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Cigar Thoughts, Game 14: Rams humiliate Seahawks, restructure NFC West hierarchy

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The Los Angeles Rams embarrassed the Seattle Seahawks, taking control of the division and forcing Seattle to re-evaluate their shit.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

I’ll say this much, the Seahawks don’t do anything halfway. From the game’s first series, when Kasen Williams Amara Darboh David Moore Tanner McEvoy fumbled the ball away through the fourth quarter when Russell Wilson calmly committed an intentional grounding in his own endzone, the Seahawks were a giant, sweltering pile of navy blue garbage. I had the privilege of watching this debacle in person and it was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced at Century Link.

I’ve been fortunate enough to attend some big games at that stadium over the years, including the shellacking of the Niners in 2013, the sound-record Monday nighter vs the Saints, the Megatron fumble and most recently, their 24-10 thumping of the Eagles. I’m used to the stadium boiling over with pre-game fervor followed by a usually resounding Seahawks win. I’m used to eating experiential filet mignon at Seahawks games, not the re-heated shitburger we were all served this afternoon.

Afterall, the Seattle Seahawks have a proud history in big games— regularly playing their best football when the stakes are highest, usually winning and always competing. And man was this game big. My calendar says that just two weeks prior, Seattle stomped the best team in the NFL by two touchdowns in that very arena but I’m not sure it wasn’t actually a decade ago. That team, the one that used a national stage to re-establish themselves as an NFL heavyweight, never showed up for this game. The Los Angeles Rams, an unwanted franchise with a pubescent head coach and a direction-dyslexic QB, ground the Seahawks to powder with the season on the line.

On one hand, it’s amazing it’s taken this long for a Wilson-led team to get their doors blown off but on the other hand, why now? At home, with the division crown up for grabs and an MVP-caliber QB, against a team that had lost 11 of the last 12 games in Seattle? Man. The stage was set for the ‘Hawks to re-establish their eminence but instead of starring in the show, the Seahawks tripped over the curtain, crashed face-first into a stage light, and shattered their frenum, forcing them to recite the entirety of their lines through an oral swamp of blood and broken teeth.

Credit to the Rams; they strutted into the hardest place in the NFL to win, sized up the defending division champs, and beat them into paste in front of God and their families. Going into this would-be heavyweight fight, the question was whether the Rams were ready to win a big game in December. Their answer was an onslaught that dominated Seattle in every phase, establishing themselves as a true title contender and sending the ‘Hawks into a dark week of desperate self-examination.

It didn’t have to be like this. Even after McEvoy’s fumble, the Seahawks defended a short field and held Los Angeles to a field goal. On the next drive, Wilson found Jimmy Graham for another big third down conversion but the Rams challenged the call. Replay showed that Graham’s body did not check the 47 boxes necessary to define an NFL catch and Seattle found themselves punting away. Again they held the Rams to a field goal and Seattle was just one good drive away from taking the lead. Hell, we’ve seen them do exactly that a thousand times over the last few seasons. But not this day. No sir.

Instead of the gritty resilience we’re accustomed to seeing from Wilson and his cohorts, the Seahawks shriveled like testicles in a cold shower. The next series was trash and this time LA turned a short field into seven easy points. Their next drive was the same trash as before, just rearranged a bit. On their next possession, Seattle took that garbage and set it on fire then spent the remainder of the game inhaling the smoldering rubbish. At one point, Russell Wilson followed up a 20-yard completion to JD McKissic by literally throwing the ball 23 yards backwards and out of bounds. At another, Todd Gurley took a white-flag handoff on 3rd & 22 and jogged untouched for 52 yards and a touchdown right before the half.

The offensive line, which has been decent-to-good since Duane Brown showed up, folded like 2-7 off suit after a raise. Wilson was under constant pressure all game long, suffering seven sacks despite the repeated holds and false starts aimed at mitigating them. The run game can’t even be judged, as Seattle was down by 20 points before they’d even run 20 plays and were all but forced to throw it every play. The pass game, burdened with rescuing the outcome, was remedial at best. Russ was errant to an alarming degree and his receivers failed to make any plays worth mentioning all game. It was like watching JV play the Varsity, with every Seahawk seemingly getting beat by their LA counterpart on every single play to a degree that made you wonder if they should even be playing in the same league.

There are a lot of embarrassing aspects of this game but perhaps the one that stings a team like Seattle the most was how the Rams never really needed to pass. They just ran the ball at Seattle’s threadbare defense all day long, tearing their hosts open at the seams and racking up a staggering 244 rushing yards on an insulting 43 carries. And with Bobby Wagner clearly limited, Todd Gurley went absolutely ballistic. Gurley, who’s been as good as any running back in the world this year, exploited the numerous weaknesses in Seattle’s broken defense at more than seven yards per carry. He beat Seattle inside, outside, and in the passing game. By the time he was pulled early in the fourth quarter, Gurley could recline on 180 yards and put his feet up on four touchdowns.

The Rams’ DL vs Seahawks OL has been a mismatched fight for years now but today the difference was laughable. Tom Cable’s merry band of misfits got beaten soundly on most snaps, with penalties and missed blocks constantly putting Seattle’s offense behind the sticks on off their script. The Seahawks had seven third downs with 11 yards or more to gain. At one point they faced a 3rd & 33. On another, 2nd & 1 became 3rd & 19. It wasn’t even one of those one-step-forward-two-steps-back kind of games. It was just 76 steps back.

The defense looked completely listless. The field was strewn with missed tackles and half the time their wasn’t even a linebacker present to make a tackle when Gurley inevitable split a gap at the LOS. You guys remember the obstacle course at the end of American Gladiators? Near the finish, there would be two doors for the competitor to run through. Behind one of them was a gladiator, ready to club you into submission. Normally, against the Seahawks, every door has a gladiator behind it, and if you did happen to choose a door without one, they’d chase you down as soon as you did. The Rams chose the right door every got dang time today, with nothing but freedom between them and a big game on most of their runs.

Even with the game out of hand, Seattle’s offense couldn’t do anything. More penalties, more missed blocks, more miscommunication, more dysfuntion. Luke Willson did catch a 26-yard touchdown in the second half, but that’s like adding a scoop of strawberry ice cream to a bowl of rat feces. The Rams never let up- a decade of being bullied focused into a three-hour beatdown. This game was everything that frustrates us about the Seahawks concentrated into one potent, poisonous pill without any of the good stuff to wash it down.

SMOKE RINGS

-Russell Wilson was terrible. Granted, his guys were never open because the Rams only need to bring four rushers and were content to drop seven in coverage, but even when his receivers did provide a window, Russ missed ‘em. I don’t know what else to say. It was a tough assignment but 110 total net yards in the biggest regular season game of your career is an astonishing failure. To say this game is representative of Wilson in any way is to grossly misunderstand the situation, but there’s no hiding how bad he was this day.

-Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham combined for 5 yards on 2 catches. When nothing else is working, you need your best players to go out and make plays and they did neither. It was Graham’s second consecutive disappearing act and Baldwin’s third in his last five. Look at these lines:

Doug Baldwin: 1 catch, 6 yards
Jimmy Graham: 1 catch, -1 yard
Paul Richardson: 2 catches, 18 yards
Tyler Lockett: 2 catches, 8 yards
Tanner McEvoy: 1 catch, 19 yards, fumble
Amara Darboh: 1 catch, 8 yards

Ghastly.

-The OL got trounced. Even Brown was victimized regularly. Ethan Pocic didn’t have a prayer. Germain Ifedi committed two more penalties and had two others declined. He continues to be the most flagged player in the NFL by a goodly margin. The things that used to mask the O-line’s shortcomings are no longer capable of doing so. Tom Cable might have been an OL genius 15 years ago but his body of work in Seattle is anachronistic at best and downright shameful at worst.

-I’m stunned by how bad the defense was today. We haven’t seen a performance this bad in at least six years. That it happened at home in the highest-leverage game of the year is disgraceful. It’s tempting to say the defense is too old or that Kris Richard has to go, and maybe they are and maybe he does, but what we’re judging right now is a bunch of rookies and fill-ins. A defense that’s missing five Pro Bowl players all at once is gonna have a tough time executing a system designed around all-world talent. It just is. Against a machine like LA’s O, there’s just no chance.

-Jon Ryan is cooked. The whole Seattle special teams has been a disastrous wasteland this year. We all know about Blair Walsh’s struggles but today Jon Ryan looked terrible. I don’t know if you could tell on TV but the reason for LA’s insane amount of punt return yardage (7 for 128) wasn’t missed tackles or guys out of their gaps; it was Ryan’s low-altitude 40-yard quackers that let Pharoah Cooper get a 10-yard running start every time.

-Tyler Lockett looks cooked too. Pre-injury Lockett was a sight to behold, a beautiful bird flitting all over the field, uncoverable in the passing game and untouchable in the return game. It took him all of one preseason to establish himself as one of the scariest returners in the NFL and his receiving chops were way ahead of his years.

Then his leg snapped in half and now Tyler Lockett is just small. He’s no longer beating guys on the red line, or juking them on underneath routes. He’s been reduced to someone from whom the bulk of production comes from short passes for minimal yards, with the occasional chance at a deep ball. His returns have lost all of their potency, too. Maybe he’s still on the way back to his old self but if he’s not, I’m not sure how much value he has. Such a tragedy. Hope I’m wrong.

This season is probably over. There are some permutations at play where Seattle can still make the playoffs but even if that scratch ticket cashes, this team as currently constructed is in no position to make a postseason run. A loss like this requires more of a franchise than just shaking it off, watching some film, and getting back after it. This is one of those losses that forces you to re-evaluate a whoooole lotta shit.

For the first time I can remember since Pete Carroll got to town, it looked like the Seahawks quit— and that’s a wound that’ll require more than a Band-Aid to heal. I don’t know what the dynamic in that locker room is but there are a lot of proud men in there that have to face themselves and each other at the VMAC tomorrow.

There may be some silver linings buried somewhere in this giant fart cloud, though, but they’re long-term considerations. Should Seattle miss the playoffs, they’ll get to experience their first full offseason since 2011. These guys have played more games since 2012 than any other team in the NFL, and those postseason runs have come at the cost of recovery time.

Furthermore, a defeat like this probably exposes the severity of some of the flaws that wins and close losses normally cover up. When you’re “just a play or two away”, like every other loss of the last six seasons, deep fissures may look more like cracks that need a little spackles. When you get crushed like this, those deficiencies are thrown into high resolution, spurring action that may not otherwise have been taken.

There’s going to be a lot of talk about Seattle’s window closing after this loss and that may be true— for some players. The next Seahawks team that challenges for the Lombardi Trophy may not have Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett or a number of other guys we’ve grown accustomed to rooting on. This team is primed to change and substantial roster / coaching staff turnover may be coming, and that right soon.

But.

As bad as today was, and it was as bad as bad gets, this is not a team that needs to be torn down and rebuilt. This team has a bona fide elite QB in the midst of a seemingly horizon-less prime. They have two players in Earl Thomas and Bobby Wagner that are on the short list for best defensive player alive. They’ve got an owner dedicated to winning and a head coach and GM with an incredible relationship. These are the hallmarks of great franchises and despite the sour turn at the end of this season, the Seattle Seahawks still check every damn box.

Up next is a Cowboys team fighting for their playoff lives as well, and who will be welcoming Ezekiel Elliott back. After that they close out the regular season against the Cardinals. Anything resembling today’s performance in either game will leave them at risk of getting humiliated again. That said, I’d be shocked if this team doesn’t give at least as good as it gets the rest of the way. Regardless, it will be an interesting couple of weeks as it relates to the trajectory of this franchise.

Until then, cheers my friends.

Jacson on Twitter | Cigar Thoughts Hub | Cigar Thoughts Facebook

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The 2017 season of Cigar Thoughts is proud to be sponsored by Fairhaven Floors and Brandon Nelson Partners.