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Cigar Thoughts, Game 13: Seahawks get rolled up, cured, and smoked by Rams

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The Los Angeles Rams kept their playoff hopes alive with a monumental 28-12 win over the Seattle Seahawks, who fall to 10-3.

Seattle Seahawks v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The Seahawks and Rams have had a weird, uncomfortable rivalry over the years. Ever since realignment, one of these two teams has generally been pretty good but they never seem to be great at the same time. There have been a litany of close games between the teams but very few that have ever meant anything long-term to either franchise. Even when the Seahawks were bodying the rest of the league between 2012-2015, and the Rams were sucking taint under Jeff Fisher, the games were almost always nail-biters. And not pretty ones, either. The Rams have always seemed to find a way to shove bamboos under the Seahawks’ fingernails.

Even when Seattle won it all in 2013, they needed a miracle play from Golden Tate to salvage a gross 14-12 win over the Rams in their worst game of that season. Same goes for the Earl Thomas goal-line hatchet job to save a game where Seattle played terribly. Then there was the poop egg, among a handful of other uncomfortable matchups that left us feeling worse than before, win or lose. Now, the first Seahawks-Rams showdown this year was one of the great games of the 2019 NFL season, launching Seattle onto a path that led to their gilded position tonight (momentarily place-holding the #1 seed in the NFC). It was Seattle’s first win against a solid team all year and precipitated not only a 7-1 Seahawks run, but a 3-5 Rams skid.

Still, despite all that, the specter of Los Angeles’ 42-7 drubbing at Seattle in 2017 loomed large, as did their concurrent sweep of the 2018 season series. If we’re honest with ourselves, even that win earlier this season surprised most of us. I don’t know about you, but winning on Greg Zuerlein’s missed kick in October didn’t do much to assuage my fears about how the ‘Hawks match up with this Rams team. That 42-7 game had a particularly dramatic effect on the franchise psyche; a team that prides itself in almost literally never getting blown out suffered a beyond humiliating defeat to a rookie coach in what was supposed to be the biggest home field advantage in the league. It would be silly to look at these teams now and, despite recent performances, not be concerned that the Rams just significantly outmatch the Seahawks in a number of meaningful ways.

To me, that game had a way of carving a level of roster inferiority into this franchise that hadn’t been experienced in the better part of a decade. Maybe I’m overstating it. I dunno. What I do know is the Rams came out and whipped the Seahawks’ ass like a scout team tonight.

Seattle received the opening kickoff and, to be fair, starting things off with a nice cadence on their first drive. Their best play, however, might also have been their most damaging. On the fifth snap of that possession, Rashaad Penny caught a Russell Wilson pass on a slick screen play and scooted for 16 yards to continue his recent surge. Sadly, he appeared to suffer a significant knee injury while being dragged to the turf from behind and wouldn’t return. It was one of 4 first downs on the drive, a direct result of pass-first play-calling that seemed to have Seattle in a comfortably assertive position. Unfortunately for the good guys, Wade Phillips drew up a gorgeous stunt-blitz that left a defender running free at an unprotected Wilson. Even though Tyler Lockett was open at the sticks, Russ never had a chance to find him, instead turtling up to accept the drive-killing sack. Still, they had gained enough yards for Jason Myers to boot a kick through the uprights for a 3-0 lead.

It was all downhill from there.

The Rams came out on their first drive looking like the 2017 version that throttled the ‘Hawks in Seattle. They ran a potent combination of misdirection and hurry-up that never let the Seahawks get settled. The visitors spent the whole possession scrambling, trying desperately to get the right guys on the field and communicate assignments while their hosts calmly executed a precise early game-plan. You could tell from the jump that Seattle wasn’t ready for this game and I guess I don’t know where else to point the finger than at the coaches.

The Sean McVay offense that seemed so unsurmountable these last couple of years was back in a big way tonight, continuing the momentum they created during their blowout win last week. The Seahawks looked totally lost on defense, especially when they lost Tyler Higbee on a 3rd down double-move for big yardage down to Seattle’s 1. And while the Seahawks scampered around trying to figure out who was supposed to be on the field, the Rams scurried up to the line of scrimmage and let Malcolm Brown waltz in for a TD with Seattle forced to stick with undersized pass-defense personnel. A first round knockdown from a coaching perspective. It was beautiful, really. 7-3 LA.

The Seahawks responded by running it three times in a row and punting.

I don’t know to what degree momentum actually does exist in the NFL but there’s no team it seems to affect more than the Rams. When things go bad for this team, they do so in a hurry. But when they’re clicking... hoo boy. Such was the case tonight. Los Angeles wasted no time slicing up Seattle’s overmatched defense for another touchdown, leaning heavily on Robvert Woods to pick up two first downs and the eventual score while Seattle tried desperately to get the right people on the field. 14-3 Rams, after their first two drives covered 20 plays and 160 yards.

All of a sudden, the Seattle Seahawks found themselves facing a drive of monumental importance. I know that Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll have an amazing relationship and, as a result, are already among the winningest QB-HC combos in league history. That said, there still seems to be a tension between the type of football that Carroll wants to play and the type of football that best suits Wilson’s skills. To Pete’s (and Brian Schottenheimer’s) credit, they leaned on Russ for this suddenly crucial possession. In response, Wilson whipped a series of completions around, getting the ‘Hawks up to midfield before facing a dubious 4th & 1 after the refs robbed Tyler Lockett of about 54” on a sharp 3rd down slant.

Carroll, who has been (frustratingly) the most conservative 4th down coach in the NFL this year, decided to keep his offense on the field (woo!). Furthermore, he even elected to put the ball in Wilson’s hands (WOO!). On that play, Russ looked right and zipped a pass to Malik Turner who was covered well by Jalen Ramsey. The throw hit Turner in the hands but he couldn’t bring it in and the Rams took over. It was, essentially, the end of the game. To be honest, I loved the call— y’all know I’m almost always in favor of going for it on 4th & short if your QB rules and the Seahawks’ QB rules. And he did everything right. Right read, right pass. Drop. I like Turner, and he’s had some nice moments this year, but I just don’t understand making him your primary read on 4th down when you’ve got Lockett, DK Metcalf, and Josh Gordon in the stables. Hard to imagine any of those guys dropping that pass. Silly.

As lopsided as the game was up until that point, that was still as close as Seattle would get all night. The lead would stretch to 21-3 after a Cooper Kupp TD and Seattle could only lean on a Quandre Diggs pick-six and another Myers FG for the rest of their scoring. That’s right— the Seahawks offense, which has been fairly prolific this season, failed to record a touchdown.

The blow-by-blow account from here isn’t necessary. Diggs jumping a route for a defensive TD and corralling another interception on the following drive were the closest things to highlights Seattle would offer. I mean, DK Metcalf caught a gorgeous contested pass for 35 yards on 3rd & 22 in the 4th quarter and Josh Gordon snagged a 21-yard missile on 4th & 18 but neither did much to affect Seattle’s chances of winning. Just a couple of cool plays I guess. Oh yeah, Rasheem Green blocked a field goal too. Those were more than outweighed by a crushing open drop by Jacob Hollister on 3rd down and a seemingly never-ending series of first downs by the Rams. Honestly, Seattle is pretty fortunate they didn’t lose by 30. They were the clearly inferior team tonight and their ineptitude was reflected in the 28-12 final score.

SMOKE RINGS

~The game got off to such a beautiful start from a play-calling perspective, with an uptempo, pass-first rhythm that immediately manifested yards and first downs on the initial possession. Then, after that sack snuffed the opening drive out, they settled back into an unimaginative vanilla offense with almost no motion, no misdirection— just completely void of creativity. It was gross. Don’t know what happened.

~It didn’t help that Russell Wilson played his worst game of the season tonight. It looked like he was viewing his reads through a telescope; completely locked in on his first reads and slow to identify his check downs. That hesitancy was caused and exacerbated by the type of relentless pressure we’ve gotten used to seeing from the Rams over the years. Wilson took 5 sacks, completing 22 of 36 passes for 245 yards, no touchdowns, and a pick on their last play of the game.

Just a bad outing against a defense that has been pretty vulnerable this year; a far cry from the virtuoso performance he had against them in the Emerald City back in October. And, if we’re being brutally honest, Wilson has been just a mite better than league average over the last month. Sure, we can point to a couple big-time drops but he looked jittery and, dare I say, unprepared for this game. Replays showed a half-dozen sacks/incompletions where Seattle receivers were open, and open early. It’s like his instincts totally left him today. Sucks. Wilson has been amazing this season, probably the second best quarterback in the league, if we’re being real. But the MVP is out the window now, barring a monstrous finish and a complete collapse from Lamar Jackson. Just as well, probably saves us some cap room. Still, be nice if Russ kicked whatever’s been plaguing him recently.

~With Rashaad Penny out, the full burden of backfield production fell on Chris Carson tonight. And maybe that would’ve mattered with a different game flow. But with the Rams establishing an 18-point lead 4 drives into the game, his effect on the outcome was significantly diminished. He did fine with the opportunities given, turning 15 carries into 71 yards and adding 15 more on 3 catches but none of it moved the needle. With Penny purportedly out for a while, it’s all up to him from here on out. I’m not worried, but it means Seattle is one injury away from a desolate backfield. Maybe that’s a good thing. Idk. Let Russ cook.

~Tyler Lockett is officially in a funk. I get that San Francisco’s defense is exceptional, and that he got hurt late in that game and was slow for the Philly contest. And I totally understand that he was laid low with the flu against the Vikings so I can talk myself into excusing the goose egg that week. But, with a game flow dictating pass, he was only able to turn 6 targets into 4 catches and 41 yards. That gives him a grand total of 9 catches for 115 yards and no scores on 17 targets over the last 4 games. pedestrian to be sure. I’m certain the ailments have something to do with the decline, and Wilson hasn’t been particularly sharp either, but if this team is gonna go as far as they’re capable of going, these two are gonna need to get their shit together.

In the meantime, DK Metcalf has established himself as the #1 receiver on this offense. He had another team-leading performance tonight, pacing the squad in targets (6), catches (6), and yards (78). He is Wilson’s go-to right now, which is kinda bonkers given how young and raw he is. Pretty exciting.

Josh Gordon runs the best routes on this team and it isn’t close. I really hope Seattle signs him to an extension and lets him and Wilson get comfortable with each other. His footwork is so precise, and his tools are so superfluous that there’s no reason he can’t excel in Seattle. Just 2 catches for 34 yards on 5 targets tonight, but that lack of efficiency wasn’t on him. He’s very, very good.

Jacob Hollister has been something of a hero in Will Dissly’s absence but his performance tonight was defined by his back-breaking 3rd down drop down 21-3. That unofficially sealed the deal for a team prone to amazing comebacks. It was an inexcusable drop and I’m sure he’d tell you the same. 4 catches for 34 yards on 6 targets tonight but, man... woof.

I don’t understand why you would ever throw a ball to David Moore or Malik Turner when you can throw it to Lockett, Metcalf, or Gordon instead. 2 catches for 25 yards on 5 targets for those two. I don’t mind them if they’re wide open, or the best choice out of four reads, but ever involving them over the aforementioned three WRs as a primary route is just weird to me.

~The Seahawks defense sucked wallaby rectum in the first half, allowing the Rams to look as inevitable as they ever did during their heyday over the last two years. They stepped up with a few stops and a couple turnovers in the second half but with the offense sputtering, those early 3 TDs were just too much to overcome. The pass rush was entirely non-existent for the second straight game and it appeared as the the Seahawks only had 10 men on the field the way that Jared Goff diced them up. Felt like someone was open on every single play. Just not much to say about the D aside from how fucking good Quandre Diggs is. He now has 3 INTs, a fumble forced, a fumble recovered, and has caught a half-dozen bodies in this first 4 games with the ‘Hawks. If this team does end up making a run, we’ll point to his acquisition as a major reason why.

Look, for as bad as this game was it honestly doesn’t change much. Yes, the Niners won an all-timer of a shootout against the Saints to move back into first place but they still have to come to Seattle to close out the season. Meanwhile, the Seahawks’ next two games are against teams skidding into the ether, with the Panthers having lost 5 straight and the Cardinals losing 6 straight. There’s no reason to believe the ‘Hawks can’t be 12-3 heading into that final game against San Francisco in Seattle with the decision, a first round bye, and potentially home field advantage in the balance. I’ll take those odds every time.

10-3. Shitty game, still a great season. This game slightly dims Seattle’s positioning for a Super Bowl run but doesn’t dramatically alter their trajectory. They control their own destiny but in order to do that, they’ll have to play a hell of a lot better than they did tonight.

Onward, upward. Go ‘Hawks.

Jacson on Twitter | Cigar Thoughts Hub | Cigar Thoughts Facebook

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My dude at Seattle Cigar Concierge hooked me up with an absolute stunner of a box from Arturo Fuente. These Rosados are so damn smooth I almost feel like I wasted one on tonight’s stinker. I watched the game at my friends Vishal and Rachna’s palatial home and they were kind enough to keep me completely imbibed with the Glenlivet 12 throughout. I gotta say- a nice lil combo. Both so easy to consume. Too easy when your team is getting thumped...

Once again, I am STOKED about our cigar partnership this year. One of our readers has the plug on some insane stogies has offered them to Cigar Thoughts readers for 20% off. These are high-end sticks, and among the most enjoyable I’ve ever smoked. To get the hookup, just email SeattleCigarConcierge@gmail.com. They are carrying over 70 cigar brands with many rare releases, including Davidoff, OpusX, and Padron. You can also hit him up on Twitter: @SeattleCigars

The 2019 season of Cigar Thoughts is also proud to be sponsored by Fairhaven Floors and Brandon Nelson Partners.