Oh, boy. The team that was shut out 28-0 by the San Francisco 49ers, now has to face the Seattle Seahawks. Granted, the Rams get to host this game at home unlike the 49ers game, but that shouldn’t make much of a difference, being as the Rams do not yet have their own stadium and the Seahawks are, well, the Seahawks.
The only glimmer of hope heading into this game is that the Seahawks, too, did not look like themselves last week when they faced the Miami Dolphins. Quarterback Russell Wilson looked oddly uncomfortable, their offensive line is still an abomination and Miami’s new defensive coordinator Vance Joseph cooked up an excellent game plan to hold the Seahawks to a lowly twelve points, six of which were scored on Seattle’s final game-clinching drive.
In a perfect world, the Rams get a fine week of practice in, get their act together and face a Seahawks team that is still disjointed. But the reality is that Pete Carroll is an infinitely better head coach than Jeff Fisher and the Seahawks are an infinitely more talented team than the Rams. Even despite the possibility of home field advantage, it is tough to envision a scenario in which the Rams come away with this one.
Rams Offense vs Seahawks Defense
If the Rams offense could only muster up 185 yards of total offense and zero points against a subpar 49ers defense, what the Seahawks defense might do to the Rams offense is nightmarish. The Seahawks were able to hold a much better Dolphins offense to just 10 points last Sunday. The Dolphins have a better quarterback than the Rams, a stabler offensive line than the Rams and one of the best young offensive minds in the league in Adam Gase - and they were held to 10 points by the Seahawks.
Here are a few minor notes to consider before jumping into the film:
- Richard Sherman gets most of the attention when talking about the Seahawks cornerbacks, but Jeremy Lane and DeShawn Shead are both very good players, and Shead played at a ridiculously high level versus Miami.
- Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright are one of the best nickel linebacker dues in the league. They will make it tough on the tight ends and slot guys to find space over the middle of the field.
- The Seahawks play a heavy ‘pattern-matching’ defense, mostly out of Cover 3 shells. It takes unpredictable and intricate route combos to really throw that sort of defense off, but the Rams’ route combos are neither unpredictable or inctricate.
Trying to Pass Against the Seahawks
This was the first time that the Dolphins called something like this in this game, but Seattle was all over it immediately. Against the 49ers, the Rams ran this concept, and very similar concepts, to this one. The Rams threw a myriad of wide receiver screens, many of which were thrown to the side of a motioned tight end or receiver, like the Dolphins play above.
The Seahawks were not going to give the Dolphins easy yardage underneath. Safety Kam Chancellor is a menace near the line of scrimmage and will sniff these plays out every time, especially against a predictable and underwhelming Rams offense. On top of that, every cornerback in Seattle is a mean, physical player, so asking the Rams generally small, timid receivers to block them is asking for disaster.
To be honest, there isn’t much value in going over the various passing concepts that the Rams could use to beat the Seahawks through the air. It’s not going to happen. The Rams lack the receiver talent, quarterback competence and offensive line stability to be able to do anything through the air versus a vaunted Seahawks defense with three elite defensive backs and a front seven that can get after the quarterback.
Blitzing stunts are going to be seen throughout the game from the Seahawks defense and there is no reason to believe that the Rams offensive line can combat that. Not only are their movement skills and ability to reset their bases severely lacking across the board, but they did not pass off assignments well versus the 49ers. Case Keenum is going to get hurried, hit and sacked all game long.
When Keenum can get the ball off, he’s not going to have success, regardless of the target. The Seahawks secondary is too talented, physical and smart for the Rams receivers to be able to create any semblance of separation. Keenum is going to have no time to throw and no open receivers to throw to. That has the making of a football horror show written all over it.
The Seahawks looked worse against the Dolphins interior rushing than that defense has looked versus interior rushing in some time. They are now without defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, who was their best interior run defender and took some of the pressure off of fellow defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin to perform.
In the absence of Mebane, Rubin was over matched by Miami’s offensive line, especially in the running game. On this play, Rubin starts the play by ‘catching’ right guard Jermon Bushrod and allowing himself to get pushed back. Center Anthony Steen moved over to double team Rubin for a moment, using one swift punch to blow Rubin out of the play entirely.
Rubin was likely going to lose the play if only Bushrod blocked him, but having to then deal with Steen’s power while trying to fight through Bushrod was something Rubin was not prepared to do. In Miami’s efforts to attack Rubin, running back Arian Foster was provided a huge rushing lane that allowed him to pick up a nice chunk of yardage.
The Rams are going to have win on the ground by rushing inside. Seattle’s linebackers are certainly good enough to slow down production along the interior, but they, along with Chancellor, would abuse the Rams offensive line and tight ends if the Rams tried to do too much running outside of the tackles. Wagner, Wright and Chancellor are too instinctive and athletic to test on the perimeter.
Rams Defense vs Seahawks Offense
Seattle’s staunch defense played up to par on Sunday, but their offense was lackluster. Miami’s defensive coordinator Vance Joseph did an excellent job of disrupting Seattle’s offensive line and cooking up coverage schemes to slow down Wilson’s aerial assault. Joseph did not allow the Seahawks to take shots down the field like they need to, instead forcing Seattle to throw shorter passes and hope that his defenders could rally to the ball, and they did.
Pre-film notes to ponder:
- Seattle’s offense spread out the Dolphins’s defense a lot, going to four and five wide sets at a relatively high rate.
- Russell Wilson hurt his ankle at some point during the Dolphins game and has been nursing that injury since then. He will play against the Rams, but he will not be 100% and it’s likely that his mobility will be less threatening than usual.
- Seattle’s right guard J’Marcus Webb had a horrendous game versus Miami, but rookie Germain Ifedi is now listed as the starter at the right guard spot. That will be the player/position to keep an eye on when watching Seattle’s offensive line.
Staying On Our Toes
Seattle’s offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell is a crafty bastard. Most notably in the short game, Bevell schemes up a number of diverse plays, formation looks, motions and other wrinkles to keep defenses guessing at all times. Seattle’s offense had success in that area against Miami, they just weren’t able to cap off drives with big plays and force their way into the end zone.
This is a quick route combination, but the way it is designed is devious. Running back CJ Prosise is originally split out wide to the far side of the field. Wilson then motions him to the inside of tight end/wide receiver hybrid Jimmy Graham, and that shift does its part in exposing that Miami is in zone coverage, as the cornerback backs off of Prosise and sits about seven yards off the ball.
Miami’s other defensive back in the area is put in a bind. He creeps up the the line and is faced with a tight two receiver set. Prosise runs a quick out/flats route, while Graham gets five yards up the field and flips around for a short hitch. The defensive back who creeped up to the line follows Prosise to the flats, but the zone cornerback playing off-technique and the linebacker hovering the A-gap have too much ground to cover to get to Graham. With a brilliant decision maker like Wilson, that play is a loss for the defense almost every time.
The play above is one of many ways that Bevell will scheme open easy yards. He did it all throughout the Miami game and he will surely do so against the Rams. Though, Bevell’s offense could not get going down the field, and that is due in large part to the defense that Vance Joseph installed to counter Bevell’s offense.
Miami’s defense gave the illusion of a two-deep man coverage look. In that case, the two deep safeties would each play half of the field and everyone else in coverage would play man-to-man. But that’s not what Miami does when the play unfolds.
After the snap, the boundary safety creeps down to the middle of the field and puts himself in position to pick up Doug Baldwin, who is the inside (#3) receiver in Seattle’s trips set. Cornerback Byron Maxwell, who is matched over Baldwin before the snap, carries Baldwin until the safety can pick him up, then Maxwell becomes a ‘rat in the hole’ - or a middle of the field zone player. Maxwell dropping to a zone also helps the cornerback next to him, Bobby McCain, because Maxwell is able to hang out under the #2 receiver’s route and deter Wilson from throwing that route.
Miami turned a two-deep man look into a Cover 1 look simply by rotating a safety down at the snap, and letting he and Maxwell communicate to determine which of them becomes the ‘rat in the hole’. Since Baldwin extended his route to the boundary, Maxwell became the ‘rat’, the safety picked up Baldwin and Wilson had to essentially throw the ball away.
Considering that Seattle likes to run a lot of four verticals concepts as the core of their deep passing attack, countering them with a Cover 1 play out of a two-deep shell like this is perfect. Whether or not the Rams will try to do something like that is left to be seen, but the template to keeping Seattle’s defense away from big plays is there.
Blitzing and Stunting
Wilson was heavily pressured on this play because Miami brought an interesting three man stunt/twist that disoriented Seattle’s linemen. The Seahawks offensive line is bad and struggles to pick up stunts/twists like this. They don’t pass off assignments well, and even if they do on a given play, they do not have the physical ability to adjust that quickly to rushers and keep them at bay. Gregg Williams needs to attack that weakness.
The Rams went to a lot of simple four man rushes last week. Their pass rush was vanilla and the simplicity of the pass rush played a role in why the Rams were not able to get to Blaine Gabbert. Against the Seahawks, the Rams need to get a little creative because even an ounce of creativity will give Seattle’s line some fits.
As was stated in the notes above, Seattle goes four wide a lot, especially out of the shotgun. If they want to run out of the shotgun, it’s often in one back sets with just the five offensive linemen as blockers. Considering the Rams defenses is based out of a 4-2-5 (that is basically a 4-1-6 because Barron is small and sort of a hybrid), playing an offense that wants to spread them out in the run game actually works in the Rams favor.
If running plays are going to come down to Seattle’s five offensive linemen versus Robert Quinn, Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers, Williams Hayes and Alec Ogletree, the Rams have the advantage. Brockers did not have his best game last week, but he has made a career out of being a stout run defender that can handle double team blocks. Donald, on the other hand, is simply too explosive and powerful for any of the Seahawks linemen to hold him back. Donald will be a wrecking ball to that interior.
The pressure really falls on the defensive ends to hold their ground on the edge. Aside from Hayes, the Rams ends struggled to do so against the 49ers. All of them, especially Westbrooks, were getting lost versus read-option looks, often doing a poor job of pressing the running back inside while also keeping the quarterback contained. They gave too much space to the running back in their effort to contain the quarterback, making life much harder on the second level defenders.
There is a blueprint on how to slow the Seahawks down on offense. Of course, that requires talent to match Seattle’s coupled with fluid execution of deceptive coverages, and the only thing that the Rams have on that list is talent. Even then, a majority of the Rams notable defensive talent is up front, not in the back end. Russell Wilson struggling with a nagging ankle injury should help out the Rams a bit, but Wilson is still one of the best passers in the league.
On offense, the Rams are screwed. Unless Todd Gurley levitates and has the best game of his career in spite of the men blocking for him, it’s going to be a miserable day on offense. The Seahawks are too smart, talented and aggressive for the Rams to have success against them.
Barring a miracle, the Seahawks are going to win this game handily.