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Rams @ Seahawks: The Great Unknown and Sweet, Sweet Regression Towards the Mean

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Davis makes for a bit of a matchup problem. No, not because he's tall, but because Seattle would like to match him against a DB. You could run Julian Peterson 30 yards downfield, but that's not ideal. Instead, Seattle will likely match Deon Grant, Brian Russell and Josh Wilson against Davis. Wilson might legitimately be short enough to cause a matchup problem. The greater matchup problem, though, is when Seattle matches Grant against Davis, I would guess often, it will leave Russell as the lone deep cover man. Gulp. Against a team that likes to challenge downfield, Seattle will have its worst, slowest DB anchoring its deep coverage.

And the deep attack will be challenged. Morgan, Johnson, Davis and Hill are legitimate deep threats. So how can Seattle counteract?

Blitzing.

San Francisco's downfield passing attack did undo Seattle, blitzing or not, but how did Seattle fare when it blitzed smartly? Stupidly?

Seattle ran a whopping 18 blitzes. 11 were smart. On the whole, smart or stupid, they were a roaring failure. Seattle recorded three sacks on smart blitzes, but also 10.73 NY/A and five first downs. Seattle recorded no sacks on stupid blitzes, 9.0 NY/A and four first downs. The greater NY/A on smart blitzes is dependent on Isaac Bruce's 63 yard reception, without Seattle allowed only 5.5 NY/A. Not that you can remove that reception, but it's worth noting. So, it sounds like John Marshall and I were of like mind, that he blitzed in many smart positions, though certainly too much, but was ripped to shreds anyway.

So it goes.

By almost any measure, the Saint Louis Rams are the worse team in football. Through two games, they've been outscored 79-16. They have an offensive DVOA of -37.9% (31) and defensive DVOA of 62.8% (31). Paired with a bleak forecast for the season, their DAVE is a league worst -46.0%. Statistically, you could slice this game a thousand different ways and argue Seattle could take advantage. The truth is, with Saint Louis playing so poorly, Scott Linehan's job on the line -- this week -- and former head coaches Jim Haslett and Al Saunders manning the defensive and offensive coordinator positions, respectively, I'm not sure almost anything can be predicted about how the Rams will play. I'm not even sure who's in charge.

Of one thing we can be reasonably sure, the Rams blitz. In 2007, Saint Louis rushed four only 52.6% of all plays, 27th in the NFL. They ranked in the top ten rushing 5, 6+ and 7+ men. Haslett blitzes and blitzes and blitzes. Seattle has looked bad against blitzes. Real bad. The easy solution? Well the Eagles and Giants combined for 655 yards passing. The Eagles had three 100 yard receivers. Facile as it sounds and is, Seattle needs someone to catch the ball. The Rams were terrible against number one, 19.1% (27), and number two, 11.8% (22), wide receivers, but at their best against "Other" receivers, -22.6% (6), tight ends, 1.1% (12), and running backs, -3.3% (14). Y'know, the three types of Seattle receivers.

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And little wonder. A team that blitzes is forced to sacrifice cover. Against a blitz, a team with good wide receivers can feed them the ball and allow them to exploit that depleted cover. Seattle's still figuring out this "good receiver" thing. In other words, for the second straight week, Seattle faces a team with a piss-poor secondary, but for the second straight week, it lacks the weapons to exploit it.

Seattle's saving grace, beyond being clearly the better team and playing at home, is that despite allowing only 26.89 yards per drive (2007: 11th), Seattle has forced only one turnover. That rate, one turnover in 27 drives (.037) is much, much worse than even the worst team in the NFL in 2007: Philadelphia, .107. Simple regression towards the mean will mean more turnovers forced by Seattle and a better performing defense. Should Seattle eventually force turnovers at a level commensurate to their talent, it could mean the difference between a team that's looked merely average to good on defense to a team that's as dominant as we hoped.

Blitz Appendix

Smart

1-10-SF43(13:40) J.O'Sullivan pass short right to F.Gore to SF 46 for 3 yards (L.Hill). (6)

3-10-SEA49(5:51) J.O'Sullivan pass short right to A.Battle pushed ob at SEA 37 for 12 yards (D.Tapp). (5)

2-2-SF28(2:25) (No Huddle, Shotgun) J.O'Sullivan pass deep right to I.Bruce to SEA 9 for 63 yards (M.Trufant). (5)

2-8-SF32(13:30) J.O'Sullivan pass incomplete short right. (6)

1-10-SEA22(7:49) J.O'Sullivan pass short right to B.Johnson to SEA 9 for 13 yards (B.Russell). (6)

2-9-SF24(13:32) J.O'Sullivan sacked at SF 18 for -6 yards (B.Mebane). (6)

2-9-SF33(6:51) J.O'Sullivan sacked at SF 28 for -5 yards (P.Kerney). (6)

3-8-SEA27(3:50) (Shotgun) J.O'Sullivan scrambles up the middle to SEA 11 for 16 yards (D.Grant). (5)

2-14-SEA15(3:05) J.O'Sullivan pass incomplete short middle to V.Davis.
PENALTY on SEA-D.Grant, Defensive Holding, 5 yards, enforced at SEA 15 - No Play.

1-10-SEA49(1:09) (Shotgun) J.O'Sullivan pass short left to F.Gore to SEA 32 for 17 yards (D.Grant). (6)

2-7-SF23(14:21) J.O'Sullivan pass incomplete short right to I.Bruce. (6)

Stupid

2-7-SF46(13:02) J.O'Sullivan pass incomplete deep middle to V.Davis. (5)

2-8-SF32(13:30) J.O'Sullivan pass incomplete short right. (5)

1-10-SEA41(8:27) J.O'Sullivan pass deep left to B.Johnson to SEA 22 for 19 yards (K.Jennings). (5)

1-10-SEA42(5:47) J.O'Sullivan pass short middle to A.Battle to SEA 29 for 13 yards (J.Babineaux). (5)

2-1-SEA20(4:21) J.O'Sullivan sacked at SEA 27 for -7 yards (L.Jackson). (7)

3-7-SF23(14:15) J.O'Sullivan pass deep right to I.Bruce to SEA 44 for 33 yards (J.Wilson). (7)

3-3-SEA37(12:48) J.O'Sullivan pass short middle to A.Battle to SEA 32 for 5 yards (B.Russell). (6)