Three hours of stress was relieved when the Seahawks defense held the Rams offense on the Seattle 1-yard line with 4 seconds left as the Seahawks escaped on the road once again. This week, an ugly and frustrating 14-9 win over the St. Louis Rams. As ugly as this game was we got out of there injury-free and with the win. It’s over 12th Man. No need to worry about what-if’s or should-have’s. Regardless of how it looked the Seahawks improve to 7-1 and continue to hold a one game lead over San Francisco for first place in the NFC West. The Rams fall to 3-5 and are in last place in the division. There is a lot to discuss after this one. Here are my thoughts.
Back to the Drawing Board (Offensive Line): After how they played on Monday night, if I was Paul McQuistan or Michael Bowie I would be seriously worried about my short-term job security. McQuistan and Bowie alone allowed 6 of the Rams 7 sacks of quarterback Russell Wilson. These sacks developed because Rams defensive linemen Chris Long and Robert Quinn had the speed to simply run around the edge and collapse the pocket within a split-second. Russell Wilson had no time to throw and after his first 20 plays, only one was not considered to be either a quarterback pressure or a sack. It was a way worse performance than the first half in Houston. I was in Houston and trust me, if you think that game looked bad this one looked way worse. If I am the Seahawks I think I would at least consider starting Alvin Bailey in place of Bowie next week. McQuistan is stuck at left tackle until Russell Okung comes back in a few weeks. One more thing that must happen is for the Seahawks not to panic by trying to rush Breno Giacomini back on the field. We can survive (sometimes barely) without him over the next couple weeks but our offense will improve once we get healthy.
Back to the Drawing Board (Run Defense): Zac Stacy recorded his first 100+ yard rushing performance of the season and the Seahawks run defense allowed 200 total rushing yards to the Rams on Monday night. It was my belief that with Kellen Clemens at quarterback the Rams would try to keep the ball on the ground to take the pressure off the passing game and it worked. Between Stacy, Clemens, Daryl Richardson, and Chris Givens, the Rams averaged 5.4 yards per carry; a 2-yard improvement of their YPC average in their previous games. If it wasn’t for solid defense deep in our territory the Rams would have traded their field goals for touchdowns and we would have lost. This performance by our defense left me scratching my head because their inability to stop the Rams on the ground was very abnormal and uncharacteristic of a unit that came into Monday night as the 5th best run defense in the league. With a home game coming up and facing a backup running back, the Seahawks defense will have a great chance to reboot and get back to the way they are used to playing.
Turnover Battle Has Minimal Impact: The Seahawks won the turnover battle 2-0 and we wound up winning the game but did winning the turnover battle have as big of impact on the outcome of this game as our other wins? Not really in my eyes. Our two turnovers were interceptions by Bruce Irvin and Richard Sherman. In the two offensive drives following those interceptions, the Seahawks could only score 7 total points. Those points did determine the outcome of the game but considering that the Seahawks were only 2/11 on third down and recorded 6 offensive three-and-outs the frustration of our offense throughout the game seemed to negate those much-needed turnovers. On the other side the Seahawks did not turn the ball over in this game and that also helped in keeping the Rams to only 9 points. Regardless of our offensive line play, turning turnovers into points on our next offensive possessions could have blown this game wide open and the Seahawks could have given themselves some breathing room heading into the waning minutes of the game.
Penalties Become a Problem Again: Some penalties were inopportune and were simply bad calls. The Seahawks were flagged 10 times for 83 yards and two of these penalties grabbed my attention because they extended St. Louis drives and turned into points for the Rams. The first occurred late in the third quarter. It was a holding call on Brandon Browner on a 3rd and 17. The penalty gave St. Louis an automatic first down and Greg Zuerlein ended the drive with a 27-yard field goal with 12:51 left in the game. The second penalty was a personal foul on K.J. Wright that was considered a hit on a defenseless receiver (even though I don’t believe it was). Wright’s shoulder pad made slight contact with Austin Pettis’s facemask and the Rams were rewarded an automatic first down. Fortunately the drive stalled when Zuerlein missed a 50-yard field goal wide right. I thought that the Seahawks had fixed their penalty problems after the first couple of games but Seattle seemed to relapse against St. Louis. We need to make penalties and smart play a point of emphasis this week in practice because we need to clean this up. We may have won this week but in order to give us a better and less stressful chance to win it will surely help to play mistake-free football in the coming weeks.
Grow Up, Golden: On Golden Tate’s 80-yard touchdown catch he taunted the Rams secondary by waving safety Rodney McLeod with about 25 yards left to run. Tate was told by Coach Carroll on the sideline that we are better people than that and that taunting is unacceptable. After the game Tate admitted his mistake while calling himself and the action “immature.” I understand the “heat of the moment” excuse but I agree with Carroll in that there is no place for that on the field. Tate is not Deion Sanders or even Terrell Owens. I remember an interview NFL Network conducted with Andrew Luck before the 2012 season while touring the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The visit made Luck take a step back and realize that he is “just a scrub rookie quarterback who hasn’t accomplished squat” so far in the league. In my opinion Tate has not earned the right to show off in the fashion he did on Monday night. Maybe he needs to take a step back much like Luck did and realize that there are much more important parts of being an NFL player than being flashy. He attracted mass amounts of negative attention from people around the league and he will lose the respect of those people if he keeps up this kind of behavior. I am a believer that Tate will not let this happen again and keep the emotions to himself when he makes a game-altering play moving forward.
Rams Pass Offense Goes Conservative: A little earlier I noted that I thought the Rams would try to keep the ball on the ground to take the pressure off Kellen Clemens, which they did effectively. The Rams passing game also played conservative just like I thought they would. Kellen Clemens did not throw a pass that traveled more than 20 feet in the air. He took advantage of Seattle’s oftentimes soft zone coverage and was able to pick up moderate chunks of yardage that wound up extending drives. Clemens ended the night 15/31 for 158 yards along with his 2 interceptions. Clemens did not do anything flashy and overly spectacular and quite frankly he didn’t need to. His conservative play nearly won the game for St. Louis. Clemens’s play reminded me a lot of how Alex Smith plays quarterback in Kansas City. It might be beneficial for the Rams and Clemens to open up the playbook a little bit because if they do and are effective they could win a few more games, especially the way their defense is playing.
Thoughts on St. Louis: Overall the Rams did not look anything like the team that lost badly to Carolina in week 7. Without Sam Bradford the Rams may be stuck in mediocrity for the rest of the season but their defense is impressive and their pass rush is scary good. Making a playoff push may not be likely this season but just like they were projected by some to challenge for a playoff berth this year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see similar hype surrounding this team to start the 2014 season.
Random Thoughts: I must say I am disappointed that on the Rams last drive of the game that the Seahawks defense did not blitz as much as I thought they should. In those kinds of situations I think you should be sending the dogs on all-out blitzes to either sack the quarterback or try to force him into committing a turnover. If I were Dan Quinn I would have definitely put extreme pressure on Clemens on that last drive… Right at the end of “Monday Night Countdown” ESPN’s Suzy Kolber stated that there were more Seahawks fans in attendance than Rams fans. Props to everyone who flew down from Seattle for yet another strong showing on the road… Game 5 of the World Series ended at the start of the 4th quarter. I was worried some St. Louis Cardinals fans would walk over to the Seahawks/Rams games in the final quarter and would give the Rams more of a home-field advantage down the stretch. Luckily that factor did not seem to make much of a difference… I heard through Twitter and television that the Rams were offering free hot dogs and 2 for 1 beers at the game. Too bad I wasn’t there because I would have definitely taken advantage of that promotion… Was it just me or did Jon Gruden make the broadcast kind of awkward?… Let me tell you barbeque pulled pork marinated with root beer in a crockpot is one delicious recipe. I highly recommend it… I recommend everyone go listen to Eminem’s new song “The Monster.” You’ll understand why I mention it once you hear it… The Seahawks have won more regular season road games so far this season than they did all of last season. The Seahawks can be no worse than 4-4 on the road this season and I have my sights on at least a 6-2 record on the road this season… Our reward for winning these road games is getting to play at home in January… Taking the rest of the season one game at a time may be difficult challenge with the possibility of home-field advantage looking us square in the face… It will be nice to get back to CenturyLink Field this week. Half of our season is in the books and 5 of our remaining 8 games are at home. That makes us one of the most dangerous teams in the league going forward. Don’t doubt that.
Monday afternoon I surpassed 20,000 all-time views on this blog. Thank you for everyone for reading. I appreciate all the comments and feedback. Look for my preview of our week 9 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday morning. Go Seahawks!