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Seahawks-Rams postgame observations: Seattle moves into 1st with win in LA

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Seahawks went into Los Angeles and defeated the Rams 16-10 to go above .500 for the first time this season. The 3-2 Seahawks are now 2-0 against the NFC West, and drawing first blood against the Rams - likely Seattle’s biggest challenger in the division - could end up being crucial towards the end of the season.

Neither side of the ball was perfect for the Seahawks, but both sides delivered massively when they needed to. Most importantly, Seattle is above .500 and atop their division heading into their bye week.

Lack of clarity at RB

Eddie Lacy was given the first shot at replacing Chris Carson, starting the game against L.A., but he didn’t do anything to take a grip on the starting job. Neither did Thomas Rawls, who got the carries at the end of the game as the Seahawks were trying to kill clock. At the end of the game, their stats were an accurate representation of their performances: Lacy with nine carries for 19 yards and Rawls with eight carries for 20 yards.

Lacy’s performance wasn’t much different than what we’ve seen from him to begin the season, with one caveat. During the first four games, Lacy was noticeably slower than the other running backs in Seattle’s backfield. It felt like a several second longer process for him to reach the line of scrimmage. Against the Rams, he seemed a step quicker. Whether this is an indication of Lacy getting more comfortable in the offense, or something else, I’ll take it as a positive sign he shouldn’t be totally written off yet as a contributor this season.

J.D. McKissic continues to impress

Active for just the second game of his career, McKissic again looked like one of the Seahawks’ best weapons. Rather than just a third-down ‘back, Seattle used him on all three downs and moved him all over the place: split out wide, lined up in the slot and next to Russell Wilson in shotgun -- where he’s an absolutely lethal mismatch against a linebacker in coverage.

He looks like an explosive play waiting to happen every time he’s on the field, and the Seahawks were making a concerted effort to get him in space. Although he ended the game with just 36 yards on five touches, it was another encouraging game from him and there’s no reason to think he won’t continue to be involved after the bye week.

Taking advantage of mismatches

Obviously, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has been a controversial figure in Seattle for many years now. Without diving into that conversation too much, I want to say this: Of all the criticisms thrown at him over the last few years, a very real one is the lack of creating mismatches. In Tyler Lockett, Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham, C.J. Prosise and McKissic, the Seahawks’ offense has five players who can line up all over the formation and be a matchup nightmare. But too often, there isn’t even an effort to get a good matchup. The New England Patriots will regularly lineup on the goal line with Rob Gronkowski in-line, only to motion him out wide and have him isolated against a linebacker. It’s something that’s worth trying, but isn’t done enough.

Graham’s touchdown today came in a one-on-one situation against backup safety John Johnson on the outside. That kind of matchup is something that’s been clamored for since Graham arrived, and it made a huge difference today.

The drive that changed the game

Early on against the Rams, Seattle’s defense looked to be in serious danger of wearing out in the second-half. L.A. was going up-tempo and getting the defense moving horizontally at will. In 80-degree heat on the road against a loaded offense, it was a recipe for disaster. But at 9:39 of the second quarter, the Rams’ offensive drive stalled and they settled for a field goal. And what followed was the Seahawks’ longest possession of the season.

In seven minutes and 34 seconds, Seattle’s offense chewed up 75 yards on 15 plays, converting three third-downs and getting six first-downs in total. It culminated in a Graham touchdown, and more importantly gave the Seahawks’ defense a crucial break. They would only be on the field for another 19 seconds in the first-half, and that was a huge reason they were fresh and able to see the game out with a strong second-half.

The improvement that changed the game

L.A.’s running game is predicated around outside zone runs. It’s what they predominately run, and it’s where they find their most success. And during the Rams’ first two drives, it looked to be more of the same. Gurley was turning the corner with ease, Tavon Austin was stretching the defense, and Seattle was reeling. But after the long Seahawks drive, Seattle’s defense became a force. The improvement in containing and setting the edge in the second half was a complete difference-maker for both teams, and was a big reason L.A. was unable to sustain drives.

Earl Thomas, still the King

Bobby Wagner has been the Seahawks’ best defender through four games, and is a serious candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. But what Earl Thomas did today against the Rams was as vintage-Earl as it will get. Another(!) heroic one-yard line chop to force a fumble and save a certain touchdown, and an interception on the day. He was the best player on the field, flying around, breaking up passes, meeting ball carriers head-on, and playing the kind of football we’ve been so lucky to see Thomas play for seven seasons.

Pass rush

It might get lost in the shuffle because of a Sheldon Richardson interception, a Frank Clark strip-sack and a Richardson fumble recovery, but Seattle’s pass rusher struggled today. Missing Cliff Avril and going up against a tough offensive line - the Rams were fourth in adjusted sack rate by Football Outsiders heading into week five - it was never going to be a huge game for the Seahawks’ pass rushers. But too often Goff was afforded a ton of time in the pocket, and Seattle’s ability to get off the field on third down suffered as a result.

Odds and Ends

  • Heading into today’s game, L.A. had five turnovers on the year. Consider that figure doubled, following a two-turnover day for both Richardson and Thomas, as well as a Robert Woods muffed punt.
  • Kam Chancellor had his best game in coverage today, with three massive passes defended. Two of them came in the endzone - one on the final play of the game - and another was a deep shot downfield. His impact hasn’t been as noticeable this season as it has been in the past, but what a game from Chancellor today.
  • Save for a couple completions over the middle to Cooper Kupp, Justin Coleman did well in his start at nickel corner. The Rams’ offense is predicated around passes over the middle and up the seam, and Coleman handled it really well. Heading into today’s game he had been a better player in the slot than Lane to begin the season, and he earned more snaps inside today.