That was not a pretty win or a decisive win but it was a win. Considering Kyler Murray and the Cards ran wild on the Rams like Hulkamania less than a week ago that’s nothing to scoff at. Primetime games in Seattle are often like watching a game in Wackyland where fans and players are left feeling like they got whacked with a mallet, Thursday being no exception. The Rams came into the Emerald City with a ton of questions especially on defense where Rams Twitter fired Raheem Morris several times between Sunday and Thursday.
Sean McVay managed to overcome his own stubbornness, an unexpected Geno Smith performance, shaky officiating, and Matthew Stafford‘s index finger, to go 7-3 all-time vs Pete Carroll and be 4-1 on the season.
Lest anyone accuses this recap of homerism, let’s get one thing straight, the Rams were dying to give this game away. Stafford once again looked shaky to begin the game and looked as hungover as he did on Sunday which was the morning after St. Patrick’s Day in Boston level hungover. His first-quarter pick in the end zone was the only acceptable Jared Goff comparison that’s been made all year, and it wasn’t until DeSean Jackson bailed him out in the second quarter that he actually got it together. McVay kept trying to force the pass like Hollywood tried to force Jai Courtney on American audiences. The only lucky breaks the Rams got all first half were the fact that the Seahawks offense was also off and that Jason Meyers missed a field goal to end the half. Stafford’s index finger was clearly bothering him but magically he wrapped it and was almost his usual self in the second half.
All in all, Matthew Stafford finished 25/37 (68%) with 365 yards, a touchdown, and a pick. Honestly, that’s not bad considering how bad he looked. The line only allowed one sack and the running game wasn’t abandoned like it was H.W. Plainview.
Darrell Henderson had 82 yards and a touchdown while Sony Michel redeemed himself after Sunday’s debacle with 37 yards and a near-game sealing touchdown of his own. Stafford’s 13-yard touchdown to Tyler Higbee was a beaut with a toe-touch and everything.
The big story offensively though was Robert Woods having 12 catches for 152 yards. McVay said after Sunday’s game that he needs to get Bobby Trees more involved and boy did he! Woods reminded everyone that he’s just as important to the offense as Cooper Kupp (7 catches 92 yards) and that benefited everyone.
The Seattle defense allowed 476 total yards, with 7.1 yards per play, and the Jamal Adams extension looks worse and worse every game as he was absolutely OWNED by Cooper Kupp and to a lesser extend DeSean Jackson. The offense though was only 2/10 on third down and McVay got a little too conservative on fourth down despite succeeding on their only attempt. His play-calling in the first half was mind bottling even factoring in how much Stafford’s index finger seemed to be bothering him.
Again, despite all of that they found a way and while it wasn’t the kind of game that screams SUPER BOWL WINNER, it does feel like the kind of game a team needs to be able to win. Down early to a division rival on the road with an injured QB. That’s the kind of thing that matters down the stretch.
Defensively, the Rams failed the eye test. As previously alluded to, Rams Twitter had fired, rehired, and buried Raheem Morris alive like he was Pesci in “Casino”. They did a much better job stopping the run only allowing 92 total yards (fine Chris Carson was out) and sacked Russell Wilson twice including one by Aaron Donald who is now the franchise’s all-time leader in sacks surpassing Leonard Little.
The problem was they gave up too many big plays. Robert Rochell got his first start and he got burnt early and gave up a PI to D.K. Metcalf. The Seahawks scored Russell Wilson’s only touchdown soon after. What’s even more alarming is that after Donald broke Wilson’s finger in the third quarter, the defense looked befuddled to see Geno Smith playing a game in the year 2021. Smith, to his credit, lead a 96-yard scoring drive where he was 5/5 passing. That’s dark considering Geno hadn’t thrown more than nine passes since 2018.
Again, while a lot of the plays looked atrocious in the moment, stepping back and the Rams defense while not DOMINANT, didn’t break as much as it appeared they did. Yes, they allowed too many long drives, and yes they should’ve had more than two picks (although all hail Nick Scott for the game-ending pick), but they didn’t give up any rushing touchdowns, and when it mattered they stopped Seattle. Raheem Morris did adjust in the third quarter but that doesn’t matter when Geno Smith is able to charge down the field and score.
Look, it sucks that Brandon Staley is gone, really it does. Fans are right to speak about him in the same hushed tones as the people of Rock Ridge speak of Randolph Scott. That said, the defense was always going to regress given the loss on staff and on the field. Rochell had two BAD plays but ultimately he settled in as David Long Jr.’s replacement. Jordan Fuller was a lot more involved than he had been and Jalen Ramsey can make plays happen whether he’s locking down D.K. Metcalf or playing the STAR.
Terrell Lewis is continuing to make an impact registering a sack and like Leonard Floyd, he’s causing chaos in the backfield. Unfortunately, Taylor Rapp is continuing to be a liability to the point where his knee actually knocked out Darious Williams who was having a rough game (and season of his own). Rapp probably shouldn’t be starting over Terrell Burress at safety and Burress’s lack of playing time is becoming a real mystery.
The special teams were once again a crapshoot. On one hand, Johnny Hekker and his Seattle counterpart Michael Dickson (more on him in a minute) put on punting clinics. On the other, Matt Gay missed a PAT and had not one but TWO out of bounds penalties on kickoff. Dickson’s biggest moment, aside from a punt that put the Rams on the four-yard line, was a play that should’ve been a penalty as he was blocked and then kicked the ball a second time. The refs were so impressed that they let that slide because of course, they did.
The officiating was ROUGH on Thursday but that’s no excuse for the Rams shooting themselves in the nuts like MC Cheddar Bomb at all three phases of the ball.
The Rams get 10 days before they take on a Giants team that is STRUGGLING. They should take the time to recover after two brutal NFC West games and their next four games are all against lower competition. In no way are they guaranteed wins but they should be the type of games the Rams don’t give away. They could be 8-1 by the time they square off against the Niners. Sean McVay has to clean a lot of things up if they are to live up to their potential, that’s clear.
What’s lost in the aftermath of this game though was that Stafford made mistakes but overcame them. McVay was coaching himself out of a win until he wasn’t and the defense bent a lot but didn’t collapse like it did against Arizona.
The Rams are still figuring out their identity on defense and if Sunday was their nadir, they should actually be alright going forward. It’s easy to be an armchair Les Snead or McVay in the moment but when stepping back, this team is resilient in the face of their own idiocy. There’s something to be said for that. This game was nothing short of bonkers in a lot of ways and with Russell Wilson probably missing some significant time that might mean the NFC West got a tad easier. McVay retained his low-key dominance over Pete Carroll and the Rams are a Cardinals loss away from being tied for first in the West. Now they just need to get out of their own way.