Tag Archives: Benny Cunningham

Review: Rams 23, Seahawks 17

27 Dec
rams review 2015 #2

Photo Credit: stlouisrams.com

“We want Seattle.”

It was the phrase that flooded Twitter late Saturday night from Washington Redskins fans who, like many Seahawks fans, assumed their team was destined to host the #5 seeded Seahawks in the Wild-Card round of the playoffs. For Seattle it seemed simple; take care of business against the St. Louis Rams and the Seahawks would seemingly have the fifth seed wrapped up. Pump the brakes because those plans are absolutely on hold. The Seahawks had numerous chances to take control of Sunday’s game but could not overcome three huge turnovers and several self-inflicted mistakes. The Rams came into CenturyLink Field and shocked the Seahawks 23-17. The loss drops Seattle to 9-6 and the Seahawks temporarily hold the #6 seed in the NFC playoffs. Now instead of Washington, the Seahawks could wind up playing one of three potential opponents in the first week of the playoffs depending on how next week’s slate of games plays out. For now however, here are my brief thoughts on today’s stunning defeat.

Offensive Line and Running Game: Talk about knocking a house down. After weeks of solid chemistry and play from our offensive line the group caved against a superior Rams front line. Quarterback Russell Wilson was sacked 4 times and he was constantly under pressure and flushed out of the pocket. To make matters worse, the Seahawks running game could not get anything going all day long. Our leading rusher not named Russell Wilson was Fred Jackson who tallied up an extremely underwhelming 11 yards on the ground. Bryce Brown saw only 7 carries and last week’s feature back Christine Michael only touched the ball 6 times. Could it be time to hit the panic button if Marshawn Lynch does not return soon? After Sunday’s performance I find it hard to believe we will have better success against an even better Arizona Cardinals defense on the road next week. We must decide on a feature back because the Jackson/Brown/Michael committee we threw out on the field against St. Louis will not be effective moving forward.

Thoughts on Officiating: On the whole I have no qualms about how this game was officiated. I do believe however that the referees messed up once, when Rams running back Benny Cunningham fumbled on third down with 13:37 left in the game. The ball looked to have been recovered by the Seahawks but was immediately ruled Rams ball. After a brief discussion the ruling was temporarily overturned to Seahawks ball on the field but was then changed back to the original call of St. Louis ball. Since the Seahawks had already lost both their challenges they did not have an extra challenge to their disposal. I believe if there is any debate about which team recovered a fumble the safest route is to give the ball to the defense because then the play is automatically reviewed since it is a turnover. Ruling Rams ball gave the Seahawks no chance to prove they in fact recovered the ball. Unfortunately the touchdown St. Louis scored later on in the drive was the difference on the scoreboard at the end of the game.

Turnovers: The Seahawks defense allowed only 207 yards to the Rams offense. You see that number and think “the Seahawks probably dominated them and won the game.” Wrong. At the end of the day three turnovers cost the Seahawks the game. Will Tukuafu fumbled a handoff in the first quarter which was picked up and run in by the Rams Akeem Ayers, giving St. Louis a 10-0 lead. Russell Wilson threw his first interception in 6 weeks at the end of the first half, and Wilson also fumbled late in the game which pretty much sealed the win for the Rams. This may have been the sloppiest game the Seahawks have played all season and it could not have come at a worse time. You will not win football games in this league when you end the day -3 in turnover differential. It was simply unacceptable.

Thoughts on St. Louis: Could this team finally be turning the corner for good? This kind of statement win could give the St. Louis Rams serious momentum heading into 2016. Todd Gurley looks like the real deal after having a chance to see him play firsthand. This team always gives us fits and I do not believe it will be easy for them to regress. There is a solid possibility this team could be wild-card contenders next season.

Random Thoughts: It was great to finish up the home slate of games with one more pregame at the Hawks Nest… Introducing the special teams during pregame may not have been the best move. It was supposed to be the offense’s turn to run out of the tunnel individually… Congratulations to Richard Sherman for winning the 2015 Steve Largent Award. Well-deserved sir… I believe I got 7 beers for the price of 4 inside the stadium throughout the game. Let me explain. My friend Jake and I entered the stadium and immediately got food. I asked for 4 slices of pizza and two Bud Lights for the two of us, a total of about $51. The concessions worker gave us 4 slices of pizza and 4 Bud Lights so we essentially got 2 extra beers at no charge. Then later on we stopped a beer vendor walking up the aisle and asked for two more Bud Lights. The total this time came to around $17. The vendor cracked open the first beer and handed it to Jake, then he cracked open a Red Hook Long Hammer IPA by mistake. He immediately recognized his blunder and cracked open two more Bud Lights for us. So we paid for two and got a third beer on the house. All in all that adds up to 7 beers for the price of 4. Talk about an unintentional fan appreciation special!… It sucks this is how I leave CenturyLink Field for the final time until August. This will surely leave a bad taste in my mouth throughout the offseason.

Seahawks Playoff Outlook: There are several scenarios that could land the Seahawks either the #5 seed or #6 seed. Here are the scenarios for the final week of the season:

The Seahawks earn the #5 seed with a win over Arizona and a Green Bay Packers win over the Minnesota Vikings. In this scenario the Seahawks would play Washington in the wild-card round.

If the Seahawks lose to Arizona we will be locked in to the #6 seed. In this scenario if Green Bay beats Minnesota next week, the Seahawks will play Green Bay in the wild-card round. However if Minnesota beats Green Bay, the Vikings will win the NFC North and the Seahawks will travel to Minnesota to play the Vikings in the wild-card round.

What’s Next: The Seahawks close out the regular season next Sunday on the road as they take on the NFC West champion Arizona Cardinals. Look for my game preview on Saturday morning.

Seahawks/Rams Preview

12 Sep
Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Photo Credit: Seahawks.com

Matchup: Seattle Seahawks at St. Louis Rams

Site: Edward Jones Dome (St. Louis, Missouri)

Kickoff: 10:00am

The preseason-long wait is finally over. The two-time defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks begin their journey for a third straight Super Bowl appearance on Sunday when they take on their NFC West rivals, the St. Louis Rams. In their meeting in St. Louis last season, the Seahawks came close to completing a massive comeback. Unfortunately some Rams trickery and possibly some help from the officials was enough to doom the Seahawks as they lost 28-26. No matter how good or bad the Rams are, they ALWAYS play Seattle tough at the Edward Jones Dome. Since the Seahawks and Rams became rivals in 2002, Seattle has beaten St. Louis by more than one score only twice at the dome. Given that this is the first game of the season, this will be a much more evenly matched game than you may think. Here is what I will be looking for this week.

It may be only week one, but believe it or not this may be the toughest road test the Seahawks will face all season. It is crucial that our offense does not struggle. This week on offense I am looking for the Seahawks to break from their traditional offensive approach. What I mean is this. The Seahawks tend to formulate a game plan and for the first half they stick to their blueprint no matter what happens. This sometimes means the Seahawks struggle, fall behind, then in the second half they adapt to what the opposing defense is doing and in the process call plays that will take advantage of the defense’s weaknesses, thus moving the ball and scoring points. I would not be surprised at all if the Seahawks try to establish the running game early and struggle, allowing the Rams to control the momentum early. I believe stretch runs, screens, and quick slants are the best plays to call for the Seahawks to thrive this week due to the uncertainty of our offensive line play against the Rams superior front seven. Given this, Tyler Lockett could make a big impact out of the slot this week. If the offense can put at least two touchdowns on the board and Marshawn Lynch can run for at least 70 yards, Seattle will be in fantastic shape.

It should be obvious what my defensive focus is on this week. Half of our Legion of Boom starters have turned over from last year. Strong safety Kam Chancellor continues his holdout, which means that Dion Bailey will start in his place. Cary Williams will start at cornerback opposite of Richard Sherman. If Rams quarterback Nick Foles gets good protection I expect him to challenge our secondary early. It also would not surprise me if the Seahawks play a good amount of nickel coverage with Marcus Burley this week to take away the potential speed threat of Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey in the slot.

The St. Louis Rams enter this week’s game somewhat of a mystery on offense. They are led by a new quarterback, Nick Foles, who was acquired in a trade with Philadelphia over the offseason. Running back Tre Mason is questionable this week and rookie Todd Gurley will be inactive as he is still rehabbing from a torn ACL he sustained while at the University of Georgia last year. At this point it is looking like Benny Cunningham will start at running back. To make things even murkier, St. Louis will start two rookies along the offensive line. For the first time ever I am putting my X-Factor Players to Watch spotlight on these rookie linemen, left guard Jamon Brown and right tackle Rob Havenstein. Brown will have to deal with Brandon Mebane in the A gap while Havenstein will have his hands full with Michael Bennett on the outside. If Bennett can penetrate the line of scrimmage with ease the Rams could be in big trouble throughout the game. Short passes may be the best strategy for the Rams given the questions in pass protection and because of how poorly the Seahawks defended quick passes during the preseason, especially on third down. I believe Foles will look to his bigger receivers Kenny Britt and Brian Quick on the outside. Keep an eye on Quick in particular, as he will likely line up against Cary Williams.

If there is one thing the Seahawks should have learned in these games in St. Louis is to be on the lookout for special teams funny business. In 2012 the Rams successfully executed a fake field goal for a touchdown and the Seahawks lost by 6. Last season the Rams conducted a fake punt to perfection, baiting all the Seahawks special teamers to one side of the field with a decoy returner while Stedman Bailey fielded the punt on the other side of the field and ran straight down the sideline for an easy touchdown. Then late in the fourth quarter, punter Johnny Hekker lined up to punt but threw the ball for a first down, extending the Rams final drive. The Seahawks, as you know, lost by 2. I believe everything is fair game on special teams in this game. I believe three fake-outs in three years is enough for Pete Carroll and the coaching staff to finally put a heavy emphasis on trick plays in practice this week. The Seahawks will surely be on alert. I dare the Rams to try to catch us off guard on special teams.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks are finally telling the fans in advance what their uniform combo will be. We will be wearing white jerseys and college navy pants this week. Hopefully the Seahawks will give this kind of notice every week this season… The Rams will wear navy jerseys. My guess is they will wear navy pants with them… Kenny Albert and Daryl “Moose” Johnston have the call for FOX this week… The referee this week is Jeff Triplette. Since Bill Leavy has a new role with the NFL, I now believe Triplette is the worst referee in the league. Don’t be surprised to see many questionable and/or wrong calls this week… It will be nice to have a bunch of friends over for football this week. Barbeque and Bud Light all day long!… The Rams are yet another team threatening to relocate to Los Angeles next season and they may be in most dire need for hometown support. The Rams are struggling to fill seats at the Edward Jones Dome for this game and it wouldn’t surprise me to see the majority of the upper deck empty. Given the excitement around St. Louis for the Cardinals success and the fact that they play at the exact same time as the Rams on Sunday, support for the Rams will be visibly lacking, perhaps virtually nonexistent at the dome. Personally I would love to see the Rams move to Los Angeles because the NFL would kill two birds with one stone. The Rams moving to LA would mean that the NFL wouldn’t have to worry about division realignment (something that would have to occur if the Chargers and Raiders both moved to Los Angeles). In my mind a Rams move would also create a geographically perfect NFC West with teams in Seattle, San Francisco, Arizona, and Los Angeles.

Prediction: I expect rust. I expect penalties. What I do not expect is for the Seahawks to lie down. Marshawn Lynch will catch a touchdown out of the backfield in the red zone and Jermaine Kearse will add a deep touchdown of his own. Steven Hauschka will miss one extra point but will redeem himself in the fourth quarter with a 48-yard field goal. The game will come down to a 57-yard field goal attempt off the foot of Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein, which he will hook wide right. The Seahawks will survive and start the season 1-0 for the third straight season.

Seahawks 16, Rams 14

Review: Rams 28, Seahawks 26

20 Oct
Photo Credit: stlouisrams.com

Photo Credit: stlouisrams.com

No matter how good or bad the Seattle Seahawks are, we always struggle against the St. Louis Rams in St. Louis. That is exactly what happened on Sunday. Thanks in large part to special teams, the Rams defeated the Seahawks 28-26 in a game that was frustrating to watch due to both the Seahawks play and the officials. The Seahawks fall to 3-3 on the season while the Rams improve to 2-4. Here are my thoughts on Sunday’s disappointing loss.

Offense, and Getting Wilson Involved: The Seahawks offense struggled to put points on the board in the first half this week and I personally questioned the play-calling of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell throughout the game. I was happy about the way running back Marshawn Lynch was used even though his production was not ideal, as he ran 18 times for 52 yards. What upset me were the first down pass plays and the second down run plays, which set the Seahawks up for third down and long multiple times this week. I think Bevell dropped the ball in this regard and if the Seahawks were able to stick to a running attack in the first half, the Seahawks would have come away with more than 6 points in the first 30 minutes. At halftime I called upon the Seahawks to make the necessary adjustments to get quarterback Russell Wilson more involved in the running game which is exactly what happened. In the second half Wilson ran for 82 yards and a touchdown. In addition Wilson took more shots down the field in the second half which helped the Seahawks score 20 second half points. On offense we need to avoid slow starts moving forward. If we can play a full game like how we played in the second half this week we can fix this problem and become more consistent.

Defensive Struggles: The primary struggle the Seahawks are facing is putting pressure on the opposing quarterback, which in effect is allowing opposing offenses to easily convert on third down. After sacking Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo only once last week, the Seahawks struggled once again to put pressure on Rams quarterback Austin Davis. Davis was not sacked on Sunday and on third down plays the Seahawks did not send more than 4 rushers until the very end of the game. I never thought I would miss the presence of Chris Clemons so much. I am not saying Clemons alone makes the difference in last year’s defense compared to this year’s defense but on the whole the Seahawks defense has struggled mightily this season thus far. Including this loss the Seahawks have allowed 25 points in their first three road games this season. We are 1-2 in these games. Last season the Seahawks allowed an average of 20 points through their first 3 road games and went 2-1. If the Seahawks can improve the pass rush, pressure will be taken off the linebackers and the Legion of Boom and we will have a chance to be comfortably ahead in our games.

Thoughts on the Rams Front Seven: Coming into this game the St. Louis Rams had only recorded one sack on the season. Today the Rams sacked Russell Wilson 3 times. I warned about the potential of the Rams defense penetrating our offensive line to get to Wilson and my fears became reality. Robert Quinn, Aaron Donald and Eugene Sims among others bullied the depleted Seahawks offensive line all day long and Russell Wilson rarely had a clean pocket to throw from. I thought that it was only a matter of time before the Rams defense had a breakthrough performance and that is exactly what happened on Sunday. This unit is one of the best in the National Football League. As a Seahawks fan I just wish we had a healthy Max Unger and a fully healthy Russell Okung. If we had our entire starting offensive line, perhaps our offense would have been more effective and we would have been able to tame the Rams defense easier.

Rare Special Teams Gaffs Kill Seahawks: There were three huge special teams plays this week that cost the Seahawks points and could have cost us the game. First, Benny Cunningham of the Rams returned a first quarter kickoff 75 yards to instantly put St. Louis into Seahawks territory and into scoring range. The drive resulted in 6-yard touchdown run by running back Tre Mason. The second mistake came on a second quarter punt. Jon Ryan punted to Rams return man Stedman Bailey who returned the punt 90 yards for a touchdown. The only problem was that the St. Louis special teams unit tricked the Seahawks special teams unit into covering decoy return man Tavon Austin. This gave Bailey a wide open field and he was easily able to return it for a touchdown. 14 points in the first half came on special teams breakdowns and in hindsight could have made the difference between the Seahawks winning and losing. The cherry on top of the cake was a fake punt pass from Rams punter Johnny Hekker to Cunningham on 4th down deep in Rams territory. The play had to be executed perfectly, as a screw up would have resulted in a turnover, Seahawks ball deep in St. Louis territory down by 2 points, and an easy opportunity for Seattle to re-take the lead. Instead the Rams executed the fake punt flawlessly and the Rams were able to run out the clock to preserve the victory. Of all these mistakes the fake punt irritates me the most, simply because the Rams have had recent history of fooling the Seahawks on special teams. Two years ago Rams head coach Jeff Fisher called for a fake field goal deep in Seahawks territory. Hekker found an uncovered and completely wide open Danny Amendola for a touchdown. It is this play that should have had Pete Carroll and special teams coordinator Brian Schneider’s attention this time around. I believe the Seahawks should have been more aware of the potential of St. Louis trickery, and the Rams caught us off guard and capitalized once again.

The Fumble: Let me make this last point short and sweet. Regardless of whether or not the Seahawks recovered that fumble at the end of the game, the fact that there was no booth review to confirm who had possession of the ball infuriates me. With as close of a call that was in as close of a game that was, there should have been a booth review. I personally believe Richard Sherman fell on the fumble but there was no 100 percent conclusive evidence to overturn the call on the field. After a full game of questionable officiating this play put it over the top. I am not blaming the referees by any means necessary; the Seahawks put themselves in this position and lost the game. However the fact that no booth review was called on this crucial play is enough to make every Seahawks fan mad.

Random Thoughts: The Seahawks need to retire the white jersey/wolf grey pant combination. Since the Seahawks updated their uniforms in 2012 the Seahawks are 0-3 in this uniform combo. I hope we do not see it on the road for the rest of the season and definitely not in the postseason… I liked the Rams helmet logo on the 50-yard line. It looked slick… I am not a fan of referee Brad Allen. For that being his first Seahawks game as a head referee he did not make a good impression from a Seahawks fans perspective… We always struggle in St. Louis. Period… It is hard to think of random thoughts for a 10am road game when you watch on television from home. I guess I’ll stop here.

Thanks for reading everyone, even in defeat. Check back next week when I preview the Seahawks week 8 matchup with the Carolina Panthers. Go Hawks!