Neanderball, Week 5: The Rams

Hi everybody, and welcome back to Neanderball, the column where I, a humble football caveman with a rewind button on his remote (alias: Rocko "Thumbs" DiCaveo), attempt to figure out why our offense spat out the results it did. No special experience or education, I just love the Hanford Reactors Seattle Seahawks, our atomic-green alternate uniforms, and talking about football.

I try to keep it light on any football terms more esoteric than "blitz" (not that I know many), but in the spirit of this column, if anyone wants to know what I mean by anything I write here, including the word "blitz", go right ahead and ask in the comments. Answers to every question will go into a glossary at the bottom of ensuing Neanderball articles to let future ignoramuses off the hook, so fire away! It’s basically for charity.

The Ps and Rs in the drive headings indicate sequences of runs and passes, with commas denoting first downs. Plays in brackets were called back due to penalties, and quarterback scrambles are counted as passing plays.

General Thoughts

A lot of people somehow managed to talk themselves pre-game into thinking the Rams were a worse team than the Seahawks. They’re not, or if they are, they still play in an extremely lethal manner. In no other game except against the Saints this year has the contest felt so electric, every play so important. Good football teams have an energy and a purpose to them that can’t be faked.

Aaron Donald is the monster under the bed of the Seahawks offense. It’s impossible to emphasize just how many of our plays he single-handedly wrecked, both passing and running, even if that Godzilla-esque performance may not always be reflected by the stats.

Untested O-line acolyte Jamarco Jones filled in for injured DJ Fluker for most of the game, and was basically unremarkable, i.e. he was never the one standing over the dead body of one of our failed plays, trying to look innocent. This is a fantastic development because it suggests Jones could perhaps move to left guard - see the tire fire detailed below that is 2019 Mike Iupati. Frankly, the more I looked for Jones, the more I saw a guy who on almost every play did such a textbook job of blocking that your eyes skate right over it to the drama unintentionally created by other Seattle players.

Seattle shot clock management seemed much better than usual this week; the Seahawks got to the line with at least five seconds on the ticker more often than not. As a result, they had the chance to do some cool things, like catch LA with twelve men on the field and fake the hard count to get the Rams’ pass rush to jump offsides.

You know what kills clock even better than three runs in a row? Getting a first down. After watching us march it up and down the field with, if not quite impunity, comfortable regularity for most of the game, the ineffectual nature of our attempt to ice the game after Tedric’s interception stuck out like Carrie at a high school prom. Our philosophy on that point may need a rethink. Unless....for those not already dead-set that Schotty is bad, there's an argument to be made, and which I make at the bitter end of this article, that what looks like stupid, uncreative, stone-age Seahawks Carrollball might actually have been a careful set-up for a surprising knockout punch on third down, one that we just didn't execute well. I leave the quandary to you, dear readers.

Compared to the Cardinals, the Rams didn’t really stack the line of scrimmage with a lot of defenders. With the Cards, especially late-game they were bringing the house (six-plus rushers) every passing down to try to generate some pressure. McVay (rightly) put a lot more trust in his front four to get it done, which makes Wilson’s ability to find open receivers even more impressive.

There’s going to be a lot of talk about Carroll’s choice to attempt a 48-yard field goal instead of going for it on 4th and 1 at the bottom of the first half. As my Twitter feed can verify, I was in favor of going for it at the time, but even then I didn’t think it was an easy call. After reviewing the tape, man, was our O-line ever getting sonned by the Rams, passing and rushing plays both, and especially on the plays immediately preceding the decision to kick. If Carroll felt he couldn’t trust the blocking (fair) and further, felt Myers was a safe bet from 48 (and maybe he is, it was a bad snap and we have a sample size of three), I totally get the decision to try and make it a two-score game going into the half. What we absolutely can’t do is (i) assume our blocking would have allowed the Hawks to pick up that yard if they’d gone for it, or (ii) get superstitious and cast the blame for the Rams’ two ensuing touchdowns at the end of the first half and top of the second on Carroll’s choice. Our very average defense allowed those TDs to McVay (one of the league’s best offensive coordinators), who made adjustments that neutralized the Seahawks pass rush and consequently allowed the GoffBot to reboot.

I like Carroll’s aggression with the challenge flags. I won’t even try to justify it rationally. Always compete, Pete.


Watching carefully weekly as I’m now doing, certain trends begin to emerge. I’ll put those here, with the caveat that they may come across as a little repetitive.

Dissly, for all his brilliance as a receiver, remains an increasingly conspicuous liability when blocking, which is surprising given his college reputation. He’s only playing his ninth career game and he does make some reasonably good blocks, so I’m not panicking…but I am concerned, and no longer doubting what I’m seeing.

Ifedi, meanwhile, is beyond concern. He is, now in his fifth season, a hopeless right tackle. He wasn’t a villain this game solely because his screwups rarely cost the Hawks seriously. We need a new right tackle next season. That said, don’t laugh, I’d be very happy to give Ifedi a second chance at right guard, where he’d have more help, fewer premier pass rushers to deal with, and fewer tough decisions to make.


As you all know from last week, there are no heroes in Neanderball and even a win needs scapegoats. Why is this? Thing one, this column got its start as a reddit post attempting to assign blame for our playoff offensive failures against the Cowboys in a rational, evidence-based way. Looking for members of the Seahawks organization to tar and feather is in Neanderball’s deepest DNA. Thing two, it’s more fun than lavishing praise on people.

Now, how do we make villains of your favourite Seahawks players? Excellent question, friends, especially after last week’s controversial selections (I regret nothing). It isn’t based on their career achievements to date, their value to the team going forward, or even whether they did some great things during this game. No, it’s about which players made the most and/or most egregious mistakes. That’s it. But enough talk. Without further ado:

Mike Iupati has had a long and illustrious career in the NFL trenches. He was an All Pro and a four-time Pro Bowler, and his legacy is secure. He’s also, as far as I can tell in 2019, washed. Put another way, he looks like someone who’s showing the physical limitations imposed by a long and illustrious career in the NFL trenches.

He wasn’t necessarily a bad acquisition considering how hard it is to find any talented linemen in free agency, and we’re not overpaying him…but boy, he most definitely should not part be part of our plans for 2020. I hope we find a way to bench him as soon as possible. Caveat: When Donald temporarily came out of the game late in the 3rd quarter, Iupati suddenly looked serviceable again. I don’t think that absolves Iupati of sin - Donald chose to pick on him, and it was for a reason - but he might not need to be jettisoned into space as I initially feared. Might. Maybe. Something to keep an eye on. If I noticed Iupati being abused, so did the Browns defensive coordinator.

Brian Schottenheimer. But not for the reasons you’re hearing on Twitter. There are many parts to an offensive coordinator’s job, and some of them Schotty performed superlatively. I’m happy he’s our OC, and I’m unperturbed by his pass/run ratios or "failure to unleash Wilson" or whatever. No, the real issue with Schotty on Thursday is that he clearly came into this game thinking he could scheme around Aaron Donald like he would any other pass rusher. This was a grievous error. Aaron Donald demands a double team on any play where he lines up somewhere from which he’s capable of causing havoc, and the idea of running any play in his direction is foolhardy in the extreme.

Kudos to Schotty for recognizing this and adapting at least somewhat after the first quarter, which is not coincidentally what sparked our second quarter offensive explosion. But it wasn’t enough. Lawrence Taylor used to be represented on play charts of opposing teams with a little red "56" instead of the usual x’s and o’s, and Donald deserves the same treatment.

Jaron Brown, I suppose. Fumbles are usually such random occurrences that I hate singling a player out for something that probably won’t happen again all season. But we only get, on average, 12 drives a game, and that means Brown single-handedly sunk 8% of our scoring opportunities with a single bungle. So shame on you, Jaron Brown. Shame. Moving on.

Drive 1, Q1 15:00 (Seahawks 0, Rams 0) - R(P)P

1st and 10, Seahawks line up in what I think of as their "fuck you, I’m running the football" formation - eight blockers packed shoulder-to-shoulder on the line of scrimmage - and the Rams respond with what I assume is their "no, fuck you, you’re not getting past the line of scrimmage" formation. Carson picks up 2, which is about how that’s going to go. 2nd and 8, the Rams run a stunt on the left side of our line (two pass rushers switch the gaps they’re attacking at the last second), and Iupati doesn’t recognize it in time - he also looks tentative with his lateral movement. Some blame also goes to Carson, who leaks out directly past the free rusher instead of seeing the problem and picking him up. Still, Wilson makes the heads-up play and fires it to Carson for another 2 yards. Iupati also draws a flag for holding the free rusher on the way in, making it 2nd and 18 instead of 3rd and 6. Wilson has an adequate amount of time in the pocket, cuts left to get a clear throwing lane, sees Jaron Brown 15 yards downfield, delivers a beauty…and Brown fumbles it away to the Rams. Enough said.

Drive 2, Q1 12:24 - (Seahawks 0, Rams 3) PRR, RPP

1st and 10 and I don’t understand what I’m looking at. Five Rams on the line of scrimmage opposite six Seattle blockers, with Dissly on the left. The middle Rams player is lined up more or less across from Britt, which by all accounts should leave one rusher for Fluker and one for Ifedi. So don’t ask me why Dissly and Brown block nobody, Fluker takes Britt’s guy, Ifedi takes Fluker’s guy, and Dante Fowler is allowed to run screaming directly at Russell Wilson. 2nd and 10. This run play feels like it could have gone for 10. The Rams crowd seven near the line of scrimmage. Dissly lines up left, chips his guy, and then gets out into the second level to block a linebacker. Iupati and Brown seal off the other left-hand D-lineman, everyone else hits their blocks, Carson hits the hole…and Dissly’s second-level block geometry isn’t quite right, like a smudge in the pentagram you drew to summon a demon. Carson runs into Dissly’s back and just like that, it’s all over. 3rd and 6. Another really elegant run play, if I do say so myself. Iupati’s responsibility is to pull and run to the right to block Aaron Donald behind the line, but Donald pulls a spin move inside the pocket to shake Iupati and stay on Carson’s tail. Fortunately, everyone else makes their blocks and Carson’s quick through the hole. He has one man to beat for the first down and he doesn’t just beat him, he tramples Eric Weddle like a rampaging circus elephant. 1st and 10.

1st and 10, the Seahawks line up with no less than seven heavy units upfront against five for the Rams, one of whom isn’t even that close to the line. I’m sure what happens next has something to do with the zone-blocking scheme we run, in which I understand there are certain rules for who blocks who. Either the rules are stone stupid or our O-linemen are, because the same thing happens as happened on the last first down: Ifedi leaves a rusher free in order to make an iffy lateral block on a guy in the middle, and mostly just manages to get in Carson’s way. Aaron Donald teleports two feet to the left when the ball is snapped like a video game glitch, embarrassing Iupati and cutting off Carson’s intended route. The unblocked backside rusher fills the cut-back lane and that’s all she wrote. 2nd and 13. The Seahawks pass, leaving Carson in behind the five linemen to pick up any blitzing Rams. This was a good plan, a fine plan, but it didn’t account for Aaron Donald, who to paraphrase Dan Carlin, looks like he came down from a higher league. Donald neatly sidesteps Fluker at full speed (!), then blasts directly past Carson like he’s running through traffic cones. The traffic cone holding the football manages to throw it away just in time. 3rd and 13. The Hawks empty their backfield, sending five receivers out to run routes while five blockers stay in to protect against four pass rushers. Should work great, right? The numbers mean two Hawks will have the opportunity to double-team the biggest threat, i.e. Donald. Except we don’t. We inexplicably leave him one on one with Ifedi, and Ifedi earns part marks for not getting beat outright. He does, however, get bulldozed directly into Russell Wilson, who calmly unloads the checkdown throw to Dissly. Punt.

Drive 3, Q1 4:55 (Seahawks 0, Rams 6) - RP, PR, RP, P

1st and 10. The drive starts with another run, and for those prone to complain about this sort of thing, I must say, it was another really well-designed run. Hawks blockers all have their responsibility handled, and I can see it unfolding to the right like a particularly toxic green butterfly emerging from its cocoon, with not only a good hole but two blockers preceding Carson into said hole like an honor guard. There’s only one Rams defender at the second level, and my sense is that this run could have gone for 20. One of those honor guards was Dissly, though, and he makes a bad decision to double-block someone an O-lineman already had well under control. By the time Dissly realizes his mistake and shifts to block Reeder (the second-level defender) his leverage is all wrong and Reeder’s already closing the hole. Carson sends that dish back to the kitchen and cuts left instead, dragging Aaron Donald for 5 yards we really didn’t deserve. 2nd and 5, Seattle goes to an empty set and the Rams only rush three. All five receivers run 5 yards to the sticks and turn around, which seems either really dumb or really smart, and I can’t figure out which. Wilson to Willson for a first down, in any event.

1st and 10. The Rams send four, the Hawks leave five in to block plus Carson to pick up blitzers. Donald is double-teamed (thank you Schotty) and Wilson hits Metcalf for 5. 2nd and 5 and it’s a fake handoff to Carson, run by Wilson! I love it. I was fooled, the Rams were fooled, top shelf stuff. It’s designed for Metcalf and Dissly to block the two Rams required to spring Wilson for the first down. Metcalf mostly hits his block but doesn’t quite finish…and Dissly altogether whiffs. Wilson for 4 yards, but the refs inexplicably spot him 5 and a 1st down. Considering how much help they gave the Rams later, I won’t complain.

1st and 10. The Seahawks line up in a tight formation suggesting run, and the Rams read that, too. It was Iupati’s job to block Donald, and he did not. This time, the attempt by Iupati was so weak that I’m not even giving Iupati credit for wrestling with the angels. Dude just blew his block. 2nd and 11. The Rams bring four on the pass rush, the Hawks keep five linemen to block, and this is the first time I notice Jamarco Jones’ jersey number in the game replacing Fluker. He did his job on this play, as did the other linemen. Wilson uncorks a 38-yard pass to Dissly, vividly illustrating why his blocking hasn’t gotten him benched.

1st and 10. This is the first time the Rams bring the house on a blitz, sending all six defenders on the line of scrimmage plus the two linebackers from the second level. I wonder if they thought Carson was running the ball. If so, they’re badly mistaken. Eight Seahawks remain behind to give Wilson a palatial pocket. He has all day, he takes all day, and eventually flees his palace before throwing under pressure to the back of the endzone, where Lockett makes a touchdown catch that immediately causes everyone to forget Odell Beckham Jr. exists, including Odell’s immediate family.

Drive 4, Q1 0:19 (Seahawks 7, Rams 6) - R(R)P, RPP

1st and 10. The fullback Nick Bellore is in the game, and I can see why they’re going out of fashion. It’s just hilariously obvious when you see his number that there’s about to be a running play, and sure enough. It’s a toss play for Penny to the left, and credit to Bellore, he knows his trade, hammering his defender cleanly. Jaron Brown’s defender fights through his block and was in a great position to tackle Penny, if Penny was slow. But Penny is not slow, and the run goes for 8. If anyone’s interested, Iupati’s block also crumbled uncomfortably fast. 2nd and 2, Jamarco Jones false start. 2nd and 7, Wilson makes good use of a hard count to draw the Rams offside for a free play, and takes full advantage of that and a clean pocket to hit a long bomb to Jaron Brown.

1st and 10. Penny’s in, and in my opinion picks the wrong way forward, vanishing into a violent dogpile of linemen. 2nd and 9. The Rams bring four, and I notice the Hawks have once again double-teamed Donald. Wilson has time but can’t find anybody, and when he tries to scramble he doesn’t get far before Donald finds him. 3rd and 8, Donald draws another double team and this time splits it like a homicidal lumberjack…at which point Iupati blatantly mugs him, off-setting a hold by the Rams secondary that would have given us a first down. 3rd and 8 again. The Hawks split out four wide and leave Carson in to block. The Rams bring five, and once again I feel like the Hawks’ O-line/defensive coaches are not making good blocking decisions. Aaron Donald is on the far right of the five the Rams send and an obvious candidate for a double-team. Instead, Iupati and Britt double-team somebody and Jones takes Britt’s guy, leaving Carson to come up and fill the gap by blocking the guy who started in front of Jones, and Ifedi to block Donald alone. This was clearly the plan and I don’t like it. Donald beats Ifedi and flushes Wilson out to his right, where Wilson tried to force it to a well-covered David Moore. No joy, punt.

Drive 5, Q2 10:54 (Seahawks 7, Rams 6) - P, RRR, RP

1st and 10. The Seahawks show up with a run-heavy formation with two tight ends lined up to the right, and the Rams respond with an eight-man box. It’s actually play action, but the Rams aren’t fooled, and four members of the aforementioned box have dropped into coverage. Donald is once again double-teamed, this time by Iupati and Britt, and it’s not enough. Donald beats Iupati outside with a speed rush, forcing Wilson to step up. Duane Brown sees what’s happened too late to redirect his defender, who gets a chance to tackle Wilson…but Wilson shakes him off and stays on his feet! He breaks back to his right and uncorks it downfield to Lockett for a big gain.

1st and 10. Same run-heavy look as the last play with two extra blockers on the right side, and now they run it that way. In a nice change of pace, Dissly pancakes his target and, since everyone else also did their job, Carson runs behind Dissly for seven. 2nd and 3. It’s a run to the right, with Dissly responsible for blocking the outside defender while Jones and Ifedi double the inside defender. It’s all quite messy, but the double-team is successful, and in fact when Jones releases to hit somebody on the second level, Ifedi pancakes the initial blockee. Great stuff, right? You’ll never guess which tight end failed to hold his block. 3rd and 2. The following run play is just bodies flying everywhere and it gives me a headache watching it. Sorry, no idea what was supposed to happen and I give up trying to figure it out. Bottom line, not only did Wilson snap it in time to catch the Rams with too many men on the field, but Carson, faced with two unblocked Rams defenders, wrote "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" on their faces. With his cleats. First down twice over.

1st and 10. It all seemed so promising for the first half-second after the snap. Everyone appeared to be doing their jobs and a promising Carson run seemed to be unfolding. And then Clay Matthews solved his Dissly problem by adjusting his grip and sending Dissly flying face-first into the turf, while Ifedi failed to gain the outside leverage necessary to keep his defender from disengaging to make the tackle on Carson. 2nd and 7. The Rams initially seem to be bringing five, but Rams linebacker Samson Ebukam bites on the play action fake to Carson and breaks off his rush to move laterally behind the line to get in position for the run stop. But surprise, fool, it’s a pass, and the Hawks have left no less than eight players in to pass-protect while Metcalf runs his long bomb end zone route. Which he does. And which Wilson hits. Touchdown.

Drive 6, Q2 5:25 (Seahawks 14, Rams 6) - RR, RP, PRR

1st and 10. I’m starting to recognize formations, and familiar plays out of those formations. The Hawks line up two extra blockers to the right again, and again send Carson right. I don’t hate the call. There’s five Rams defenders on the line, and their location leaves five blockers on three defenders in terms of getting Carson to the second level. Two linemen block the leftmost of those three, Ifedi goes one on one with the middle defender, Brockers, while Willson blocks the right-most out of the play and Dissly shoots forward to the second level, successfully sealing off the closest linebacker. And it comes so close to working! You can see where the Red Sea was supposed to part, leaving the nearest defender almost eight yards away from Carson…but Ifedi can’t hold his block on Brockers, who gets one of his enormous bear paws on Carson. 2nd and 7. Same formation with two tight ends lined up right, and another handoff to Carson to the right. This might be the fourth time Schotty has called this (or at least a very similar) play in the last two drives. In a minor variation, Willson draws his outside defender off by appearing to run a flat passing route, while Dissly again shoots out and successfully blocks a linebacker. Ifedi once again does a mediocre job with Brockers, but Carson (i) is moving at roughly the speed of an out-of-control locomotive and (ii) the hole is big enough that I think he cheats away from Brockers a little. First down.

1st and 10. Donald, friendly neighbourhood axe murderer, splits an Iupati/Britt double team, but Carson neatly sidesteps his murderous lunge and carries on with his morning errands. Duane Brown and Lockett hit their blocks, and while Rams defenders are swarming at around the 2nd and 7 mark, see above about Carson’s resemblance to a freight train. He may lack a top-end gear, but his mass at speed is really, really hard to stop cold. 2nd and 3. Here we are again, two tight ends lined up as extra blockers to the right, Carson in the backfield, five Rams defenders on the line, Aaron Donald to the left per usual on these. Another Carson run, naturally. But no! Willson turns inward to block instead of outward, and he, Ifedi, and Jones all pick up a defender. Britt and Iupati double-team Donald, who, after moving around quite a bit earlier in the game, has (probably correctly) decided he’s identified the rottenest seam in the structure he’s been hired to demolish and intends to keep whaling on it until it shatters utterly. Lockett crosses the formation to the right to pick up any extra rusher Dissly would have normally dealt with/run a decoy route, and Dissly…Dissly leaks out, Reeder hot on his trail. Wilson lofts the most perfect touch pass of all time, so perfectly placed it actually grazes Dissly’s face mask. Big effing gain.

1st and 10. Wilson drops back to pass, and on the left side of the line, Donald continues chewing away at Britt/Iupati while Duane Brown picks up Dante Fowler. Wilson receives a very small throwing window before Donald and Fowler both manage to break their blocks by running, essentially, a delayed stunt (unsure whether it was intentional). Fortunately, the Rams have forgotten that Wilson still knows how to run, and the middle is left wide open. 2nd and 4. An inside run to Penny into heavy traffic, utterly reliant on blocking. It’s all man-on-man, and Iupati and Brown don’t get much of a push. Penny correctly decides that the best course of action is to hunker down behind Brown and hope for the best, which turns out to be about 3 yards. 3rd and 1. This should have worked. I swear to God, this should have worked, and I’m saying this watching it for the fifth time. Inside run by Carson, in between Britt and Jones. Britt and Iupati successfully double and seal off a defender to the left. Jones takes advantage of an overly aggressive pass rush by Donald to seal…well, the point is, Donald is out of the play to the right. There’s one linebacker capable of stopping the first-down conversion, and as planned, Britt breaks off from the double team to move to the second level to block that defender…but then, in the space of a single camera frame, everything goes horribly wrong. Carson hesitates on his approach to the hole, and Iupati’s defender has begun to turn Iupati around to get at Carson. On the backside of the play, unnoticed until now, the block Dissly couldn’t quite reach starts to close on the gap with frightening speed…and then, one frame later, Rams defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day, Iupati’s responsibility, has his arms around Carson like a kraken dragging a Spanish galleon under the waves. Other Rams arrive soon after, but Joseph-Day was all it took.

Drive 7, Q3 12:02 (Seahawks 14, Rams 20) - P, RPP

1st and 10. I’ll leave it to others to determine whether we’re looking at a blocking failure by Dissly, or a play designed to look like a blocking failure that would invite a rusher to bite on a shot at Wilson, in turn allowing Wilson to flip it to Dissly for 11. Creativity in the face of incompetence or mad genius. My guess is genius based on Dissly’s visibly apathetic attitude about "missing" the block. Either way, here we are with a first down.

1st and 10. The Seahawks line up in their now-familiar seven-blocker formation with 2 TEs right. The Rams respond with a relatively conservative 5-3 look, and Seattle again tries a run to the right. There’s not nearly enough discussion happening right now about how much Schotty leaned on that formation, and whether it’s because he saw a weakness he wanted to exploit, or whether it represents a more primitive attempt to "establish the run". Here, it fails as multiple Seahawks simply fail to win their blocks, leaving Carson nowhere to go. 2nd and 7. This play represents both cause for panic and cause for optimism. Panic, because the left side of our line continues its dismal showing. Donald throws Iupati around like a blocking dummy, and Brown looks stiff, old, and slow. as the pocket collapses and the Goths sack Rome, aka our $35m quarterback, Jamarco Jones remains totally alone at the line of scrimmage, having fought his defender to a standstill. Big paws on the puppy. 3rd and 13. The Seahawks leave a ton of blockers in to max protect, Donald nearly gets to Wilson anyway, Wilson gets a first-down pass away, but it’s far too low for Jaron Brown to make a play on it. To err is human.

Drive 8, Q3 8:44 (Seahawks 14, Rams 20) - RR, P, PR, P

1st and 10. The play call is an inside run through the Britt-Iupati gap, and this is a frustrating decision. We know what Iupati can’t do, and sure enough his defender uses him as a turnstile. The only reason the play works is because - I kid you not - Iupati is beat so badly that the defender is essentially carried out of the play, and because Carson is able to run for 7 yards with a Rams defender on his back. 2nd and 3. The Seahawks line up in the kind of formation you usually only see when playing Madden with your cousin. They put eight blockers on the line of scrimmage, the Rams counter with a nine-man box, and the Seahawks run it directly into the teeth of that formation anyway. And fucking win. This is the biggest middle finger to analytics I’ve ever seen, but when it works…still, worth noticing that Donald once again obliterates Iupati, and is only out of position to stop Carson because, and I really do believe I’m being fair and objective here, he beat Iupati so badly that his momentum carried him out of Carson’s path.

1st and 10. The Seahawks set up an honest to God deep pass out of their 2 TE Right formation, and plays like this are key to watching the game and not just (sorry nerds) looking at spreadsheets. It’s going into the books as a 12-yard Wilson run, but that’s not what Schotty wanted. I’m sure he also didn’t want Britt and Iupati to get beat by their defenders, forcing Wilson to climb the pocket in the first place, but once Wilson reached the top of Mount Crumpit, it became immediately clear to him that the Rams had once again failed to leave a linebacker near the line of scrimmage to prevent the QB keeper. So the QB kept, first down.

1st and 10. Play action, and thank God Donald bit on the fake handoff to Carson, because it gave Wilson an ocean of room in the backfield to make his preferred throw. 2nd and 1. Seattle sets up for a yard and a cloud of dust with seven blockers. Rams linebacker Samson Ebukam beats our outside blocker Willson just as Carson takes the handoff, but he does so to the inside, and Carson spots the daylight that leaves to the outside and makes a sharp cut in that direction. Credit to cornerback Aqib Talib for seeing this and ripping into the Seattle backfield at high speed with a good angle to bring Carson down before he can turn the corner. Even more credit to Carson for handling this moment, which from an x’s and o’s perspective was about to be a tackle for loss, by stiff-arming Talib into the dirt and picking up the first down anyway.

1st and 10. A quick screen pass to Moore behind the line of scrimmage. I hate screen plays. There are, like, four Rams defenders between Moore and the end zone, and he has two Seattle WRs blocking for him. Really just one, after Lockett throws the most half-assed excuse for a block I’ve ever seen. Credit to Malik Turner for actually giving a care and executing his block. This was just a great individual effort by Moore to juke Marcus Peters out of his shoes, and some bad angles taken by the other two Rams who I thought had a shot at Moore. Touchdown. I still hate screen plays.

Drive 9, Q3 3:07 (Seahawks 21, Rams 26) - PR, RRP, RP(P)P

1st and 10. The Seahawks line up in their 2 TE Right formation, which is what I’m calling it, and which I’m sure to an educated football mind sounds like calling a pickup truck a "Two Seats Big Bucket configuration". The first thing I notice is that Donald’s not in on this play, and sure enough Wilson has the luxury of a clean pocket and plenty of time to look downfield. He finds nobody, but sees that the nature of the blocking has produced a dump truck-sized hole for him to run through. He does so, and credit to Dissly for noticing, following, and catching the lateral Wilson threw him to avoid taking a hit himself. Listen, I understand and respect why the prime directive is for Wilson to avoid any action where he puts himself at unnecessary risk of injury, but boy does it look cowardly as all hell in practice. I can’t help feeling that way, but luckily the chimp section of my mind that has those thoughts is mostly not in control. 2nd and 3. This is a designed Carson run to the left. I note that once again, no Donald and suddenly no catastrophic problems. Dissly is the lead blocker, and like most Dissly blocks, this doesn’t go well (in fairness, he’s the recipient of illegal hands to the face, but also, maybe just be the badder motherfucker for once, Will, and these things won’t happen to you). While Dissly moves his guy, it’s not by much and not very fast, which gives Reeder, one of the three linebackers that the Rams keep at the second level in their usual 5-3 scheme this game, a chance to diagnose the run, find the crease between otherwise-occupied Seattle blockers, and nail Carson, who’s slowed to a crawl in the traffic jam created by Dissly. Carson somehow, I can’t even explain it, stays on his feet, and shows that he’s not just a slugger, physically or mentally. Realizing the road ahead of him is now a lost cause, he decisively reverses field, stiff-arms another defender into irrelevance, outruns two more defenders to the first-down marker, and casually jukes a fourth defender who had him dead to rights before being pushed out of bounds a few yards later. Chris Carson is the last action hero, and while I understand why Seahawks admirers are currently showering Russell Wilson with gold, frankincense, and myrrh, there’s a baby in the adjoining manger who also needs some attention, because the little tyke is fixing to set Jerusalem on fire, and screw the loaves and fishes.

1st and 10. This is a run for Penny. I’m sick of criticizing him and you’re sick of listening to me do so, but to my eye he’s presented with a good but imperfect blocking situation and spends a critical half-second dancing around behind the line looking for the perfect hole to emerge. It does, to be fair, but by then other Rams defenders are breaking on the play and Penny’s swallowed up after a gain of two. 2nd and 8. The Rams bring four, including Donald, who Duane Brown successfully blocks one on one. It’s a screen pass to Penny in the flats (say it with me, now), who makes a guy miss before slipping while attempting to juke the defender that Lockett once again didn’t block. Lockett may be some kind of receiving efficiency god but he is, without a doubt, the most lazy, disinterested blocker I have ever seen. Ever. All-time. 3rd and 7. Donald’s back, and with him goes the integrity of the right side of our line. Wilson is flushed out of the pocket moving right, but Penny has his slow-footed defender beat down the sideline and Wilson sends him a perfect, monster pass.

1st and 10. Dissly once again misses his block, putting Penny in an extremely awkward situation. It’s difficult to tell if anyone else screwed up, because the Rams defender in the backfield did a real number on the timing of that play. 2nd and 8. What a mess. Seahawks O-linemen attempting to cut block gives me Cable PTSD, but as silly and as ineffectual as it looked (and perhaps was), it wasn’t the cause of this play’s failure. Wilson looked right for some kind of immediate pass to Metcalf, and Wilson didn’t like what he saw. Someone screwed up and I don’t know who. 3rd and 7. This is a really interesting play. The first thing to note is that Donald takes a shot at Jamarco Jones and gets stoned (!). The second thing to note is that Rams linebacker Ebukam takes a shot at Ifedi and blasts him back directly into Russell Wilson, who escapes to the left, which when the Rams shift direction to chase him, exposes Iupati’s hold on his defender. The subsequent loss of yards was blamed on Iupati, but the real villain is Germain Ifedi. 3rd and 17. A clear Seahawks passing down, and another good time to evaluate our pass blocking. Jamarco Jones once again shows good technique by making the initial block on Donald, but then when Donald slithers down the line, passing him off to Ifedi instead of getting turned around chasing him. On the other side of center, Iupati fails to do the same with his defender, who he should have passed off to Brown. When Iupati’s back is turned dealing with the rusher who drew him out of position, Dante Fowler goes howling through the newly created gap for a clean shot at Wilson. Donald is working his way through Ifedi at about the same time, and Wilson throws it away. Field goal.

Drive 10, Q4 9:19 (Seahawks 24, Rams 29) - P, RR, PRR, P, RPRP

1st and 10. On the right side of the line, Rams defensive end Clay Matthews runs a stunt on Dissly and Ifedi, which Ifedi is late to recognize. Ifedi goes sprawling on the turf in a vain attempt to stop Matthews, who makes a beeline for Wilson. Russ calmly sidesteps him and hits Lockett for the first down.

1st and 10. Solid run by Carson, who picks up some key blocks from Jones, Britt, and Ifedi. 2nd and 2. The initial read is the hole between Ifedi and Willson, the latter of whom can’t quite keep it open. Carson sees the problem, hits the brakes, and redirects toward the gap between Jones (who got a decent block) and Ifedi. After that, it’s two yards of Lynchian effort with white uniforms draped all over him for Carson to pick up the first down.

1st and 10. Donald nearly beats a Britt-Iupati double-team. Wilson either gets spooked or sees the empty space in the second level and takes off from a clean pocket, picking up 8. 2nd and 2. Brockers pushes Ifedi back into the hole intended for Carson. 3rd and 1. This one is pure chaos but I think I’ve got it figured out. Jones gets shoved backwards at the snap, causing Carson to rethink his initial commitment. He turns on a dime and finds a way forward going to the left.

1st and 10. This one’s on Jones, who’s simply unable to hold his block on defensive tackle Greg Gaines. Wilson’s flushed out to his right, where Clay Matthews makes what the refs deem to be a late hit after Wilson threw it away.

1st and 10. A run to the left, with Brown and Iupati double-teaming Donald and Fant, who was lined up next to Brown, taking a single defender one on one. Sorry to say it, Fant lovers, but Fant loses inside leverage on his block, forcing Carson into a roiling sea of bodies for 2 yards. 2nd and 8. This is a run play where Brockers and Clay Matthews end up in the backfield at the handoff, going full speed and ready for blood. Matthews looks like he was left unblocked intentionally, as his angle is bad and presumably Carson was expected to outrun him. Brockers coming free is likely Ifedi not figuring out who he was supposed to block in time, my evidence being Ifedi running after him like a man whose dog has slipped the leash and is chasing the ice cream truck. Fortunately, Carson’s got moves, and a nifty sidestep at speed leaves Brockers in the dirt. Carson has now reached the line of scrimmage, where he’s moving fast enough that he rips directly past five (!) Rams defenders who should have been able to make the tackle. It takes about half the Rams backfield to bring him down, for a gain of more than 10.

1st and 9. A run to the left, and so many players either miss or lose their blocks that I can’t tell exactly why it didn’t work. 2nd and 11. End zone pass from Wilson to Lockett, uncatchable. Britt did a good job to see Jamarco Jones struggling to contain Donald and come back to assist. 3rd and 11. I really like the idea behind the blocking scheme, here. It’s elegant, if such zword can be used to describe so much bone-shattering force choreographed in such a small space. Iupati pulls to create what should have been a tunnel of green for Carson to run through, but the man he eventually has to block to make that happen is Donald, and Donald takes an axe to that tunnel wall. Carson, upon seeing Donald doing his best "Here’s Johnny!" impression, does what any sane person would do and flees across the formation to the right. Lockett, bless him, actually throws a block and Carson turns the corner. At this point there are five Rams defenders and one Hawks blocker between him and the end zone, so it was less a question of death and more how Carson wanted to meet his fate. He cut sharply, shaming two of them before getting tackled for a gain of 6. 4th and 5. A passing play, with five O-linemen kept in to block four Rams rushers. Pop quiz: which two linemen lost their blocks, requiring Wilson to run for his life? You should know the answers based on the foregoing 7,317 words. If not: Iupati and Ifedi. It may have actually been a blessing in disguise, because as Wilson approaches the line of scrimmage, the Rams defenders in coverage panic about the very real possibility of Wilson jogging into the end zone untouched and abandon their assignments, leaving Carson alone to catch the almost-casual lob pass from Wilson. Touchdown.

Drive 11, Q4 2:08 (Seahawks 30, Rams 29) - RRR

1st and 10. This is it, the post-Tedric interception drive that should have iced the game. Schotty’s intention was clearly to run it down their throat until the clock read zeroes, and as I mentioned at the top of this piece, I think that was a bad idea, because the Rams figured it out, too. On first down, there are ten Rams in the box. We got a good push from the line, but there are just too many defenders to expect serious results. 2nd and 7. This is the same play, for all intents and purposes. 10 Rams are once again in the box, expecting a run. To their credit, our O-line does exactly what Schotty wanted them to, and won. Britt and Jones pancake their blocks, Ifedi and Iupati don’t do great but don’t outright suck, and Willson puts in work. 3rd and 2. Same fucking play, right down to a lone receiver lining up left and motioning mid. 10 Rams in the box. Carson takes the handoff [record scratch]. Schotty took a lot of guff for this play call at the time, with people claiming it was too precious, a stupid gimmick. Here’s the thing. I started writing this article Thursday night, and have since contributed to it from two hotel rooms and three different airport lounges. I mention this to explain that I completely forgot this play call, and so the above-crossed-out text was my genuine expectation based on the slow-motion activity that occurred right up until Wilson kept the ball instead of handing it off to Carson, and the Rams didn’t see this coming either. Every single defender bit on the fake handoff to Carson except for corner Aqib Talib, responsible for setting the right edge, and Marcus Peters, who started on the left side covering Lockett, and followed Lockett to the right side of the formation pre-snap. The instant Wilson pulls the ball back from Carson, he looks back to Lockett, suggesting this play was always meant to be a pitch to Lockett, and not a Wilson keeper. If it was always meant to be a Wilson keeper, there would also be no reason to motion Lockett across the formation, bringing Peters with him. With all this in mind, I think the play should have worked. The timing of Wilson/Lockett was just off. Impossible to say for sure who erred, but I think Lockett might have been a little too deep on his pre-snap motion (he was 9 yards behind the line of scrimmage when Wilson looked for him after the snap), which may have delayed the toss just long enough to allow Peters to get settled on top of Lockett and make the tackle. Which is what occurred, punt.

I never know how to end these things, but they feel like they deserve better than just coming to an abrupt halt, so I’ll say this is Rocko "Thumbs" DiCaveo once again signing off. I’ll be back next week for a review of our war with the Browns. Go Hawks.