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We Were Wrong: Because Rams

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A chance to see how we misjudged Week 2 and keep the misjudgments going into Week 3 against the Niners

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Seattle Seahawks v Los Angeles Rams
shoulda been picked
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

In case you missed last week’s We Were Wrong, the primer is concise: the week in between games gives us ample opportunity to suck at pregame analysis. We say things that turn out to be the wrongest. But don’t take my word for it.

When Buffy, Britney and the compassionate doctor person aren’t enough, Bill has the final word for you.

Quickly said (YES A REAL POST IS COMING I PROMISE), completed games prove some of our preconceptions to be shaky. Bizarre, huh? Even when the Hawks lose, we’re still often wrong about how it came down. Even when they win, which happens, we’ve foreseen the path to victory through a prism thick with opacity.

Hey, maybe if we learn how our thinking was corrupted, it’ll make us better at envisioning more possibilities, and we’ll avoid the easy, exhausted binary outs such as ‘Russell dominated/sucked” or “the D made plays/got owned” or “the guy made/missed the last kick.”

Over the course of the season, rights and wrongs will flip, certainly. What’s wrong vs. the thorny Rams maybe turns out to be right vs. the more typically compliant Niners.

Week 2: Rams a number of field goals, Hawks a number of field goals also

1. Chicanery

First wrong call: no shenanigans whatsoever took place on special teams. We were wrong about the Fisher Price man King Jester. This time, Mustache Troll didn’t fake a fourth-quarter punt in his own territory and didn’t set up a devious special teams return. Are we really sure this game was against the Rams?

Jeff Fisher didn’t take any chances. He played it by the book, all game long. The conservative book, at that. Look at his fourth-down decisions, one by one:

Qtr 1, 10:43 left: Rams kick a field goal on 4th and 3 from the Seattle 21

Cautious coaches will take the three here. Early in the game, especially. The New York Times’ fourth-down bot, which you can follow on Twitter, gives us a pretty good approximation of the same play from Week 1, and counsels the Rams to go for it in that type of situation.

Brian Burke, who founded Advanced NFL Stats, a longtime FG resource, made us a graph. It’s for you and me, mostly, but we share.

go for it a lot

You can stare at the graph for a while, but if you follow the “2 To Go” line horizontally, the main takeaway is that 4th & 1, 4th & 2, 4th $3 are all situations where it makes sense to go for it on the opponent’s side of the field. And sometimes on your own, as we’ll see in a few.

#FisherWatch after one of seven chicanery opportunities: Meek 1, Risk 0.

Qtr 1, 7:02 left: Rams punt on 4th and 5 from the LA 44

It’s a punting situation. Even though everyone in the game thread, Twitter, the stadium reminded Pete Carroll to “watch the fake.” Probably that explains why the first team defense was out there.

Let’s say Meek 1.5, Risk 0.

Qtr 2, 13:29 left: Rams punt on 4th and 6 from the LA 29

Even for Fisher, this one’s a stretch. No change, no charge. Meek 1.5, Risk 0.

Qtr 2, 9:02 left: Rams punt on 4th and 1 from the LA 47

Graph applies. You go for it on 4th and 1 from almost anywhere, especially in the first half, especially at midfield, especially since you’re shutting down the opponent’s offense. Meek 2.5, Risk 0.

Qtr 3, 6:28 left: Rams punt on 4th and 17 from midfield

Seventeen yards to go. Hard to convert a fake. But it’s midfield. But the distance is forbidding. Still Meek 2.5, Risk 0.

Qtr 4, 9:34 left: Rams take a delay of game on 4th and 18 from the SEA 41, then punt on 4th and 23

Again with a conversion distance that keeps risk at bay. I bet Fisher goes for it here on 4th and medium. You know I’m right. Risk remains scoreless.

Qtr 4, 2:00 left: Rams punt on 4th and 5 from the SEA 42

Referring to Burke again, the 42 is one of those magical spots on the field where you go for in almost any sitch. Sure, you’re playing the LOB, so the calculus needs to be adjusted. But tell me you weren’t relieved when the kick actually left Hekker’s stupid foot.

By the way, all six of those punts pinned the Hawks inside the 20. Yep, all of them.

So fourth-down game theory from two separate sources would’ve dictated some different outcomes. Hell, 2012, 13, 14 and 15 Jeff Fisher would’ve dictated some different outcomes. So why did he morph into John Fox overnight? Well, if you’ll keep reading...

2. Game Plan Basket Upset

Second wrong call of the day — the Hawks will carry out their oft-stated game plan. Which goes like this: a) stop the run game, b) force the opponent to execute long risky drives through the air, c) protect the ball in order to win the turnover battle, d) win on special teams and explosive plays.

Obviously those of us who predicted a Hawks win were maxwrong. We were right about the general plan, sure. Pete loves that plan! He wants to marry it. What we were wrong about, in the end, is which team would do a better job executing it.

Rams, on the Hawks’ first 7 runs from scrimmage: -6 yards allowed. It got better for Seattle, but not quickly enough. The half ended with 14 yards on 14 runs, with the Hawks forced into passing and forced into dealing with pressure on Wilson.

By the time the visitors got the running game engaged, they’d already fallen behind for good. Seattle’s only scoring drive came after the Hawks inefficiently strung together 16 plays. For three points.

The game ended, you know how. Another promising drive cut short by a turnover. The “make them grind” plan worked. For someone.

Professional quarterback Case Keenum committed no turnovers; professional guarantor Todd Gurley fumbled no footballs. Protecting the ball worked. For someones.

On special teams and in explosive plays, the teams fought to a draw. Seattle had 12, LA had 10. But one of Seattle’s explosive runs failed to convert a third down, and penalties gave LA crucial first downs in the first and fourth quarters. No kick returners had an appreciable impact on the game*, and the specialists canceled each other out.

(*though one can debate the wisdom of the Paul Richardson kickoff return right before halftime as I’m sure you already have)

The Rams Seahawk’d the Seahawks. Mustache Troll strikes again, after all.

Assorted Wrongs I’m Not Going To Explore Because Reasons

Rams games are the lowlights of an exciting, winning, sometimes hugely successful Seahawks season. They are also stupid games in which unhelpful things happen, like a year’s worth of OPI penalties all at once. (The average team is penalized 3.25 times PER SEASON for offensive pass interference.) Some other things we turned out to be wrong about:

Controlling the clock?

johnnycougar: “Time of possession will be critical. FG’s aren’t going to be enough to get it done.”

Wrong.

Ballhawking is back!

octagondd: “D-Line will pressure Rams QBs all day and should create 2 turnovers or more.”

quatro: “Our offensive line will struggle mightily. But the Rams will turnover the ball 3-4 times and we will score plenty on short drives due to great field position

Wrong.

Running game will thankfully be strong enough to keep pressure off Russell (advanced by lots of folks)

Wrong. RW was sacked just twice but also knocked down nine times. He was pressured on 16 of his 39 dropbacks, while Case Keenum was pressured only six times in 34 drops.

That’s quite enough. Closing the book on Week 2.

Week 3: 49ers at Seahawks

The best thing that can be said about the Niners is that they are not the Rams.

Some things we could be wrong about might include:

  • How Chip Kelly decides to attack the best defense in football
  • Colin Kaepernick’s role — will he play? Will he thrive, against type?
  • How much Russell Wilson remains hobbled by his ankle and how much it affects his accuracy
  • LOB generating turnovers (they’re past due)
  • And I don’t have to solicit OL takes, right? Seems like you guys can furnish those all on your own.

So in the interactive portion below, deposit your thoughts on Week 3. Don’t predict scores, don’t ask questions. Maybe single out a matchup. Explore a key to the game without falling into the cliches we hear every Sunday morning. I need to you be wrong — not right, not cautious. We need it. Your team needs it.