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This Week In Defense: The Seahawks did a lot of good, but not enough against the Rams

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Narrative Of The Game: Every year since Pete Carroll arrived in 2010, these weeks have been interesting. Any game with the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks has seen two types of people talking themselves into the game. On one hand you have the folks that say:“Hey, the Rams aren’t that good, this should be easy.”

Usually they still acknowledge the difficulties of the past five seasons in which the Seahawks have found themselves with four wins and five losses in nine tries against the Rams. The hope they drink from is gathered from a spring of bad quarterbacks that Los Angeles has been stuck with, from Kellen Clemens to Austin Davis and now Case Keenum.

On the other side of the conversation are people who are wondering how Jeff Fisher will pull a Houdini and grab another improbable win from this football team. Fake field goals? Fake punts? It always seems you have to be weary of something. So many of us Seattle fans will circle this game and wonder what kind of game we’ll see, hoping for victory, but knowing defeat is very possible. So let’s take a look at how Fisher tried his hand at three-cup street magic to pull out another victory.

[First Quarter. 12:50 1st and 10. Case Keenum Pass complete for Tavon Austin for 17-yards. Tackled by Deshawn Shead. ]

The troubles hit early on the opening drive with Fisher opening the game with passes short and long. This first GIF of two that I’ve selected for this play best demonstrates the problem for the Seahawks in the first half especially; Before I explain it in full I want you to watch this first GIF and focus on Keenum’s footwork.

Did you see it? On this particular long-crossing route that is complete for Tavon Austin, Keenum takes a seven-step drop with two hitch steps. Mechanically, this is the deepest passing concept you can run from under center. Not only is Keenum clean on this play, he’s locked in on Austin as soon as the second hitch step brings him forward. The pass rush is terrible on the play because it’s clearly geared more for the run. Even on the laziest pass rush a seven-step drop is the hardest to block for because of how deep the QB has to get.

The second GIF I want to show you is of the same play and focuses on Shead. A lot of folks post-game were wondering about Shead for good reason, but this play sort of reassures me a little. If you watch the route by Tavon here, it’s really smooth and cuts right in behind KJ Wright who is dropping back. One thing you’ll notice is a bit of a step of hesitation by Shead as he first starts to follow, sees Wright, then realizes no one is pursuing Austin. Shead’s ability here to accelerate and make a tackle speaks volumes of his speed.

The down and distance is a huge advantage to running this play because with no early pass rush, Keenum can lock on to Austin without any consequences, with Keenum’s drop being so deep here Earl Thomas has to play back for deeper routes and can’t zero in on this until the ball is thrown. Good on Shead to hang in there. This is the hardest pass to defended as an outside cornerback.

[Second Qaurter 3:35. 1st and 10 Run right by Gurley for 5 yards. Tackled By Bobby Wagner.]

This play seems like a simple run, but this is the best explanation I could find of what Todd Gurley’s few successful plays looked like. Many times they looked like checks to box advantage. This particular one is easy to show what I mean as it’s closer to the camera.

Seattle was obviously geared up to stop the run coming in and pretty much had Kam Chancellor defending the run and possible short throws. I don’t remember a play in which he was deeper than eight yards. So this play leaves me scratching my head.

The line of scrimmage is where we should be focused here. (You may want to click on the GIF pause and roll it back to the first frame to see it the best.) You’ll notice that Cliff Avril (best guess, view is unclear) is next to Ahtyba Rubin and Jarran Reed is tucked in with them. Michael Bennett is the lone man on the end of the line actually outside the tackle. This creates a huge void up front which creates a box advantage for the Rams.

The Seahawks appear to be over scheming in response to where (I believe it’s Lance Kendricks) is lined up in the backfield. Seattle appears to be challenging the potential for a counter by hitting the point of attack so hard that the crease that LA wants never shows up. The Rams, as they have when this front has shown up going left, just put Gurley behind the uncovered guard and get what they can. They gain five here, but the previous two plays to the left generated 21 yards total.

Gurley is one big play away from making this a huge headache for an already struggling Seahawks offense. To finish up, watch Bobby Wagner shed the guard and make the tackle. If he doesn’t, it’s off to the races for Gurley. Those three plays generated 26 yards. Gurley had 51 rushing yards for the game.

[Third Quarter 10:24. Play action pass by Case Keenum complete to Kenny Britt for 32-yards. Deshawn Shead defending.]

This play is simple. Play action pass with press-man on the outside. A little explanation before we discuss the play: Press-man means the corner is going to be up close to the receiver at the snap. He doesn’t necessarily have to make contact to alter the receiver’s path, but most of the time that is the biggest mechanic of it.

I didn’t illustrate this as another play to pick on Shead’s game. No, I wanted to point out that, for the most part the Seahawks were daring the Rams to throw deep. Thomas sat in centerfield and outside was man to man. This means no help for Shead or Sherman should balls go up deep.

At the start of the play Shead schucks Kenny Britt, forcing him up the sideline. This is a good play until you realize that Shead is no longer over the top of Britt. There’s a famous term for deep passes like this that coaches teach quarterbacks.

“If he’s even, he’s leavin.”

This means that once Shead finishes forcing Britt to the sideline he’s in no position to challenge the ball in the air and all he can hope for is that Keenum can’t put it on Britt up the sideline. This is just a hat tip play. They caught Shead. If he’d forced Britt to the inside here, Earl may have been able to challenge it, but it’s a loss either way in my opinion and just a nice timed call by the Rams when backed up.

Game Wrap:

It feels odd to say a team that allowed only nine points and 283 total yards would have been out-coached. I feel it’s apt just a bit and here’s why: The defense needed to turn this game. The offense is struggling, you know it was going to be iffy with Russell Wilson’s ankle, so I knew it was on the defense. Turnovers are missing right now, but the biggest shock to me is how Pete Carroll keeps playing whack-a-mole and missing his target. No blitzes in the first half but they showed it a lot. I get not wanting to expose yourself to Gurley, but you need field position and turnovers. This was by far the most annoying loss to the Rams. Even the fake punt disaster doesn’t leave me as frustrated as this one. How about you?

Game Ball:

This may feel a bit wierd when you see my “Needs work” section, but Michael Bennett again takes the game ball and deservedly so. He’s been awesome in both run and pass rush. He’s really hunting for that contract extension and Paul Allen shouldn’t hesitate to give it to him.

Needs work:

Pass rush, specifically up the middle. The LA Rams looked horrible last week yet on most pass plays the Seahawks middle rush failed to push the pocket. Unlike last week where they were really able to force Ryan Tannehill off his spot or cause him to flinch, Case Keenum stepped up into a lot of clean pockets in this game. I don’t know if it’s just a function of being on the road away from the advantage of crowd noise, but it was really stark contrast to the dominant line of scrimmage we saw week one.