How The Rams Can Get Back On Track Against Rival Seahawks
Being embarrassed by the 0-13 Jets, on its face, was unexpected. But, hey, it’s still 2020 and what it has taught us is that life is full of seemingly ridiculous contradictions. On one hand, the Rams have some of the best players and coaches league-wide. On the other hand, they just lost to the freakin’ JETS! So, we should have seen it coming. Right? Just a slap in the face from a year that has just pantsed us in the cafeteria.
Unsolicited life lesson: Embarrassments are in the past. Learn what you can and move on. So, we shall do just that. On to Cincinnati. Well actually, Seattle, but you get the point.
The Rams and the Seahawks have been playing hot potato with the NFC West lead as if neither really wants to take the division. Seattle faced their own embarrassing loss when they lost to the 5-7 Giants, but their offense has struggled in recent weeks.
In fact, the Seahawks offense was cruising along until they squared off against the Rams in week 10. That week served as a turning point for the Seahawks. They were averaging 34 points a game before then and 21.2 since. Although, it must be pointed out that the Seahawks beat the Jets, 40-3. Moving on.
In the first game, the Rams defense did what seemed impossible at the time; contain Russell Wilson and shut down D.K. Metcalf. They sacked Wilson six times and Darious Williams picked him twice. Jalen Ramsey held Metcalf to 2 catches for 28 yards. Leonard Floyd had a monster game. He had 6 QB hits and recovered a fumble.
On the other side of the ball, the Rams played well too. Jared Goff had his most complete game of the year. Josh Reynolds stepped up and had the best game of his career, with eight catches for 94 yards. Sean McVay used the running game perfectly as a complement to the highly efficient passing game. McVay really came in with a winning game plan. In the first half, 67% of passing plays and 69% of running plays were successful. With all of that said, the Rams can’t come in with the same game plan and expect to see the same results. While the Seahawks offense is trending down, the defense has been playing much better. The Rams game was a turning point for the defense too. Before week 10 they were giving up 27 points per game. Since then, they are only giving up 16.
The credit for the improvement goes to the pass rush. Before playing the Rams, the Seahawks defense was getting pressure on only 15.7% of dropbacks. After they improved to 24.2%. They got pressure on Goff on 19% of his dropbacks. This time around, if they are able to continue the trend, Goff won’t look as good as he did in the last game.
One of the things that has helped Goff is a higher rate of 12 personnel play calls. In week 10, McVay called 29% of the plays in 12. This helps Goff in two ways; it gives him an extra blocker, but also another short-yardage target if he needs to dump it off. 65% of 12 personnel plays were successful according to sharpfootballstats.com. While Reynolds stole the show in the last game, Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett contributed nine catches for 87 yards along with a bump in their snap count in general.
But along with them, a big game by another pass-catcher will help the Rams sweep the series. Despite their strides forward in pass rushing, the Seattle run defense is much better than their pass defense. So the passing game will need to move the ball. Cooper Kupp is overdue for a great game. He’s averaged just 4 catches per game in the last four weeks.
Goff and McVay need to get the ball to him early and often on short passes and let him get YAC. He’s currently fifth in the league in YAC and he has 12 broken tackles, third-most in the league. Another change in the game plan will be to account for Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde. They both missed the previous game due to an injury. Carson is averaging 5 yards per carry and Hyde is averaging 4.4 yards. Add a few scrambles by Russell Wilson and the Seahawks running game can shift the tides of this game significantly. In the last game, the Rams didn’t have to worry about the running game outside of Russell Wilson.
But this week they better have a plan to stop all three. In the last two weeks, Seattle has put up 181 yards and 174 yards on the ground. The Rams often leave the middle of the field and dare teams to run the ball. This allows the defense to keep the edge sound and minimize big plays. It also accounts for a lack of depth at the interior linebacker positions.
Two Rams that have stood out against the run are Michael Brockers and Leonard Floyd. They will be the first line of defense against the rushers. In the last game, they were the ones getting the most heat on Wilson. If Seattle gets those two occupied with chasing running backs, Wilson will find some room to make plays.
Furthermore, if Carson and Hyde are eating up four to five yards per rush, third downs get a lot easier for Russell Wilson. In general, Wilson has the fifth-best QB rating, but on third down, it drops to 23rd. But when he is in third and short situations, it jumps up to 3rd best.
The Rams are mediocre in 3rd and short situations. They are ranked 15th against third and short passes and 24th against third and short rushes. The Rams were 7 for 14 in third downs in the last game. Seattle averages 40% on the season. The turnovers masked the inability to get stops in the last game. In this game, it will depend on stopping the running game and forcing Wilson into 3rd and long situations.
If the Rams are able to make these few adjustments they will come away with the win and prove they aren’t the laughing stock that the Jets made them look like. It won’t answer all the questions heading into the playoffs, but it will show that the Rams can get back on track after a tough loss. They did it in week 10. They had just been pushed around by the Miami defense the week before they faced the Seahawks the first time. The Rams have a tendency to bounce back quickly, getting the stink of the loss off fast. They better look really good to escape this odor.