The Seattle Seahawks will enter their bye week atop the NFC West, having edged out the Los Angeles Rams by a score of 16-10. It’s Seattle’s first road win of the season and indeed their first regular season winning streak since that awesome three-game stretch of victories against the Bills, Patriots, and Eagles in 2016.
This is just the second time in the Russell Wilson era that the Seahawks have won a road game against the Rams, and both times the defense made an absolutely heroic last-ditch stand at the goal line to get the W. Here’s a look at the winners and losers following Sunday’s heartstopping but oh-so-satisfying triumph.
I cannot begin to properly describe how important Earl Thomas has been not just to the Seahawks, but as a staple of Seattle sports. Charles Tillman used to literally punch footballs out to force fumbles. Earl Thomas karate chops Rams running backs at the freaking goal line.
I am in awe at the things Thomas manages to do on the field. He not only created the pivotal turnover on what would’ve been a Todd Gurley touchdown, he played center field on Jared Goff’s wobbler of a throw, and snagged his first interception since the home win over the Falcons last year.
Earl should be a no-brainer for the Pro Football Hall of Fame when his career is over. There’s no debating it.
With Cliff Avril out indefinitely (and potentially for his career), it’s of the utmost importance that Frank Clark steps up in his absence, and he was magnificent. Clark helped set the edge and stifle Todd Gurley and Tavon Austin on outside runs, and on a day in which the Seahawks pass rush was once again underwhelming, Clark blew by the excellent Andrew Whitworth and strip-sacked Jared Goff for Seattle’s fifth takeaway of the afternoon. As Seattle approaches the midseason mark, Clark has rapidly become one of the most valuable contributors on the Seahawks defense.
The big man snagged his first career interception, which was huge because that was the difference between a turnover and a field goal attempt for the Rams. Richardson also recovered Jared Goff’s fumble on Seattle’s penultimate defensive possession, and if the Seahawks offense was remotely capable of forward movement in the 4th quarter, that would’ve been the dagger.
I feel a little bit guilty having ignored putting Sherman on the winner’s list all season, because apart from his mini-meltdown in Tennessee, #25 continues to stifle opposing receivers. Jared Goff tested Sherman several times yesterday and only managed to complete 1 pass. Sammy Watkins was held to a goose egg on four targets, and he was definitely matched up against Sherman frequently. I’m just waiting for Sherman to get some picks, and with Eli Manning as Seattle’s next opposing quarterback, I’m optimistic he’ll have some opportunities.
I won’t pretend 6 catches for 37 yards is the ideal statline for Graham, but he did catch Seattle’s only touchdown and the majority of his snaps were at wide receiver and not tight end. That’s a pretty encouraging sign that Darrell Bevell is creating more favorable matchups for Graham to get more looks in the passing game. And let me repeat, the Seahawks are not trading Graham.
It’s evident that the Seahawks are excited about McKissic and want him heavily involved as a receiving threat out of the backfield. He was a non-factor as a runner, but he did have 3 catches for 35 yards, including a 21-yard grab for Seattle’s only explosive play of the entire day. I also laud his hustle on Wilson’s interception, as he may have missed the tackle on John Johnson, but he helped slow him down and have to cut back to the ouside, where Russell made the touchdown-saving tackle. This is two weeks in a row where McKissic has hauled ass after an interception, and I believe we’ll be seeing McKissic featured a lot more prominently after the bye week.
Third down defense
I’ll write a separate post on this later in the week, so I’ll keep it brief today. Kris Richard defenses continue to have issues with 3rd and 10+ plays. They gave up a touchdown to Tavon Austin on a simple 3rd and 11 handoff, and also allowed 3rd and 10 and 3rd and 11 to be converted on the first Rams drive of the third quarter. It’s not an isolated incident, it’s a recurring problem that started under Gus Bradley, went away under Dan Quinn, and has reappeared under Richard. Overall, LA went 8-of-15 on 3rd down. It may seem a little unfair to get on the defense’s case when they held one of the best offenses to 10 points, 5 turnovers, and a litany of red zone failures, but they’re also occasionally their own worst enemy when it comes to getting off the field.
The running game
It’s bad. No other way to describe it. Thomas Rawls, Eddie Lacy, and J.D. McKissic combined for 39 yards on 19 carries. The Rams run defense was 24th in DVOA prior to yesterday, and Seattle couldn’t get going whatsoever.
The former Wisconsin quarterback was entrusted to make a trick play throw to J.D. Mckissic, and he threw an interception. When he made the same pass to C.J. Prosise in New Orleans last year, it went for a big gain. Tanner also committed offensive pass interference, which I thought was a bogus call, but nevertheless he remains totally unproductive on offense.
The very idea of pro football in Los Angeles
Attendance was just over 60,000 for what has to be considered one of the more important Rams games for the whole of this decade. The LA Coliseum seats 93,000, so the stadium was two-thirds full, and there were a ton of Seahawks fans in attendance. It legitimately felt like a preseason game due to the terrible atmosphere created by Rams fans. Between that and the Chargers being unable to sell out the StubHub Center, home to the LA Galaxy of Major League Soccer, I don’t see any long-term viability for the NFL in LA.
Somewhere in between Winner and Loser
The touchdown drive was Wilson at his best. Russ methodically matriculated the ball towards the Rams end zone, including a trio of third-down conversions. The game-tying field goal was also impressive considering he took two sacks but still managed to get Seattle back into range for Blair Walsh to even have a chance at a kick. Everything else was not that good, and many of his misfires didn’t involve pressure in his face. He should’ve been picked on his deep ball to Doug Baldwin, and the actual interception on a pass intended for Luke Willson is one of the worst picks I’ve ever seen him throw. Kudos to Wilson for the tackle on John Johnson, or else that would’ve been only the third pick-6 (playoffs included) of his career.
I’m not the best at determining quality o-line play, but the Seahawks seemed more than competent in pass protection against the Rams. Of the three sacks allowed, one came off of an Alec Ogletree blitz, which JD McKissic failed to pick up, and another one was a bust in protection that may have been an error on Thomas Rawls’ part. Wilson was under duress on several plays, but he also had plenty of clean pockets to work with, which was nice to see. Unfortunately, the run blocking looked underwhelming again, so it’s a mixed day but I don’t think it was a net-negative for Tom Cable’s group.