It is no secret that the Los Angeles Rams have been the Seattle Seahawks’ kryptonite for quite a while. Despite the recent dominance of the Seahawks and the relative irrelevance of the Rams, the divisional opponents always tend to play close games – ugly contests that resemble more of a street fight than a football match.
The only season since 2012 that the Seahawks have beaten the Rams twice was 2013. Before last night, they had only beaten the Rams once since then, a 1-4 run that was the result of terrible offensive balance and an inability to shake the habit of playing down to their rivals.
The difference in 2013 was really one player – a name that we all miss terribly to this day: Golden Tate.
Yes, Golden, I do indeed miss you greatly.
Tate’s performances that year were dominant. He racked up 222 yards on 13 receptions, three of which were scores. Seattle’s Golden player had a knack for tearing apart their arch-nemeses and, since he has been gone, there hasn’t really been anyone that has demonstrated an ability to consistently carve up the Rams. The presence of such a player is paramount, as the Seahawks have never been able to establish a consistent offensive presence since Tate left.
Enter Tyler Lockett.
We knew he was special when the first touch of his rookie year turned into this:
Did we have a player who could destroy the Rams on our hands? It was too soon to tell.
Despite this punt return touchdown, Lockett didn’t establish himself as a receiving threat against Los Angeles (still in St. Louis at the time), catching only 7 passes for 67 yards.
This year has been a dramatic shift for No-E. I wrote about his unbelievable performance against the Rams in Week 2, where he hauled in all four of his targets for 99 receiving yards, even with an injured knee.
That injury has slowed the sophomore receiver down quite a bit, and he hasn’t looked to be full speed until a couple of weeks ago. Still, Lockett didn’t look to be the dynamic aerial threat that he flashed potential of being throughout his rookie year.
I guess we just didn’t understand that Ty had evolved into a Ram-slayer right before our eyes. Thursday night’s contest against Los Angeles showed us that Los Angeles should be worried, because the Seahawks have found their guy to take up Golden Tate’s mantle – their guy to dominate this rivalry on a biannual basis.
Seattle couldn’t get anything going on the ground throughout the entirety of the contest. Thomas Rawls had absolutely nowhere to run save for two or three occasions. It initially looked like it would be a “typical Rams game” with an infuriating lack of offensive production.
Lockett had something to say about that immediately, I guess:
On a 3rd-and-9 deep in Seahawks territory, Russell Wilson drops back into his own end zone before decisively lobbing a ball down the left boundary. Lockett beats his coverage defender outside at the line of scrimmage, gaining instantaneous separation. It’s a solid throw from Wilson and an even better catch by Lockett, who gets both feet down and retains control to the ground for the huge gain.
This critical conversion sparked a 93-yard touchdown drive that put Seattle up 7-0, which was already an insurmountable lead for Los Angeles. But that didn’t stop Ty.
After several other critical third down receptions and another couple of Seahawks scores put them up 17-3, Wilson and Lockett finally connected on a pass that has been slightly off throughout the course of the season:
On a 3rd-and-11, Wilson takes the snap out of the gun. Lockett is lined up just outside of the numbers on the right side. The Rams run a T/E stunt on both sides of the line, which is picked up nicely by the Seahawks’ offensive line. This gives Wilson just enough time to let Lockett blow by Trumaine Johnson, who thinks he has safety help over the top. Spoiler alert: he doesn’t. The pass is barely underthrown, but Lockett has achieved so much separation that it doesn’t matter. He hauls in the ball and is barely tripped up by the recovering safety as he crosses the goal-line for the touchdown.
This play truly iced the game for Seattle – a game that was less stressful than any coming against the Rams since 2013.
I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
We’ve known that Lockett is good ever since the preseason of his rookie year. Few knew that he would be as good as he is. None of us knew, though, that he could fill Tate’s shoes and be the spark that the Seahawks needed twice a year against Los Angeles. Tyler’s emergence in these contests is an extremely positive sign moving forward.
And it doesn’t hurt that he’s playing his best football of the year right before the newly-crowned NFC West champs enter the postseason. I’d say that 130 yards and a touchdown on 7 receptions doesn’t bode too poorly, eh?
Lockett strung together some unbelievable play in his first postseason. Can he top that in early 2017? I wouldn’t put it past him.
Sidenote - Thank you to Toyota and the Toyota Tundra Giveaway for making it possible to attend the game on Thursday. It was an awesome experience watching the entire contest from the Toyota Fan Deck. Watching No-E roast a team’s hopes and dreams in person is quite the sight.