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Los Angeles Rams Vs. Seattle Seahawks: 2nd Down, Second Guessing

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The Rams aren’t ready for primetime.

Seattle Seahawks v Los Angeles Ram Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Overview

An experienced Seattle Seahawks team came into the game against the Los Angeles Rams desperate to make a contest out of the NFC West. The Seahawks prevailed, 16-10, by proving the only ones who can beat the Rams are the Rams themselves by committing five turnovers.

This is a young football team who lost focus and did not play with the poise a seasoned football team such as the Seahawks have. Five turnovers are glaring obstacles to winning any football game but are easily correctable if you recognize what led to the errors.

Despite the mistakes, the Rams still had a chance to win the game in the end but nonetheless lost. In addition, the Rams offense failed to make the plays when should have. While they were able to move the ball between the 20’s against a very good Seattle defense, the Rams wound up shooting themselves in the foot in the red zone.

Being 3-1 coming into the game isn’t good enough if you could be better. The Rams just aren’t ready for primetime just yet.

Offense

The Rams opening drive set the tone when RB Todd Gurley fumbled the ball out of the end zone. He was trying to stretch the ball to the pylon but inexplicably lost the control of the ball as he going out of bounds and the ball trickled over the goalline out of bounds leading to a touchback for the Seahawks.

Gurley did not play with poise on that play. He attempted to get more then was warranted keeping in mind that an offensive player must possess and control the football all through the play as he stretches towards the pylon. If he goes out at the 1-yard line in control of the ball, it would have been first and goal inside the one; instead, not only did the Rams not come away with seven points, they didn’t even get three. You have to hold onto the ball.

Horrible start to the game.

QB Jared Goff was responsible by the numbers for three turnovers himself, but it wasn’t all his fault. He had help.

The one which stands out the most individually was a floater over the middle. Again, the Rams were moving the ball. Goff got pressure and unleashed a “duck” into coverage. The ball sailed over the outstretched arms of his receiver right into the grasp of Seahawks FS Earl Thomas. Once the ball left his arm, the play was dead on arrival.

Whenever a QB goes back to pass, instinctively he knows he only has maybe two and at the most three seconds to release the ball. The decision on who and where to throw has to be instantaneous. Goff felt the pressure, panicked, and made a bad throw.

The second turnover was caused by OT Andrew Whitworth missing his block. Goff got hit from the blindside and coughed it up. As good as Whitworth has been for the Rams’ the offensive line, he made a mistake. Goff and the team paid the price.

Probably the turning point in the game was the interception by DL Sheldon Richardson. The screen pass was there. Goff’s throw was a little off causing Gurley to tip it up the air which Richardson grabbed for his first interception in five years of playing in the NFL.

There were two things wrong with the play: the throw and the tip. The worst thing a receiver can do is try to tip the ball up in the air toward the middle of the field as nothing ever good comes from that.

Lacking poise and focus, the Rams let another score slip away. Once again, the Rams’ offense came away with zero points in the red zone when even three would have been helpful.

In addition, at crucial moments in the game the Rams’ tight ends dropped passes which hurt them as well. Second-year TE, Tyler Higbee once again dropped a ball that was right in his hands. Rookie TE Gerald Everett had a touchdown pass go right through his hands forcing the Rams to settle for a field goal. Then there was fan favorite rookie WR Cooper Kupp who just missed making what would have been a game tying catch.

What happened?

Maybe the ball was thrown just a bit too hard and out the reach of Kupp. On the other hand, Kupp finding himself open, may also have lost his concentration under the pressure.

This game played itself like a playoff chess game between the coaches in many respects. In this environment, players need to make the plays to win. Higbee, Everett and Kupp did not make the plays when they were called upon to do so. Granted, Goff didn’t have a stellar performance in the accuracy department against Seattle, but that was the Seahawks’ defensive gameplan coming into the game, and they did it from the start to finish. In that type of situation, the quarterback needs the help from his receivers—they’ve got to catch the ball when if hits their hands.

Taking this all in, the Rams offense played into Pete Carroll’s hands by choosing to get away from the gameplan that got the Rams to 3-1—running the ball with Gurley. The struggle on offense was the direct result of the Rams not getting the running game going at all.

Last week against the Dallas Cowboys, the Rams utilized WR Tavon Austin in the run game which Dallas was unprepared for. This week, with plenty of tape to have studied, the Seahawks for the most part were able to sniff out the decoy. When Austin did get the ball, the Seahawks defense stretched the play wide. Seattle corners came up and made the tackle leading to little or no yards on the edge. Even though Tavon’s TD run worked, it was the only one that did. After that the Rams kept trying it over and over again with very little success, and as the game worn on it became predictable.

The Rams should have chucked that play for more conventional sweeps and off tackles with Gurley or RB Malcolm Brown.

As bad as the lack of focus and poise was, the Rams still had a chance to win the game in the end and statistically outgained the Seahawks on offense.

The Rams won a game despite turnovers against the San Francisco 49ers; however, there’s a big difference between the Niners who are a bad football team and the Seahawks. The Rams lost this game because their turnovers and boneheaded missed opportunities were gifts to a good (but not great) Seattle Seahawks team who came into the game needing to prove once again that the NFC West will have to go through them.

Coming into the game the Rams were 3-1, good enough to lead the division. Good enough isn’t good enough, though, if you can get better.

Against Seattle, the Rams didn’t get better and didn’t learn from the mistakes they made against the Niners that turnovers will kill you even though they won that game. In addition, the Rams offense isn’t learning to focus or play poised inside the opponent’s 20-yard line making the same mistakes as they did against Dallas by not scoring touchdowns in the red zone.

Consequently, as the second-youngest team in the league, the Rams wound up losing to a much more experienced Seattle team blowing their chance to own the West outright.

Defense

The Rams’ defense did their job. They stopped the run, held QB Russell Wilson in check, and didn’t allow the Rams offensive mishaps to take them down. If not for the defense, the Rams would never have been in the game.

However, when rookie FS John Johnson intercepted the ball, he had a clear shot for the end zone. He ran down the sidelines, then hesitated as Wilson came into view. He slowed down, probably asking himself whether Wilson was going to pull a Jay Cutler and let him waltz in for the TD.

Russell Wilson is no Jay Cutler.

As Wilson angled toward the sidelines to make the tackle, DE Robert Quinn had a clear shot on him for the block. Johnson saw it and moved inside waiting for the block.

Two things went wrong on the interception that affected the failure to turn the play into a TD. One, Johnson should have kept going and not hesitated. If Wilson makes the tackle, he makes the play. But there’s also the chance he doesn’t. Johnson should just have kept running toward the goalline, but by hesitating he wound up giving Wilson time to set himself to make the tackle. Secondly, Quinn didn’t make his block.

The moment the interception happened, it was a momentum changer. Running down the sidelines, there was nothing but green between Johnson and Wilson thus no need to slow down.

Put that ball into the end zone, and to heck with Russell Wilson. Unfortunately, the block never happened because Quinn completely whiffed on it. Because Johnson hesitated, he was tackled short of the goalline.

Since the Rams offense failed to convert that turnover into seven points settling for three instead, the momentum shifted back to Seattle. It wasn’t a play that costs the Rams the game, but a TD on the interception would have gone a long way towards having at worst a 14-10 lead at halftime rather than being tied 10-10.

Special Teams

For those of you who read this article on a weekly basis, I mentioned that Rams needed to do something about PR Tavon Austin after Week 1. After the third game against the Niners, I mentioned it again because this was becoming a nagging major problem that needed to be fixed. Nonetheless, the Rams decided to stick by their $31 million man; it costed then big time against the Seahawks.

Per Head Coach Sean McVay, Tavon is going to “get a break” from punt returns. It would have been an abdication of the head coach’s responsibility and duty to his team to let Tavon Austin try to catch another punt this season.

The Fallout From The Loss

Instantly, there was a lot of fallout from the loss to the Seahawks. Bandwagoners who had been waiting to see if the Rams could win this game before jumping on, post-Seahawks, will now take a wait and see approach, typical of the Los Angeles sports market.

Adding fuel to the fire were the tweeted comments made by WR Sammy Watkins after the game which on their surface appear to be a complaint about not getting enough touches.

Does he have a point?

In a sense the way the game played out, the Rams probably should have taken more shots deep to loosen up the Seattle defense. But Watkins should reserve making his feelings known to the coaching staff and his teammates rather than on social media resulting in unneeded public speculation as to what’s really going on behind the scenes at Rams camp.

Emotions are raw after a tough loss. It doesn’t help when a player decides that the sole reason for the defeat was because he was not targeted enough. If Watkins wants the ball that bad, he better catch it when the ball does come his way and there can be no excuses for dropping it. He asked for it. Now deliver the results.

In another move, the Rams cut S Maurice Alexander who found himself on the inactive list just prior to the game with no explanation given despite being healthy. What made this move interesting was that as Alexander was the starting safety for the Rams’ first four games but was just summarily released, not even demoted to the bench. In order to replace Mo on the roster, the Rams activated WR Mike Thomas who is coming off of a four-game suspension.

The Rams should not panic, nor should the fans. The team is headed in the right direction. The turnovers cost them the game.

The Rams now face another team who no one has yet figured out: the 3-2 Jacksonville Jaguars.

If your team doesn’t turn the ball over, you have a much better chance of winning. All you need to prove the point is to ask the Pittsburgh Steelers whether or not their turnovers against the Jags game cost them a “W” Sunday.