash Shock and Ahhh Versus Powerhouse Rams

My teenage son turned to me during the Seahawks game against the Rams and said, “I know this isn’t the best Seahawks team I’ve watched, but they are one of the most fun to watch.” The Seahawks added another entertaining loss to their resume in what has been a season befitting a teenager, with confounding elements of wonder and frustration. Limping into this game missing two of their best offensive players and licking their wounds from a pivotal home loss, the Seahawks bullied a motivated Rams team coming off their first loss of the season to the tune of 273 yards rushing. They had a chance to win a game that nobody gave them a shot to win, as the largest underdog in the Russell Wilson era. I wake up this morning frustrated and hopeful, but mostly hopeful.

The signs were there all week that the Seahawks would be missing Chris Carson and D.J. Fluker. When final word came down that they would be inactive for this game, I was braced for the worst. This could be a beatdown that was effectively over after a single quarter. The Rams offense destroys everything in their path. It seemed unlikely the Seahawks offense would be able to keep up. Not only were they missing those key players, but the Rams had faced Seattle before and Wade Phillips, their defensive coordinator, would surely have a better game plan to stop the run game. He would certainly have to find some helpful concepts in the Chargers film where the Seahawks offense hibernated for most of the game when Carson left.

A slow-starting Seahawks offense against an always on Rams offense would spell doom. But the Seahawks had other plans. From the very first snap, where they gained 9 yards on a Mike Davis run, the Seahawks were ready for battle. Credit youngster Jordan Simmons for filling in for Fluker and playing his first game. The 335-pounder held up well against one of the most intimidating defensive lines in the NFL. What became clear during this game was that defensive line is also full of punks. Aaron Donald, in particular, is one of the games least-known assholes. When you make Ndamukong Suh look like a good sport in comparison, you know you are a jackass.

Kudos to Germain Ifedi for both getting under the skin of the opponent and not retaliating when provoked. He received two penalties that were both very questionable. In general, he played exactly the way I would want my mauling right tackle to play, with a nasty edge that stays on the right side of competitiveness and cheap play.

Seattle scored on their opening drive. Then they scored on their second drive. Thanks in large part to rookie running back Rashaad Penny, they piled up over 100 yards rushing in the first quarter. That’s badass. Penny had two explosive rushing plays on that second drive, but it was his 24-yard run on the opening drive of the third quarter that caught my attention. Even slightly above average running backs in the NFL are capable of making a single defender miss, either by running around or through him. Penny has struggled mightily in that regard thus far. On this play, a Rams defender had him squared up right at the line of scrimmage. Penny faced him and then showed off the quick feet and burst we have desperately been looking for since he came to the northwest. He feinted to the left and the defender bit hard. Penny left the wrong-footed opponent in his dust on his way around the right edge.

For all the folks saying Penny just needed an opportunity to show his talent, I say that every single carry is an opportunity, and Penny has been frittering those away all season. In this game, though, he earned more carries. Gains simply given are the enemy of greatness. Penny showed enough in this game, his first 100-yard performance and first touchdown, that he should be challenging Davis on the depth chart. In typical nonsensical fashion, the Seahawks coaches left Penny on the sideline for almost the entire first half after he broke out on the second series of the game. Not only had he earned more carries, but this staff has been insisting he needed more chances, and yet they went away from him when he played well. So weird.

While the offense was impressing, the defense was getting their helmets handed to them by the potent Rams offense. For the second straight game, they were unable to create a turnover and were giving up chunks of yards at a time. Analytics Twitter is going to love this, but the key solvable problem is the Seahawks run defense. Those who study the numbers will tell you that run defense is among the least important parts of the game.

What I see is a defense that has trouble stopping either the pass or the run, and I do not expect the pass defense to improve much. Giving up 8 or 9 yards per carry on the ground makes it even less likely the secondary can do their jobs. When Seattle finally shifted to a 46 Bear front, the Rams stopped being able to run as effectively and the offense slowed. Simply put, stopping something is better than stopping nothing. Seattle has to find a way to shore up their rush defense if they want to salvage anything interesting the rest of the season.

The lack of spine on defense made Pete Carroll’s decision to go for an onsides kick early in the fourth quarter logical. He was trying to steal an extra possession somewhere since he could not create a takeaway. It did not work out, but the thought process was sound. Ironically, the defense did a nice job on that series, holding the Rams to a field goal. That’s when the game really turned.

On 3rd and 3, the Seahawks inexplicably went with an empty backfield, giving the Rams no reason to defend a run game that had dominated them all day. They did exactly what they do well, and collapsed the pocket, making it difficult for Wilson to step up. That allowed Dante Fowler Jr. to reach out and knock the ball out of Wilson’s hands for a crucial strip sack that the Rams recovered deep in Seattle territory. A quick touchdown essentially ended the game.

Credit the Seahawks for scoring and then holding the Rams to make things interesting until the end. The outcome might have been different if the offense had scored at the end of the first half when they got conservative over midfield. It might have been different if they were better than 2-9 on third down. It might have been different if Wilson had ran a play instead of spiking the ball on first down at the Rams 35-yard line on the final drive. Instead, the Seahawks end up with another loss.

The most likely outcome to this season what most of us expected going in, a middling win total of between seven and nine victories. That said, I find myself oddly expecting good things. The offense had one very costly hiccup against the Chargers, but has otherwise been extremely effective since week three. I still find myself doubting the defense. Despite holding the Chargers without a point in the second half last week, my mind can’t let go of the massive chunk plays they gave up in the first half or the never-ending stream of successful plays by the Rams. They lack the playmakers capable of stemming the tide. It is a short week, with the Seahawks getting the Packers in Seattle this Thursday. That is a fairly sizable advantage. This team is out of mulligans. They must win that game. Five of their remaining seven games are at home. They can win all of them. Will they? Tell me what a hormonal teenager is going to do next, and I’ll let you know.

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  1. Good news is the 6th seed still looks w/in reach after all losses by a lot of the others who are in a wild card spot right now.

    This gauntlet of Packers, Panthers, Vikings is shaping up to be a series of very important matchups. If they can somehow win all those head-to-head matchups, they have a real shot.

    The toughest two remaining games are likely going to be Panthers at Carolina and Chiefs at home near end of season. Here’s hoping they can really piece it all together, do the improbable, and finish 6-1 or 7-0.

    1. Playoffs? Playoffs?!?

      Ok, you can made me go all Jim Mora Senior on you guys but this is not a playoff team.

      Because of front office gambling and the resultant salary cap problems, we are three players short this season. We have bodies out there instead.

      Remember Sheldon Richardson? He was on our roster and he is the kind of run stopper we need. He is in Minnesota right now, because we couldn’t afford him. Two players short on the defensive side and one on the offense.

      Where this lack of talent really shows up is on our special teams. ‘Member that the LOB played a lot of special teams back in the day.

      Our punt coverage is pretty woeful and the punt return team is liable to get Tyler Lockett killed.

      I thought one of the bad breaks from last year’s aborted run at a title was that we ended up in second place, when we were just about the worst team in the division at the end of the season. ‘Member getting hammered by the Rams at home? And the loss to the Cardinals and their back-up QB.

      We are getting the teeth of this second place schedule right now.

      Pete Carroll’s teams used to own November. In four weeks, we will be lucky not to be 4-8.

      1. Uh, living in 2017 much.

        This team has warts but also has a lot of reason to be optimistic. Our offense is looking legit, week in and week out. The defense has work to do, but I think has played admirably despite missing a lot of key talent. We are not a top team like we were in 2012-2017, but we have the pieces there and the core of this team is built on young up and coming players rather than old declining core. One more offseason adding a few pieces on defense and this team can compete for the 1 seed next year. Additionally, we have a shot for a playoff spot in an “off” year and who knows what can happen if we make the playoffs.

        Yes you can nitpick at what the team has done wrong (Richardson, missed early picks, big contracts to aging veterans), but you’d miss what they are doing right and this season has done nothing but give me more trust that this organization (JS & PC) are legitimately good at their jobs.

      2. I would say 2015 was the end of greatness for the Seattle. Yes they made the playoffs in 2016 but seemed like a shell of their former selves.

  2. Awhile back Evan lamented how the team seems to play down or up to the opponents level (except in the Raider game). I agreed and it seems so with a small add on………..they play to the opponent level, but just not quite above. Slim loses hinge on just a few errors, though many try to hang it on just one. The Charger loss hung on the pick six, though the game could have been won on a number of other plays. This Ram game hung on the failure of Brown to protect long enough to prevent the critical turnover that left an incredibly short field for a potent offense. But again, other plays could have swung the score. While the defense is suspect, it seems that the critical failures fall on the offense, and in these two cases, very experienced offensive players. Poor third down conversion rate, poor clock management toward the end, and failure to close. Wash, rinse, repeat. I doubt there are more than 3 wins the rest of the way out……not what I want, just what I think I see. They might even lose one to the Niners, barely.

    On a positive note Simmons looked pretty good as a back up….… wonder he was fired by………..ahem………Cable. Bonus points for his getting in Donald’s face in the post game cheap trick “dust up” that Donald did on Britt. Nice to see Penny step up when needed as some of us hoped he would. And you’re right Brian, why not ride the hot horse?

    C’mon guys…….ball for Paul.

    1. It was mentioned in the broadcast that Penny had been ill all week, so how will he play after a healthy week? Carson is destined to be the 3-rd down power running RB once Penny gets to start (which should be soon, perhaps as soon as the next couple of games).

      1. Uh no Carson is still miles ahead of Penny. I happy but that Penny finally show us something but one good game does make me trust him 100%. Main issue with Carson is health but when he play he is way ahead

      2. Mark got it, as happy for Penny as I am one good game does not a dominant runner make. However, this should bolster his confidence so that as he’s needed (i.e. when Carson gets injured) he will step up again. The “problem” going forward is having enough snaps to go around to keep the troops happy AND not to confuse the coaching staff on how to manage it. Quite a switch from the malaise of last season in the RB room.

  3. Penny is just getting caught up after missing preseason. Now that he’s figured things out, I expect it won’t be long till he’s our #1 RB. Having Penny and Carson fighting for carries with Mike Davis in the wings should either get hurt is a good thing.

    Seattle is thick in the playoff hunt whether they’re a playoff caliber team or not. Because neither are any of the other teams fighting for that 6th spot. And we all know once they get in, they can knock someone off. They’ll probably get a rematch at Chicago and that’s definitely winnable. Then they might face the Rams. Now correct me if I’m wrong but I’m pretty sure that no team that has won both regular season games has ever won the playoff game. I know, bizarre, but no team has ever won three games vs the same opponent in one season.

    1. Amazingly, the very same Rams trifeated us in 2004! I still remember the pass slipping through Bobby Engram’s hands in the playoff game…

  4. “Those who study the numbers will tell you that run defense is among the least important parts of the game”

    It’s kind of funny.

    If you check the last 5 SB champions, there is only one aspect of the game that all 5 are top 10 – Defense against the run.

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