Quick Thoughts On St. Louis Rams Loss To The Seattle Seahawks


Dec 28, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; St. Louis Rams running back Benny Cunningham (36) fumbles the ball after being hit by Seattle Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas (29) during the fourth quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Another game, another year in the books for the St. Louis Rams. After shutting out the Seahawks in the opening half, the squad was unable to hold their duck-tape offense together in the second half, leading to a 20-6 loss to end the season. Now, the focus shifts to the offseason, with free agency, roster moves, and the 2015 NFL Draft. However, before me move on completely, here are our quick thoughts on the game.

1. First off, tip of the hat to the St. Louis Rams for an, if nothing else, exciting 2014 regular season. Despite starting the year without their “franchise” quarterback, playing the 3rd-toughest schedule in the league, and having to adjust to their third defensive coordinator in as many year, the Rams managed to win six games, including two shutouts and two wins over now-playoff bound squads. Now, the Rams head into the offseason with plenty of option and another Top 10 pick in hand. Thanks for the great year, even with the ups and downs.

2. Yesterday was truly a battle between two of the best defensive units in the NFL. In fact, the Rams performance might have taken the cake in the opening half, forcing two turnovers on the typically stingy Seahawks’ offense, all while shutting them out for the half of the game. Marshawn Lynch would eventually break through for a touchdown in the second half, with the Seahawks capitalizing on a handful of ill-timed turnovers. However, Gregg Williams has put together a masterpiece of a squad, even without a third linebacker or a starting-caliber free safety.

3. Aaron Donald. Aaron Donald. Aaron Donald. In this first game since being announced as a Pro Bowler, the rookie phenom put on a clinic for interior defensive linemen. Donald would finish the game with seven tackles, three defensive stops, four pressures, one forced fumble, and one sack. As a result, he will end the season graded tops among defensive tackles and nose tackles, according to Pro Football Focus, and should be the front-runner for Defensive Rookie of the Year and should have a strong case as an AP 1st-Team All-Pro. Not bad for being “too small” to play in the NFL.

4. Aside from one spectacular catch by Paul Richardson and another catch-and-run by Doug Balwin, the St. Louis Rams secondary appeared to be back to form after an unimpressive showing against Eli Manning in Week 16. EJ Gaines was sorely missed in the slot, but the unit still held Russell Wilson to only 239 yards passed, with no touchdowns, and even snagged an interception. Once they clean up some of the safety play, this unit should be in the discussed for “one of the best” heading into the 2015 regular season.

5. We want to give a special shoutout to Mark Barron, whose contributions have gone largely unnoticed since his arrival in St. Louis. By filling the “void” at nickel linebacker, Barron has allowed players like Alec Ogletree and T.J. McDonald to settle into their roles in the defense. Moreover, Barron, himself, has made a noticeable impact in his rotational snaps. In only 174 defensive plays, the former Top 10 selection recorded three sacks, 10 total pressures, and 12 defensive stops. His physicality, aggressiveness, and willingness to sacrifice his body to punish ball carries has obviously spread throughout the unit. It is no coincidence that the Rams defense has been one of the best in the league since he came over in Week 10.

6. Switching over the offensive side of the football, there isn’t much to cheer about, particularly on the offensive line. With Greg Robinson missing the start of the game with a toe injury, the entire line had to be shuffled, including having Scott Wells, Davin Joseph, and Mike Person manning the three interior spots at one point in the game. Robinson would slide back in soon after, but would allow four pressures, including two sacks, before the night ended. If nothing else, this should point to the St. Louis Rams bringing back Jake Long for another year, and allowed Greg Robinson to mature as a pass blocker on the interior. Trial by fire rarely works for offensive linemen in the NFL, particularly those who are inexperienced in pass protection. Taking his lumps on the interior for his sophomore season will do nothing but benefit him in the long run…

7. The running back rotation of Tre Mason and Benny Cunningham has been pretty effective over the latter half of the season, with Mason taking most of the carries, and Cunningham subbing on third down as a receiver out of the backfield. The duo accounted for 50.6% of the Rams total offensive yards yesterday, and look to be the featured grouping headed into 2015. Not sure that what means for Zac Stacy. Trade bait?

8. As always, we’ll leave on a positive note: the special teamers. Greg “the Leg” Zeurlein appears to be back in full form, nailing both of his kicks with ease yesterday. Even with the dreadful game ruining his season totals, Zeurlein will still finish among the most accurate in the league from long range (tied-4th highest percentage; minimum five attempts).

Johnny Hekker, on the other hand, will finish the season as the best punter in the NFL… again. His 42.9 net average is tied for tops in the league. His 35 punts landed inside the 20 yard line ranks 3rd. His 33.8% return rate and 189 total return yards allowed both rank Top 5. His efficiency as a passer is second to none. Johnny Hekker might have been snubbed from the Pro Bowl, but he should certainly see his name (again) on the AP 1st-Team All-Pro roster.