In Week 3 of the 2017 season, the third game of Sean McVay’s head coaching career, the Los Angeles Rams went to San Francisco to play football on a Thursday night. The Rams and 49ers were both feeling good about their new head coaches that season and Thursday Night Football pitted McVay against Kyle Shanahan, two coaches who would win the NFC over the next three years, branch out coaching trees, and revolutionize NFL offenses.
At the time though, they were just two first-year head coaches coming off of a loss.
Shanahan’s 49ers were 0-2 and they had yet to score a touchdown. McVay was greeted in Week 1 with an NFL welcome gift known as “Scott Tolzien’s Colts” and won 46-9, but then got beat by his former team and his former quarterback in Week 2 when Jared Goff was intercepted on a pass intended for Cooper Kupp.
The first meeting between the league’s two brightest offensive minds certainly did its part in creating a legacy: It is the highest-scoring game in Thursday Night Football history.
The Rams scored in 12 seconds and they didn’t even get the ball to start the game.
And while it would seem like a game between Goff and Brian Hoyer in 2017 would lean heavily in McVay’s favor, the Rams defense was happy to do its part in making this the highest-scoring game in Thursday Night Football.
Without spending any more time talking about a game from four years ago (the Rams-49ers 2017 Thursday Night Football highlights are well worth another watch), tonight’s Thursday night matchup between McVay and the NFL’s anti-Kyle Shanahan, Pete Carroll, could potentially give that other game a run for it’s touchdowns.
In that 2017 loss to Washington, Kirk Cousins was able to through LA’s defense on the final drive and that is unfortunately how it has felt at times with the Rams this season. The Raheem Morris defense ranks 31st in yards per drive allowed and 32nd in plays per drive, and is 20th in DVOA.
But fortunately, it is no longer “Goff to Kupp.”
The Rams offense ranks third in points per drive and yards per drive, and Matthew Stafford is first in net yards per pass attempt. Though he did have issues with accuracy against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 4, that really boils down to having three or four more “bad throws” than usual and every quarterback has games throughout a season where they don’t have it like they have it most of the time.
I still have the expectation every week that Stafford is going to be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
I also have the expectation that the Rams defense is going to bend every week. Not that it’s gonna “bend don’t break.” Clearly sometimes it can break and Morris’s defense has allowed over 900 yards in the last two games and that’s with one game where the team didn’t even run the ball.
However, the Rams will have every opportunity to break the defense of the Seattle Seahawks.
The Seahawks enter Week 5 with a defense that is ranked sort of like my favorite joke-lacking sports sitcom: Ted Last-o. Seattle is last in yards allowed, last in first downs allowed, last in rushing yards allowed.
The Seahawks rank 30th in plays and yards allowed per drive, but are surprisingly 19th in points allowed per drive. That could be closer to last-o by Friday. Seattle got away with allowing 16 points to a hobbled Carson Wentz offense in Week 1 and 21 points to the 49ers last week only because Shanahan gave an entire half to a quarterback who needs a 17-game preseason right now. But they also gave up 66 total points to the Titans and Vikings.
I believe that Matthew Stafford is better than Ryan Tannehill and Kirk Cousins.
Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Van Jefferson, and DeSean Jackson should be able to find plenty of explosive opportunities against the Seahawks defense. Seattle just acquired and started Sidney Jones at cornerback and he may have had the toughest debut of any corner: he was the closest player in the area on 11 throws, nine of which were completed for 131 yards and a touchdown.
That’s a pretty big issue for the Seahawks. Because again. The 49ers weren’t looking hot to begin with.
Seattle ranks 27th against the pass by DVOA and it would make sense to see a more accurate Stafford take advantage of this matchup, even on a short week. Will the Seahawks attempt to run Chris Carson and Alex Collins a lot against a Rams defense that ranks 22nd in DVOA against the run and is 27th in yards per carry allowed.
If that works, it would make life easier on Russell Wilson, who so far has thrown nine touchdowns and no interceptions with an NFL-high 129.9 passer rating (though it is kind of inflated and Wilson hasn’t been near the best QB in the NFL) to test out an LA secondary that has the best cornerback in the NFL, and maybe that only makes life a little harder on his teammates when they get tested so often.
David Long, Jr. has had issues when he gets tested by opposing quarterbacks throughout training camp and the season and since this is our first real chance to see Long play, when it is his third year in the league — at least probably means that we can expect teams to keep testing him. For Seattle, that means DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and maybe Freddie Swain, though the Seahawks lack much depth at the receiver as rookie Dee Eskridge recovers from a concussion.
The current over/under of Rams-Seahawks is set at 54.5 points, but would the game be setting up to see both teams score at least 30?
Four years ago, the Rams and 49ers combined to score 80 points on Thursday Night Football. Could we see that mark challenged by McVay again?