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The Seahawks' formula is: strong defense, strong special teams, strong running game, take care of the football, force turnovers. Right now, a strong passing game is not part of that formula.
The formula of football in which the Seahawks' are choosing to play dictates that they'll very often be in close games, against pretty much any and every opponent in the NFL. The Seahawks very rarely blow a team out and over the last 14 or 15 months, Seattle rarely gets blown out either. Pete Carroll knows this, and he says it in nearly every interview you hear ("It's going to be close".) This coaching staff has chosen to severely limit, protect, or hide their quarterback and instead rely on strong special teams and defense to keep them in the game and a strong run game to lean on offensively. This has been a bad passing offense for a long time, and it's still a bad passing offense. Re-setting with Russell Wilson as the quarterback is a calculated risk, and this team assumes that as the year goes on, Wilson will improve. We're not there yet. Wilson didn't inspire a whole ton of confidence in this one.
The Rams failed to score an offensive touchdown and got 12 points on field goals of 58 yards, 60 yards, 48 yards and 24 yards. They used a fake field goal attempt to score their only touchdown on a total lapse in concentration by the special teams unit on the field at the time - a brilliant play-call by Jeff Fisher to catch the Seahawks off-guard.
That said, the Seahawks' defensive formula worked fairly well, despite their continuing struggles defending against 3rd and long situations. St. Louis ended the game with 286 total net yards; 75 on the ground at a 2.8 yard per carry clip. Steven Jackson led their offense with 55 yards on 18 attempts, for 3.0 yards per carry. Sam Bradford completed just over 50% of his passes - 16 of 30 for 221 yards and an interception. From a defensive point of view, circumstance and field position had more to do with giving up 19 rather than general poor play. A bad series of events at the end of the 2nd quarter -- it started with a Seahawks' offensive 3 and out with under a minute left that St. Louis took advantage of with a quick field goal before time ran out, and contined with a botched onsides kick by the Seahawks at the beginning of the 3rd quarter that turned into a St. Louis field goal and gave the Rams a 19-7 lead.
This brand of football requires maintaining possession of the football for large chunks of time and as a byproduct, the Seahawks have chosen to throw the ball maybe merely 18 to 25 times a game - the most conservative passing offense in the NFL. Instead they choose to lean heavily on the run and that certainly showed up today, as the Hawks ran for 179 yards on 34 attempts, a 5.3 yards per carry average. Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin looked great - Lynch running for 118 yards on 20 carries, and Turbin chipping in for 45 yards on his six carries. At several points in the game, it looked like this offense would take control of things but the Rams did a nice job of bouncing back and regaining momentum at key moments.
This brand of football also requires discipline with the football and that was one major issue today. Russell Wilson threw three picks and when you give the opposing team three extra drives a game, this formula is essentially untenable. Still, despite the -2 turnover ratio, Seattle was within 6 points with under a minute left and driving before Wilson threw an interception after Anthony McCoy fell down on his route.
Player discipline is also very important with this style of football because the fact of the matter is, this offense isn't good enough to overcome crippling 15-yard penalties in the middle of what must typically be extended, double-digit play drives. Breno Giacomini continues to collect late-hit penalties at the worst possible times, and several drives were completely killed by untimely penalties again today.
Credit is certainly due to the Rams for grabbing the win today and their defense does look to be an improving unit, though maybe not against the run quite yet. Everyone was calling this a 'trap game' this week but to me it always had the feel of a very, very tough matchup for this kind of Seahawks' formula right now, particularly with the absence of much of a passing game.
This was a divisional matchup on the road against a team with an improving, talented defense and a high-upside offense behind Sam Bradford and Steven Jackson. The Seahawks, with their limited and conservative passing offense, were going to have to go in and play disciplined, mistake-free ball and click in all phases of the game. Didn't quite happen.
They played their style of defense. Brandon Mebane was a beast on the interior. Richard Sherman had a pick. Leon Washington broke off a huge return. They held the Rams without an offensive touchdown and forced St. Louis' Seabass Jr kicker, Greg Zuerlein, beat them with the two longest longest field goals Seattle has ever given up. In franchise history. Those six points were the difference in the game. Tough to really feel bad about this defense, still.
Seattle ran the ball well, nearly winning the time of possession despite those three turnovers, and put together some very strong drives where they often picked up 7, 8, or 9 yards on first down and strung together two or three first downs. However, third downs again were their bane this week, as Russell Wilson continued struggling badly in that area, going 0-5 with an interception and two sacks in passing situations on 3rd down, I believe. He struggled against pressure as well, something teams are dialing up against him to force mistakes. St. Louis succeeded there this week.
In close games, every little decision, mistake, or playcall gets magnified and there were quite a few today that left me pulling my hair out. A designed QB run (again) on third and short, the decision to make an on-sides kick, and the debacle of a drive at the end of the 2nd quarter come to mind, but ultimately this was a game where the Rams just found a way to win a close, ugly, divisional slugfest. I've said it before and I'll say it again, no games in the NFC West will be gimmes going forward. This division is legit, and Seattle now sits 0-2 and at the bottom of it.