The first game of the season for the Seattle Seahawks is usually not easy on the eyes. The 2016 opener against the Miami Dolphins proved to be no exception, as the Seahawks pulled out a surprisingly close 12-10 victory over a team that will likely finish in the middle of the AFC pack.
Last week’s keys to the game were the following: contain Jarvis Landry, avoid a slow start, and get the ball out quickly. The start of the contest looked to follow all three perfectly. Russell Wilson was rapidly dishing the ball out and the defense shut down Landry. They slowed down a bit, though, and leaned on the defense to go into the half up by a score of 6 to 3.
Wilson’s ankle injury threw a wrench into the team’s second-half plans and turned this into as ugly of an affair as one could imagine. Miami’s lone touchdown drive saw Landry catch two balls for 37 yards. His other five receptions went for 22 yards. The only time that Miami drove the length of the field was when Seattle lost contain of Landry. I would classify that as an overall success.
The fact that the team couldn’t sustain the fast start was the reason that the game was so close in the second half. I know Pete Carroll coaches a second half team in both games and seasons, but damn, it would be nice to see an opening drive touchdown every once and a while.
Getting the ball out quickly worked well initially but due to Wilson’s inability to step into most throws, it was virtually impossible to put an effective passing game on film. Hopefully that changes in Week 2.
Speaking of Week 2, let’s take a look at the keys to the Seahawks beating the Rams in Pete Carroll’s return to Los Angeles.
Stop the Run
Seattle’s number one priority on defense has to be shutting down the number one player on John Schneider’s 2015 draft board: Todd Gurley. Gurley didn’t get much of anything going in Week 1, mostly due to Los Angeles looking completely inept on offense against a surprisingly stingy 49ers defense.
I don’t buy that the Rams are that incompetent at opening up holes for their franchise tailback. Expect the Seahawks to first and foremost plug up gaps and set the edge on defense. This goes hand in hand with the next point.
Make Case Keenum look like Case Keenum
Seattle loves to put their opponents in 3rd-and-long situations so they can trot out their NASCAR package and get after the quarterback. Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Frank Clark, and Cassius Marsh must be salivating after watching the train wreck that was the Rams offense on Monday night.
If the Seahawks can hold strong on early downs and pressure Keenum consistently, look for the turnover duct to open up. The Los Angeles starter threw two picks on Monday night against an inferior defense in San Francisco.
Then again there’s the possibility that Jeff Fisher will pull a Jeff Fisher and Keenum will throw for 450 yards and 7 touchdowns, just because they’re the Rams and football is stupid sometimes.
Forcing Keenum to continue playing at Monday night’s level is a must if Seattle wants to go into arguably their toughest division rival’s house and pull out a win.
Protect Russell Wilson
The biggest storyline heading into Sunday is Wilson’s ankle. After getting stepped on by mammoth human Ndamukong Suh, the ankle seems to be sprained to some degree or another. Fortunately, the injury doesn’t appear to be hindering playing time, as Wilson has practiced all week in preparation for Sunday’s contest.
The Rams have arguably the most dominant defensive line in the league and they dominate the Seahawks’ offensive line every year like clockwork. Seattle’s number one priority this weekend has to be keeping their franchise player upright. This must be addressed through solid line play and an up-tempo scheme.
The ball needs to get out of Wilson’s hands swiftly, as last week’s game plan dictated early. Establishing a run game would obviously help. Los Angeles allowed less than 4.0 YPC to running backs on Monday. Hopefully, Thomas Rawls looking healthy while starting will break this barrier.
In any method they deem best, Darrell Bevell and the Seahawks offense must make sure that their quarterback doesn’t take any low hits. Drawing the Rams this week is quite unlucky given the circumstances, but the NFL is always an uphill battle. Nothing worth attaining is ever easy.
If anybody can overcome this challenge, it’s this team. 2-0 is attainable. Go Hawks.