The St. Louis Rams finished out their season with a tough loss to the Seattle Seahawks at Century Link Field. The game turned out to be much closer than most of the experts had predicted, and holding a team that had been averaging 50 per game over their previous three games to 20 points feels like a small moral victory. The Rams still lost though, and there are no moral victories in the NFL and under the new leadership they are no longer the only type of victories for Rams fans to hold onto. The Rams had a good first year under Jeff Fisher going 7-8-1 and finishing with the best division record in the NFC West. Considering the mess that Fisher and Snead are trying to clean up at Rams park that is impressive, but they still missed out on their first winning season since 2003 and failed to make the playoffs. As a Rams fan it now seems safe to expect more from the franchise, under new ownership with a new general manager and a top tier head coach, the Rams have drastically elevated expectations for the future. There will be plenty more to discuss about the successes and failures of this years young Rams team, as well as what to expect for the future of the franchise but this article is about the playoff bound Seahawks.
Russell Wilson. Russell Wilson was the benefactor of the Craig Dahl effect on several key plays in this game, which grossly inflated his quarterback rating. I haven’t watched a replay of all of the plays in question but Dahl was either in coverage or missed tackles that would have limited some big plays that had a huge affect on the game and Wilson’s statistics. Four plays accounted for 154 of Wilson’s total yards, and not one of those plays was an above average throw or decision by Wilson as much as it was blown coverages or poor tackling by the Rams. Wilson is a good young quarterback, and in the second half he did a great job of extending the play and avoiding the Rams pass rush, but there wasn’t a single play on Sunday that really wowed me. Wilson will have to go on the road to face another Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate, Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins in the wild card round of the playoffs. Wilson will need to be consistently better than he was against the Rams if the Seahawks are going to make a deep run into the post season.
Secondary. The Seahawks secondary was pretty thin on Sunday with the suspension of Brandon Browner and injury to Walter Thurmond. The good news for the Seahawks is that Richard Sherman won his appeal and was active for the game, coming up with the game clinching interception on Bradford’s 4th and 10 desperation throw. The young backups who had to fill in for Browner and Thurmond played pretty well as the Seahawks were still pretty stout against the pass. Seattle has to be considered for the best secondary in the NFL as they have playmakers at both safety positions and in both starting corner spots. RGIII will have his work cut out for him finding open receivers in the wild card round, and if his knee isn’t 100% it could be a long day for the young superstar.
Pass Rush. If the Seahawks have a weakness on defense it is their inability to consistently generate a pass rush. They were able to get pressure on Bradford in some obvious passing situations, but weren’t able to take him down for a sack even though the Rams had 2nd string players in 3 out of 5 spots on the offensive line. With a dynamic quarterback like RGIII up next, the ability to pressure the quarterback isn’t as important as it would be against an Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady, but they also can’t afford to allow a QB to get comfortable. The Seahawks finished the regular season ranked 18th in the NFL for sacks with 36 total, which is surprising considering they had 8 in the first half against the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football. Bruce Irvin has 8 sacks this season which as a rookie is a pretty good number, but he finished the regular season with 17 total tackles (8 of those being the sacks) and 1 forced fumble and fumble recovery. That is simply not good enough overall production from a guy who was drafted 15th overall, especially when you compare that to what Aldon Smith managed in his rookie season (37 tackles, 14 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 4 passes defensed, 1 stuff) as the #7 overall pick.
Playoffs. Of course everyone is talking about the playoffs in the northwest, and hopes are very high among Seahawks fans that they could make a deep run into the playoffs. The problem for the Seahawks is that they will play every playoff game this year on the road (no I do not anticipate a #5 vs. #6 conference championship game), and their only road wins came against the Carolina Panthers in week 5, the Chicago Bears in week 13 and the Buffalo Bills in week 15(in Toronto which was almost a neutral site). None of those teams is going to the playoffs this season. The Carolina Panthers were possibly the worst team in football during the first half of the season before Cam Newton shook off the sophomore slump. The Chicago Bears dropped 5 of their last 8 games en route to missing the playoffs and costing Lovie Smith his job. The Buffalo Bills were eliminated from the playoffs by the Rams the week before their game with the Seahawks and showed little resistance at a neutral site. The Redskins won their last 7 games of the season to make the playoffs, posting a 5-3 record at home as they captured the NFC East title. If I were picking this game I would probably lean towards the Seahawks based on the fact that RGIII didn’t look 100% against the Cowboys the other night.