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Why Eddie Lacy couldn’t run against the Rams in Week 5

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NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this month I took a look at every carry Seattle Seahawks free agent running back Eddie Lacy had against the Green Bay Packers, as well as every carry from his best game of the season against the Indianapolis Colts. Since free agency is approaching two weeks of age, it’s getting to the time where Lacy might be garner interest from teams, so it’s time to take a quick look at one of his worst games of the season.

While some might laugh at the idea of other teams being interested in Lacy, keep in mind that he was a former second round pick, and that the running back taken a single spot after him in the draft, Christine Michael, recently resigned with the Colts after spending the entire 2017 season on IR.

In any case, today we are going to look at Lacy against the Los Angeles Rams in the Week 5 matchup Seattle won 16-10 in which Blair Walsh’s leg proved to be the difference. Just as Seattle fans like to lament the losses which Blair Walsh single-handedly cause for Seattle in 2017, Rams fans place the blame for this loss squarely at the feet of Greg Zeurlein. Zeurlein missed only two field goal attempts over the course of the entire season, with the first of those misses coming with the Hawks and Rams tied with ten minutes to go in the third quarter. If Zeurlein makes that kick, then the 4th & 10 incompletion from Jared Goff to Cooper Kupp with eight seconds left in the game is likely a field goal attempt to put the game in overtime.

Anyway, back to the Lacy runs, here they are with only very brief descriptions of what happened (I mean, what happened was Aaron Donald and the Rams defense, but my descriptions are a little more detailed than that.

Carry 1: Week 5 against the Los Angeles Rams; 1st & 10 at the 25 with 15:00 to go in the 1st Quarter

The line has opened a decent hole between Oday Aboushi (75) and Germain Ifedi (76), but Doug Baldwin failed to properly seal Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree (52) to the outside, and Lacy is forced to dance in the backfield. If he hadn’t been forced to get out of the way, Lacy likely gains a few more yards.

Carry 2: Week 5 against the Los Angeles Rams; 3rd & 2 at the 33 with 14:22 to go in the 1st Quarter

The blocking is there for Lacy to run behind Justin Britt (68) inside of Aboushi, but rather than follow where the blocking should take him, Lacy runs straight into the mess of the trenches. Lacy gains six yards on the play.

Carry 3: Week 5 against the Los Angeles Rams; 1st & 10 at the 39 with 13:54 to go in the 1st Quarter

Aaron Donald absolutely embarrasses Aboushi, simply tossing him to the side like a fast food wrapper. Donald then meets Lacy in the backfield as soon as he gets the handoff and is taken down for a four yard loss.

Carry 4: Week 5 against the Los Angeles Rams; 1st & 10 at the 26 with 14:08 to go in the 2nd Quarter

On this play tight end Luke Willson unsuccessfully attempts to cut block Robert Quinn (94), otherwise Lacy likely goes for several yards. However, after Willson fails in putting Quinn on the ground, Lacy is forced to try to his speed to the outside, as the inside is clogged with Rams. Willson, as seen in this second grab, is like a beetle stuck helplessly on his back while Lacy gets forced to the outside and taken down.

Carry 5: Week 5 against the Los Angeles Rams; 2nd & 9 at the 26 with 13:54 to go in the 2nd Quarter

This play is run out of a bunch formation with every player on the field visible from the end zone angle replay. Rams safety John Johnson (not pictured) is the only defender not playing close to the line of scrimmage, and so it’s hat on hat in the box. Unfortunately, that means that when Willson helps Ifedi with a double team on Donald, all of a sudden it’s two blockers trying to block three defenders at the point of attack. Lacy fights his way for a gain of one on the play.

Carry 6: Week 5 against the Los Angeles Rams; 1st & 10 at the 38 with 8:41 to go in the 2nd Quarter

A couple of things combine to lead to the death of this play. First, Nick Vannett (hidden behind Rams number 52) attempts to block Ogletree (52), but is tossed to the side nearly effortlessly by Ogletree. That mean when fullback Tre Madden gets to the point of attack, he gets eaten up by Ogletree. In addition, if you notice the Rams defending standing near the far hashmark just outside the 40 yard line, that’s Mark Barron. Luke Joeckel is the Seahawk closest to him, but Joeckel has taken a bad angle in getting to Barron in the second level, and playing in his last game before going under the knife to have his surgically repaired knee worked on, Joeckel doesn’t even touch Barron. Thus, Barron slide over and fills the hole.

Had Joeckel successfully engaged Barron or had Vannett not been rag dolled by Ogletree, then Lacy is into the second level with a full head of steam. Neither of those failures is fatal to the play itself, but in combination they result in the play going for only three yards rather than significantly more.

Carry 7: Week 5 against the Los Angeles Rams; 1st & 10 at the 31 with 5:23 to go in the 2nd Quarter

This play may epitomize why it was the backs that killed the 2017 Seattle running game at times. The line blocked well, and Lacy has just used a spin move to escape from a reaching grab by Rams linebacker Mark Barron. Lacy’s one one one squared up in the second level with safety Cody Davis, who weighs 40 pounds less than Lacy. Amara Darboh is at the ready to pick off Davis, all Lacy has to do is stiffarm Davis and run to his right and it’ll be a one on one battle to the pylon between Lacy and 205 pound Trumaine Johnson. So what does Lacy do? Rather than attack the defender he decides to do a second spin move, but this one doesn’t go as well and Davis tackles him on the spot after a gain of four.

Seattle signed Lacy because he’s a 240 pound bruiser, not for his ability to spin 720s when the line has blocked cleanly for him.

Carry 8: Week 5 against the Los Angeles Rams; 1st & 10 at the 18 with 9:55 to go in the 3rd Quarter

Here we see Lacy with two choices. He can attack the role to his right that has two Rams defenders lurking in the background, or he can attack the open space to his left where he would be one on one with Mark Barron in space.

Lacy decides to simply run up behind the mess of Joeckel, Rees Odhiambo and Jimmy Graham, lowering his shoulder into the back of Graham so forcefully that Graham is flung forward five yards where he rolls onto his back in the fetal position. Gain of 3.

Carry 9: Week 5 against the Los Angeles Rams; 3rd & 1 at the 41 with 8:05 to go in the 3rd Quarter

I’ve written a lot about Lacy running impatiently this past season, and this is a perfect example. In this picture we see Lacy committing to where he’s going on only his second step. His next step is a plant and dive over the top in the attempt to get the first down. He gets it, however, take a look at what might have been had his next step been a plant and cut to the outside. The Rams edge defender is crashing down, but he’s engaged from the outside by Willson, and likely doesn’t even get a hand on Lacy if Lacy simply tries to to take the ball outside.

This is one of those plays where Marshawn likely picks up not only the first down, but chunk yardage on top of that because of the massive amounts of open space available to the outside. Even Rawls, with his propensity to try and break plays to the outside, likely goes for double digits on this play by bouncing it to the outside. So we see yet again that while the line certainly had its issues blocking this season, as seen in the failures by Aboushi and Joeckel in this review, the backs played a material role in the poor running game as well.