Sunday the Seattle Seahawks failed to stay atop of the NFC West, as the loss to the Los Angeles Rams combined with the Arizona Cardinals improbable win over the Buffalo Bills dropped the Hawks all the way to third place in the division. That is, of course, concerning for a team that started the season 5-0 before losing three of four games since the bye week, however, perhaps what is more concerning is the simple fact that Rams coach Sean McVay appears to have their number.
Specifically, since entering the division in 2017 to replace Jeff Fisher, McVay and Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll have gone head to head seven times, and the Rams have now emerged victorious from five of those games. Here is how things have played out between the two teams since Fisher’s firing and McVay’s arrival:
- Week 5 of 2017: Seahawks 16, Rams 10
- Week 15 of 2017: Rams 42, Seahawks 7
- Week 5 of 2018: Rams 33, Seahawks 31
- Week 10 of 2018: Rams 36, Seahawks 31
- Week 5 of 2019: Seahawks 30, Rams 29
- Week 14 of 2019: Rams 28, Seahawks 12
- Week 10 of 2020: Rams 23, Seahawks 16
Now, it’s certainly true that there have been factors that have aided in the Rams success against Seattle during that span. Aaron Donald could easily be listed as factor number one, but the issues against the Rams go far beyond just an inability to block Donald. Over the past three and a half years the Rams defense has flustered and frustrated Russell Wilson at times, but Wilson is Wilson and even in defeat he tends to make plays. However, Jared Goff is, well, he is not Russell Wilson, but against the Seattle defense even he makes plays. Here is how Goff has fared in that same timeframe while facing off against Carroll’s defensive backs.
- Week 5 of 2017: 22 of 47 for 288 yards, 0 TD & 2 INT
- Week 15 of 2017: 14 of 21 for 120 yards, 2 TD & 1 INT
- Week 5 of 2018: 23 of 32 for 321 yards, 1 TD & 2 INT
- Week 10 of 2018: 28 of 39 for 318 yards, 2 TD & 0 INT
- Week 5 of 2019: 29 of 49 for 395 yards, 1 TD & 1 INT
- Week 14 of 2019: 22 of 32 for 293 yards, 2 TD & 2 INT
- Week 10 of 2020: 27 of 37 for 302 yards, 0 TD & 0 INT
Two things jump out from that, the first being that against the Seahawks Goff throws for a lot of yards, but doesn’t necessarily throw for a lot of scores. Secondly, he turns the ball over as often as he helps the offense get it into the end zone. And yet, in spite of the fact that he has 8 touchdown passes and 8 interceptions in those games, he’s got a 5-2 record as a starter against the Hawks since McVay was hired.
That may appear to be a disconnect, but it comes in part because in those seven games the Rams offense has had little trouble finding the end zone on the ground. Here’s how many touchdowns Rams runners have scored against the Hawks defense during that three year span:
- Todd Gurley: 10 rushing touchdowns
- Malcolm Brown: 3 rushing touchdowns
- Tavon Austin: 1 rushing touchdown
- Brandin Cooks: 1 rushing touchdown
- Darrell Henderson: 1 rushing touchdown
Basically, the Rams don’t need to score through the air because when they get down into the red zone they use the ground attack to put the ball in the end zone. In the seven games the two teams have played over the past three years the Rams average more than two touchdowns per game on the ground. Cutting right through everything, Goff moves the ball up and down the field through the air to the tune of 325 yards per game against the Seahawks defense, and then the Rams use their run game to punch it into the end zone.
What that means is that the failure to defeat the Rams, not just Sunday in Week 10, but since 2017, is driven not just by the failures of the secondary against Goff or the failures of the front seven against the run. It’s a combination of both, which is rather damning for a defensive coach who is now 2-5 against his younger counterpart.