This Week In Defense: Rams at Seahawks

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Narrative of the game:

After the teeth-grinding loss to the Cardinals in Week 16, the Seahawks' first loss at home since 2011, I have to say that I wasn't just plugged into the feelings of the fans, I was feeling them myself. Anger, denial, fear, panic. It all went through my head and though I had thought that Kellen Clemens would play poorly enough to help us win, I, like most fans, was waiting for the Seattle mediocrity shoe to drop.

In the run-up to the game, it was not a pleasant week for any of us, and so this game wasn't about anything more than not having all those feelings on an even larger scale. Luckily we have a week to recover and find our faith again.

The tape:

[1st Qtr 13:29 1st and 10] Z.Stacy left tackle to SL 8 for -1 yards (T.McDaniel).

This opening play really sets the stage for the defense and their first two series on the field. Tony McDaniel gets off of a block and Malcolm Smith expands the edge, forcing Rams RB Zac Stacy wide, thus allowing McDaniel to track the play down from behind.

These are violent attacks at the line of scrimmage. No guessing or reading the run, just attacking it once it's identified. Malcolm Smith and Tony McDaniel dominate the first two series alternating making plays. Mebane does Mebane things.

[1st Qtr 10:03 2nd and 14] K.Clemens pass short left intended for L.Kendricks INTERCEPTED by M.Smith [B.Mebane] at SL 37. M.Smith for 37 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

Malcolm Smith's interception comes for two reasons. One, I think Clemens rushed the play because of the play clock here. If you watch the Rams set up, they barely get set before he snaps the ball. The second reason isn't just pressure, it's the great zone spacing that the Seahawks play with here.

The pressure is always important, but it isn't as easy to get zone coverage down and that's why all the NFL fans that complain about it never understand its value when it succeeds. Clemens already rushed the play, so the Seahawks have a jump, but he's now looking for his hot read, tries to stick it in to his tight end, and Malcom Smith, who is following the play and waiting to pounce on it, intercepts the deflection.

[1st Qtr 2:55 3rd and 8] (Shotgun) K.Clemens sacked at 50 for -2 yards (M.Bennett).

This sack by Michael Bennett was a bit deceptive on TV. I originally had thought it had been on a blitz, but it wasn't. Heath Farwell, who filled in for Bobby Wagner for a series, comes down pretty quickly, but takes on the running back who looks to be working a short route.

Clemens steps out of his protection and Bennett employs a wicked spin move that makes the guard disengage and then fail to keep his feet or his balance. Bennett clears him and takes down Clemens for a sack. He and Avril have made plays like this all year and the results speak for themselves.

[2nd Qtr 13:40 3rd and 12] (Shotgun) K.Clemens pass short right to S.Bailey to SL 19 for 5 yards (K.Chancellor) [M.Bennett].

Kam Chancellor has gotten the least amount of play coverage this year in TWID for anything other than hits or INTs, but here, both a big hit and a brilliant recognition of a concept brings Kam a deserved highlight.

On 3rd and 12, the Rams expect blitz here. It's a good thought, because both Pete Carroll and Dan Quinn love these down and distances to bring their exotic pressure looks. The Rams have a go-route called, with a route behind it to create space for a quick throw and a chance for yards after the catch.

It's not a quick screen, but it is fast enough to nullify possible blitzes. The blitz doesn't come post snap, though, and Clemens is forced to try and make the play anyway, as Smith has the other receiver engaged down the field. This is where Kam comes in. Once he sees the receiver engaged with Malcolm, he comes down instantly to challenge the catch. If there's a bit of delay here, Chacellor may still make the play, but chances are it would be much more difficult with the receiver having gained momentum.

You can have all the physical talent and all the Round 1 skill you want, but if you can't recognize concepts and beat them, you're Taylor Mays, not Kam Chancellor.

[2nd Qtr 5:42 2nd and 1] K.Clemens pass deep left intended for C.Givens INTERCEPTED by B.Maxwell at SL 47. B.Maxwell to SL 47 for no gain (C.Givens).

What I like on this interception by Byron Maxwell is two-fold: First, it's his speed off the snap. I'd often criticized Maxwell for having slow footwook and sometimes losing leverage because of an inability to get off the ball with quickness, but he does this expertly here.

Next, he's aware of the ball in the air and makes a great adjustment on what I can only assume Clemens intended to be a back shoulder fade. Brandon Mebane's pressure up the middle forces Clemens to turn it loose a bit quicker and with less zip than was intended, and Maxwell makes a really great play to outplay givens for this football.

Maxwell is a rising, if not fully-risen star since Walter Thurmond went out with his substance abuse suspension. I will say now that though I originally felt the 'Hawks should go with Jeremy Lane, Maxwell has earned his starting role and should not lose it to anyone.

[3rd Qtr 11:00 3rd and 10] (Shotgun) K.Clemens pass incomplete deep middle to C.Givens (R.Sherman) [C.Avril]. SEA-R.Sherman was injured during the play

The Seahawks bucked up after the letdown of a big punt return ending their shot at an NFL record.

It's clear here in this series that Rams QB Kellen Clemens is now firing while hearing footsteps, seeing things that aren't there, and holding the ball too long. This play is following a incomplete pass against a middle zone concept and a no-gain run play.

Clinton McDonald gets the pressure, but I think the D-Line is supposed to execute some kind of twist toward the outside. If you watch the play a few times, you see McDonald run to the space that Bennett's outside move creates. McDonald's quickness is too much for the center here, and as McDonald gets through, he pulls on Clemens - who breaks free and doesn't really set right as he tries to get rid of the ball.

It honestly must have been his arm being hit, because the ball takes an odd angle on the throw and of course, the now infamous 3-man collision in the endzone had fans gasping and girls fainting.

[4th Qtr 13:14 1st and 10] K.Clemens sacked at SL 6 for -10 yards (C.McDonald).

Clinton McDonald had been one of those guys, up until this year, that just had not strung any consistency together. He actually had a nice preseason, and so when Seattle originally let him go, I was a bit sad. The guy flashed, but never had more than a couple good plays in succession of each other. This year he's done that, and more.

He earned my game ball against the Texans despite Richard Sherman's pick six, because of his clutch pressures late into overtime. Ths play shows his late pressure antics perfectly. He's got great burst, but here he recognizes the movement of Clemens and hangs back just enough to let the line sort itself out; once it does he's quick to challenge a guard who is left in the mud as McDonald races for his free hug.

Overview of the game:

This is about as perfect a game defensively as I've seen from the Seahawks all year. You could say Week 2 against the Niners was similar, but this was better. I only saw two plays where you might say a formation or matchup mistake led to a good play.

Other than the punt return leading to a field goal, the Rams didn't move the ball until we assisted them with prevent defense. It was really a wonderful game to watch defensively, beginning to end. If there was anything to be concerned about I can't see it at this point; even Bruce Irvin, who's been quiet, had a fantastic game against the Rams in coverage situations.

The game plan for Jeff Fisher and co. was obviously to beat blitzes on 3rd and long and Seattle didn't bring much pressure in this game, in terms of extra guys. It's the ultimate "they know that you know that they know that you know" scenario and everything came up Seahawks for PC and DQ when calling and planning the defensive game.

Game Ball:

Brandon Mebane. I have to say this, this pick is more an apology to Mebane. He dominated the Rams running game and had some great rushes in the passing game - disrupting three particular passing downs and forcing one interception. The look early in the year was a repeat of 2012 and his second half fade, but he's really been the anchor Seattle needed to step up and contain the run. He earned this game ball.

Needs Improvement:

Are you kidding?

Side note:

There are only seven plays here instead of 10, because the Seahawks decided to have a 9-minute drive in the second half, and then only played non-prevent defense on one drive for the 4th Qtr. I don't mind breaking down games like this, in fact, I'd love more, please.

Also, next week during the bye, I will be doing a small write up on the Saints game, which I was lucky enough to attend with my cousin. The bus is on the final road gentlemen and ladies, let's enjoy it.

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