I said it during the game, but if you've ever wondered why so many people hate the Seahawks, stop. The Seahawks beat the Rams by five points (read: one yard), were out-gained by 260, and lost the time of possession battle by 16 minutes; yet at no time did they stop acting like they were up by 50. I'm not saying I hate it*, I'm just saying this is the team we cheer for now.
*I don't hate it and here's why: when I root for a team, I'm rooting for them to play with the attitude that will make them the most successful. I imagine Pete Carroll does, too, given the length of leash he allows them. The Seahawks are brutish, front-running jabberjaws and it seems to propel them to the peak of their abilities. Their swagger gives them strength, should we expect them to stop when they don't play as well? I'm not saying I want every team to have this personality, I'm saying I want this team to have it.
This game was like a picture-in-picture TV, with the big screen showing The Wire and small screen showing a Vern Fonk commercial. What I mean is, if you zoom in on only this game, there's a lot to dislike. The Seahawks couldn't block anybody last night, and the already excellent Rams front four made the most of their shoddy play. The result was seven sacks, ten QB hits, and ten tackles for loss. The rush was led by Robert Quinn, who had a full season's box score in the first half (5 tackles, 3 sacks, 5 QB hits, 4 TFLs) and Chris Long who chipped in with 4/3/3/4 himself.
The complete inability to win the battle on the line rushed the offense to the extent that to blame the ineptitude on Darrell Bevell's play-calling seems a bit ridiculous. It's like blaming the coach of one of those eight-man football teams for not moving the ball against an eleven-man team. The overall numbers are gross. Seattle managed 135 yards on 40 plays (3.37 YPC) which, when you factor in the 83 penalty yards, leaves a net number that is beneath mentioning.
Marshawn Lynch finished with 27 total yards on nine touches. Seattle's second-leading receiver was Robert Turbin. With 16 yards. They had the ball for 21:02. The only real bright spots were the fact that they didn't turn the ball over and Golden Tate, who finished with five catches, 93 yards, and two touchdowns (don't worry, we'll get to the other stuff in a minute).
Seattle's defense looked pretty good early, aided by the fact that Kellen Clemens spent most of the first half throwing like he had no thumbs. Recently minted linebacker Bruce Irvin got an interception covering Jared Cook on a wheel route. Richard Sherman got one when he wasn't within five yards of the intended receiver. It was an elite unit playing against one that was just feebly trying to find it's way. For the first two quarters at least. In the second half, the Rams leaned on the only real producer in the first half, Zac Stacy, who gobbled up chunks between the tackles to the tune of 134 yards at a 5.2 YPC clip. As the 'Hawks scrambled to shore up their crumbling interior run defense, Clemens began to find receivers waiting in soft second-level pockets.
In the third and fourth quarters, the Rams moved the ball between the twenties with an ease we're unaccustomed to seeing against this team. It was an unrelenting charge that put Seattle's bend-but-don't-break defense to one of their fiercest tests. In that don't-break regard, the Seahawks were stout, bowing their backs when they were exposed to the heat of their own endzone.They held the Rams to four field goal attempts, one of which missed.
Their finest performance of the night came when they found themselves facing a Rams first-and-goal with under a minute to go*. At that point, I'm sure I wasn't the only one whose night terrors from last year's Lions game flashed back into their brain. The Seahawks needed four stops. They got five. They forced a Clemens incompletion. Then they stuffed a Darryl Richardson draw. Then Chris Givens dropped a screen pass, a stop nullified by Chris Clemons' offsides. Then they shut down another Richardson run, forcing a fourth down with four seconds left. The final play call was an interesting one, as Clemens tried a short fade route to Brian Quick, who was cloaked by Brandon Browner.
*What exactly was Carroll saving his timeouts for? He had all three of them in his cargo pants yet he just let St. Louis run all time off the clock, leaving Russell Wilson no time to make amends should the Rams score.
It appeared that Quick was either unable to use a slanting Zac Stacy to pick Browner or just couldn't shake the Promethean cornerback. Either way, the pass fluttered harmlessly to the turf, dealing St. Louis sports fans their second kick to the nads in the same night. It's worth noting that St Louis' final drive started at their own own three after a brilliant Jon Ryan punt. How many 96 yard drives have resulted in zero points, I wonder.
A few other observations:
~The Rams outplayed the Seahawks. Just needed that to be in print somewhere.
~Earl Thomas had 10 solo tackles, putting him on track for a stunning 106 such efforts on the season. His career high is 69.
~Cliff Avril, Bruce Irvin, and Walter Thurmond all had sacks. That's a defensive end, a linebacker, and a corner. The overall pressure was pretty good all night.
~Irvin left his mark everywhere: nine tackles, a sack, and a pick.
~Russell Wilson didn't look very good, but how could he? The Seahawks O-line basically threw him down an elevator shaft and he still managed to post a 117.2 passer rating before he hit the bottom. The numbers aren't eye-popping: 10/18, 139, 2 TDs, 0 INTs and 16 yards rushing on three carries. ESPN's Total QBR interprets the numbers much differently, giving Wilson a 20.5 on their 1-100 scale. Personally, I think his traditional passer rating was too high (significantly boosted by one incredible individual effort by Tate), but the fact is that he salvaged a passable family meal when his only ingredients were burnt quinoa and moldy sour cream.
~Sidney Rice left the game in the first quarter with what Carroll termed knee and head injuries. Don't think there's much doubt as to which receiver gets the offseason extension.
~Kam Chancellor vaporized some poor dude on Richard Sherman's interception return.
~Never could figure out why Seattle got blown off the ball on almost every run play. I mean, St Louis looked so dominant whenever their first step was forward, with Stacy rarely needing to make any defenders miss before getting three yards downfield. And then he made them miss. If anyone knows why this happened, please tell me.
~When you're leading for almost the entire game and averaging just 5.1 yards per pass, how does Lynch only get eight carries? If I have any criticism of the game calling, it's that. Hope they go to him more heavily next week.
~I said I'd get back to Golden Tate and I aim to right now. He played an excellent game, scored the only touchdowns, and accounted for more than two-thirds of the team's yards from scrimmage. He was Seattle's best offensive player last night and yet most of the talk about Tate this week will once again be controversial.
If you missed it, here's the play. With less than twenty minutes left in the game and his team doing diddly-poo on offense, Russell Wilson heaved a ball down the left sideline and that's when the most Golden Tate thing of ever happened. As Tate cruised underneath it, he beasted a leaping Janoris Jenkins on a jump ball, swung his legs over the falling defender like a chorus girl, and scampered the remainder of the 80 yards into the endzone to extend Seattle's one point lead to eight.
Unfortunately for the narrative of this game, and St. Louis' ensuing field position, Tate followed up his impressive catch with thirty yards of ball-raising, trash-talking, hand-waving buffoonery. He apologized afterward, calling his taunting immature and hurtful to the team, but it doesn't erase the fact that his showboating will take attention away from a road win on Monday night.
Personally, I don't care too much. The NFL is made up of hundreds of testosterone-packed alpha males competing in a gladiator arena and running full speed into each other repeatedly for three hours in front of millions of drunk people judging their performance. I think it's a little silly to impose a code of conduct upon that battlefield that is better suited for a 1950's sitcom. If I had my 'druthers, I'd make all taunting legal to the point that it's not endangering anybody. Why not? Because it offends our sensibilities? While we sit on the couch?
Call me old fashioned, but I say let the players play. Penalize them for cheating, not for playground antics. They're not taunting you. Regardless of whether I'm right about this or not,* the fact remains that Tate knows the rules and broke them anyway. It hurt the team and it's the kind of thing that needs to stop, not because Seattle has an image problem but because it has a negative effect on the team's win probability.
Earlier, I talked about the Seahawks being a picture-in-picture TV. Well, the small screen was glitchy and poorly produced but the big screen shows something much more promising. When you step back and look at the whole thing, you realize that the Seahawks won a divisional road game. That they've already gone 4-1 on the road with five of their final eight at home. That they've got the inside track to home field advantage in the playoffs. That they did all of this with an offensive line that currently has no business on an NFL field but that will be getting back to full strength over the next few weeks.
Bemoan last night's performance, but keep it in perspective. There were troubling sights on our TV screens and the 'Hawks won anyway. They're 7-1 with the worst of their schedule and, presumably their injuries, behind them.