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This Week In Defense: Seahawks vs. Rams, Week 17

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Narrative Of The Game:

This game had a lot riding on it -- just like last year and, and in 2010. The Rams had the chance to derail what had been a phenomenal close to the Seahawks' season and despite Shaun Hill proving that he was no better than Austin Davis, I had my own reservations about the chances of winning for the ninth time in ten tries or the sixth time in a row since losing at Arrowhead. The offense looked good against the Cardinals, but I, and I think most fans, knew this would be a contest of defensive fronts. The Rams found their groove and Aaron Donald continued his impressive rookie campaign.

The next set of plays will help show how the Seahawks turned this into a one sided contest up front.


The Plays:

[1st Quarter 14:53 2nd and 10 Run up the middle by Tre Mason for 1 yard - tackled by Tony McDaniel]

This play was blown up by Michael Bennett. His surge puts him almost a full yard into the backfield by the time Mason takes the ball. A nice surge by Kevin Williams to follow leaves Tony McDaniel untouched for the stop.

This was the play I needed to see early, as I felt the Rams' best chance to mount a good offensive game was through their running game. The D-line was on point most of the game -- just like this -- and Michael Bennett's game changing play at the line of scrimmage is easily clear here.

[1st Quarter 7:03 3rd and 13 Pass to Cunningham for 5 yards -- tackled by KJ Wright ]

This was a really good drive by St. Louis, taking five-plus minutes off the clock with motion passes and short throws, and a good mix of short runs. The one thing that jumped out on the drive was how well the Rams' speed matched up with Seattle's defensive speed.

Both Benny Cunningham and Tre Mason caught passes and were able to stretch the Hawks' defense the way most teams can't do. However, by this play, they had fizzled a bit where the compression of the Redzone hurt them, I think.

Getting a delay of game and throwing a screen against what they probably guess is a blitz ends up netting them only 3 points after a poor throw from Hill delays the play's development, and KJ "I love screens" Wright makes the stop.

[2nd Quarter 8:16 2nd and 14 Shaun Hill Sacked by Cliff Avril (Jordan Hill) for a loss of 10 yards]

Michael Bennett spent a lot of time abusing St. Louis' O-line Just before this play he had destroyed a run by Tre Mason for resulting in the 4-yard loss that caused this down and distance. Here he runs a stunt with Jordan Hill, and Cliff Avril rushes the outside edge. Bennett's rush almost splits the guard and tackle forcing Shaun Hill to slide into the waiting arms of Avril and Hill though Jordan doesn't get credit statistically -- he does split a double team to finish the sack, which I think is something worth noting here.

[2nd Quarter 4:34 3rd and 10 Pass intended for Jared Cook incomplete - Kam Chancellor in coverage.]

Seattle brings six on a blitz here -- KJ and Bobby both blitz and this forces the ball out -- but you'll note that the coverage is air tight on the back end.

Even the crosser underneath is trailed perfectly by Richard Sherman. Shaun Hill has to turn the ball loose because Wright is about to beat the block of the back in to block him. Kam is step for step with Jared Cook so Hill tries to put air under the ball as best he can under duress, but he misses his target by several yards. This is a great example of how Seattle uses pressure and back end coverage to cause throws to be difficult for QBs -- the windows are so tight that there aren't many options for types of throws. The Rams score their only other points of the game.

[3rd Quarter 11:13 1st and 10 Shaun Hill Sacked by Kevin Williams for a loss of 8 yards.]

The first play for the Rams in the second half was a sign of things to come. Michael Bennett is the LEO here and for some reason the center decides to help the left guard with him.

The left tackle is spying Irvin, who looks to be in a rush look. This leaves a gap for Kevin Williams, who realizes he's unblocked and just drifts behind Bennett on his own and goes untouched to get Hill for a sack. It's just a nice play where a veteran realizes what the blocking is doing and adjusts based on it. I don't think the stunt was called because it's not immediate. It's the timing that makes me think it was a play made by Williams alone.

Also, don't underestimate Irvin as an edge decoy -- this has been a good tool in the pressure adjustments after the early-season sack drought. He's been a huge flex player in this area and someone teams have started to key on in rush looks.

[3rd Quarter 3:47 Run left by Tre Mason for a gain of 8 yards - tackled by KJ Wright.]

K.J. Wright saves the defense from giving up a much bigger play. The defense seemed a little out of sync with a couple of quick hitter throws, and a nice seal on an earlier run.

Though this resulted in a first down as a run, the fact that it wasn't much bigger saved Seattle's defense from becoming much more tense  -- as it would have been a string of good plays for the Rams with no real answer from the defense. A good block on Chancellor and a bit of a late move by Wagner puts K.J. as the only man who can stop this from being a huge run, and so it goes that KJ makes the stop.

[4th Quarter 15:00 2nd and 19 Screen pass intercepted by Jordan Hill]

A tough way to end what had been a great drive for the Rams stalled out by a holding penalty, which left them in a tough down and distance. This is just one of those flukey type plays where Jordan Hill is just in the right place at the right time. Shaun Hill tries to dump the ball as the screen is sniffed out and Jordan just goes right for the ball, cradling it for a game changing interception.

[4th Quarter 10:07 1st and 10 Pass intended for Lance Kendricks - intercepted by Bruce Irvin for a touchdown.]

The Seahawks' defense was having a bit of trouble against the dump-offs and rythm throws the Rams used, and it was very similar to the game against the Chargers except that Seattle was able to apply pressure to the passing game despite the quick game. It wasn't all bad though as Seattle started to rally more quickly to throws, and this is what inevitably allowed them to pick off this pass.

(via Jose8BS)

I love that Bruce Irvin is a quiet X Factor for theHawks. He can pass rush, play coverage play the run, he's a multi- tool and he's been the biggest help since Malcolm Smith's play making seems to have been left somewhere in the New Jersey area following his Super Bowl performance.

[4th Quarter 6:05 3rd and Goal pass complete to Benny Cunningham forced fumble by Earl Thomas touchback.]

Another drive of quick throws to tight ends and backs, along with two missed tackles by Malcolm Smith forces this final play at the goaline. What follows is Earl Thomas' amazing karate chop action, which ends the hopes of the Rams coming back.

Both K.J. Wright and Jordan Hill go out with injuries on this drive, and up until this play, the defense looked loose and disconnected. This was unlike the first half, where they were tight to their guys and they seemed to be reacting to throws rather than route concepts, and that left plenty of places to go with the ball. This success is probably duplicatable by both the Lions and Cowboys, and so I am a little nervous despite the end result.

The next possession by the Rams ended with three sacks in a row, after a probably bogus offensive pass interference call on Chris Givens. Including this play, specially gif'd to show Will Tukuafu in at 3-tech on a rush.

Overview Of The Game

St. Louis has a habit of scaring me and the last few years have been annoying in how it's come down to week 17 to wrap up the season with them in the way. I hate them with a passion. As much as I want to hate the 49ers, I hate the Rams. It's a game that always seems to raise flags or threaten something. In 2012 they derailed the string of 40+ point offensive explosion and in 2013 they stood in the way of wrapping up the division and homefield. This year was even worse, after the Rams tricked their way into a big win.

This game was about as tough as it gets for an offense and in the end St. Louis' defense gave up just 13 points. However, this game was all about the defenses matching up, and for the most part the defense bowed it's neck when the Rams threatened, and took the threat of a running game away from a team that is very talented at running.

Though the Rams found rhythm, they lacked big plays until their drive which ended in a fumble touchback. I have my concerns but this team has a lot of weapons, and heaven help us if they ever get a QB.

Game Ball:

Michael Bennett. So many times he made plays, got loose, or affected plays for other players, so there isn't any other way to hand this out. He was a one-man wrecking crew this week and he's been worth every penny of his new contract.

Needs work:

I want to see tougher work against quick passes. There were a lot of times where I saw guys uncharacteristically flat footed against simple routes and throws. Seattle will be facing high quality passers and so a refocus on quick throws might be a good use of practice time.