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Literally all the big moments in one small place

Thursday Night Football in Seattle was an instant classic

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks
almost forgotten!
Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

The play of the game from Seattle Seahawks 30, Los Angeles Rams 29 has to be the last-minute missed field goal. There’s no other option. Greg Zuerlein’s vaunted leg determined in the end who would win on Thursday night, even though every play leading up to it had a role.

Boy, did some plays ever have a starring role. It was like the cast of A Few Good Men or Ocean’s 11 out there. (Maybe Sea’s 12?)

In recapping the game mentally, I was struck by how instant of a classic it was, based on one key metric: the sheer volume of memorable plays. There’s no brief way to list them all, which is why I first want to tell the story of each team’s largely forgotten first drives, by way of illustration and introduction.

On any other given day, we’d be talking about the opening two and a half minutes a lot more. Check out what happened from a points-added perspective:

  • At 14:26, a three-yard run is wiped out by a holding call on Mike Iupati. Seattle faces a 1st and 20 and loses 1.48 expected points.
  • A play later, Jaron Brown gains 15 yards but fumbles. LA recovers, and very swiftly, Seattle loses 2.23 expected points.
  • A 9-yard Todd Gurley run sets up 2nd and 1 at the Seattle 24, but then at the 13:12 mark, Poona Ford obliterates Gurley in the backfield and the hosts gain 1.37 expected points. A big, huge, massive deal. It’s not a lot of tackles that save almost a quarter of a touchdown.
  • K.J. Wright’s defense on the next play stalls the Rams’ drive, knocking another 1.16 points off their expected ledger and forcing a field-goal try, which Zuerlein makes, because he’s really good and rarely misses.

Ford and Wright didn’t win the game with their effort. But them, their defensive mates, and the rest of the first quarter’s twists and turns won’t get talked about hardly at all anywhere this weekend, because a dozen other bigger things happened to eclipse them.

In visual form:

About that graph, and the bumpy, happy ride it took us on. I’ve compiled a list of 17 plays, with help from my friends on Twitter, that had a significant impact on the game. Your job is simple! Tell me which one you’re talking about the most, two days later.

Candidates are plentiful.

A) Will Dissly’s fortuitous 38-yard reception to set up Tyler Lockett. Benefit to Seattle: WPA +7.5 percent and EPA +3.13 points.

B) Lockett’s catch of the year candidate. WPA: +6.8 EPA: +2.29. Image forthcoming.

C) Midway through the second quarter, Russell Wilson finds D.K. Metcalf behind the Rams defense for 41 yards andascore . WPA: +13.4 EPA: +4.42

D) Jadeveon Clowney relieves Todd Gurley of the ball deep in Seattle territory. Seahawks gain WPA of 14.1 percent while Rams lose 4.18 EPA. I’m not trying to sway the vote, but this was a big moment in a game replete with them.

E) Pete Carroll makes the fateful decision to kick a 48-yard field goal on 4th and 1 from the LA 30. Jason Myers misses, costing 2.99 EPA to the Seahawks and setting the Rams up for a final drive of the half with 1:34 left to play.

F) Touchdown Rams right before halftime, making it 14-13 Seattle. The scoring play itself boosted LA’s WPA 12.7 points and their EPA another 2.36. The whole drive, and its timing, changed the game.

More than enough drama for a full game already, except it’s just halftime. Deep breath.

G) On the Rams’ second play from scrimmage of the new half, an obvious false start goes uncalled and Gerald Everett turns 2nd and 15 into 1st and 10 in Seahawks territory with a 30-yard pitch-and-run. The play adds 10.1 percentage points of win probability and 2.53 expected points. (It eventually leads to a Gurley end-zone waltz and a 20-14 lead for the visitors.)

H) David Moore puts the Seahawks back on top 21-20 at 5:50 of the third with his nifty 10-yard touchdown scamper. It’s worth 2.09 EPA and 6 points of WPA. It’s also the third lead change.

I) The Rams score five plays later to retake the lead. Again, Everett, again for 32 yards, again setting the stage for Gurley a play later, again worth WPA of 10.9 and EPA of 3.97. Everett owned the Seahawks secondary Thursday night. He’s maybe the player of the game, if that kick doesn’t sail wide right.

J) But after the touchdown, Al Woods denies Jared Goff at the goal line, and instead of one point or two, the Rams come away with zero. By how much did the Seahawks win again? Woods is an unsung hero of this squad. (Is he 2019’s Clinton McDonald? You tell me.)

K) For a while it looked like Wilson’s 30-yard lob to Rashaad Penny, which netted 13.8 points of WPA and 3.02 EPA because it came on third down, might be the play of the game. But the drive fizzled and Seattle came away with only a field goal. (“Only a field goal? John, did you even watch the final minute? Field goals are pretty useful!”)

L) Not even three minutes later, again on third down, Brandin Cooks and Shaquill Griffin fight all the way downfield, only to see Cooks come away with the football and an extra 3.01 EPA for his team. Rams also get three. Still a lot of game left. But so much of it hinged on every third-down snap.

M) During Seattle’s long touchdown drive that ate up 6:51 of clock, an incomplete first-down pass by Wilson was canceled by a dubious roughing the passer penalty on Clay Matthews. Though it was worth only 1 point of EPA, it set the Seahawks up on the Rams 25 with a new set of downs.

N) And Seattle needed every down it could get. Chris Carson put the Seahawks back on top again with his fourth-down heart-attack bobblehands TD catch. A whopping 30.3 points of WPA changed hands from the bad guys to the good guys. 3.99 EPA too. Do not imagine if he’d dropped it. Stop. Don’t.

O) We’re running out of letters. What the hell, game? But now we arrive at the pinnacle of Tedric Thompson’s young career. His miracle-of-concentration pick looked like the game-winner at the time. It was the second-biggest WPA swing of the night, at 18.5 points, but it would finish fifth, because still to come were two explosive pass receptions and the fateful final kick.

P) When Wilson’s keeper on the final third down went sour and he pitched it to Lockett for an eight-yard loss, it only registered as a 2.14 swing in EPA but it reduced Seattle’s win probability from 100 percent in case of a conversion to the much less than 100 percent that comes with punting.

Q) I’m gonna lump the whole last drive together. Different models placed the Rams’ win probability anywhere around 12 to 21 percent, starting on their own 7, down a single point, with no timeouts. Six medium and short completions later, Lee Sharpe, from the tweet above, had pegged LA for an 85.7 percent chance to prevail as Zuerlein lined up for the game-winning field goal.

It was a game-winner. Just not in the way the kicker intended.

You deserve some moving pictures.

No! Some real ones.

Now you get to speak your mind. Another way to phrase the question: if someone were to retell the big moments of this game, what’s the first thing they would mention besides the missed kick? I’m genuinely interested to find out.


Besides the game-deciding kick, which play would you begin with in an effort to retell the story of Seahawks 30, Rams 29?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    Defense limits the Rams to 6 points on their first two drives
    (63 votes)
  • 0%
    Will Dissly makes a 38-yard acrobatic catch to set up the next acrobatic catch
    (6 votes)
  • 39%
    TYLER LOCKETT TOUCHDOWN, impersonating Doug Baldwin with the toe-tapping
    (478 votes)
  • 2%
    (27 votes)
  • 2%
    Jadeveon Clowney clowns Todd Gurley, steals ball and probably points
    (35 votes)
  • 6%
    Carroll opts to kick on 4th and 1 from the 30; missed FG sets Rams up before halftime
    (80 votes)
  • 0%
    Rams get the benefit of the calls on their first scoring drive of the second half
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    (0 votes)
  • 6%
    Al Woods tackles Jared Goff on the two-point conversion try
    (78 votes)
  • 0%
    Big third-down conversion to Rashaad Penny keeps scoring drive alive
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Clay Matthews is flagged for roughing Wilson; Seahawks would score the game’s last points six plays later
    (11 votes)
  • 15%
    (191 votes)
  • 14%
    The Tedric Redemption, which almost didn’t matter
    (177 votes)
  • 5%
    Seahawks fail to run out the clock, giving the Rams one last chance, which, phew
    (73 votes)
1224 votes total Vote Now

And don’t be a coward. Justify your choice in the comments.