The Los Angeles Rams handily defeated the division rival Seattle Seahawks 20-10 on Tuesday night, but the majority of the chatter following the game centered around Shawn Hochluli’s officiating crew. Media pundits and off-put fans are looking to boil down four quarters of football into a couple of key instances, but that’s not necessarily what decides the outcome of NFL games. The truth is there’s much more to it, and there were far more in-between moments that had a greater impact on the final score.
Sure, rookie linebacker Ernest Jones probably should have been called for pass interference against running back DeeJay Dallas late in the game - but it’s certainly not reasonable to say that the officials throwing the flag would have resulted anything other than a victory for the Rams. Here’s why:
1 - LA was already up by a touchdown
The alleged pass interference came on fourth down late in the fourth quarter with the Rams up by seven points. The officials throwing the flag would have given the Seahawks the ball at the 30-yard line (at best) and Russell Wilson would had to do something he hadn’t done all night up to that point - score a touchdown.
The Los Angeles pass defense has been stingy against opposing quarterbacks the last few weeks, and have kept the likes of Trevor Lawrence, Kyler Murray, and Wilson out of the end zone in its last three games. Wilson and the Seattle passing game also had an objectively bad night - accumulating only 156 passing yards, some of which came in garbage time late in the game, and completing only 55% of their attempted passes. Even if the Seahawks had the ball deep in Rams territory, coming away with a touchdown to tie the game would not have been a gimmie.
2 - The Seahawks had other opportunities to get a first down on that drive
The sequence leading up to the much-discussed play unfolded as follows:
3rd and 1 - Rashaad Penny is called for a false start, a 5-yard penalty. This puts Seattle is a significantly less favorable scenario, but these are the kinds of mistakes losing teams make.
I've rewatched the Penny false start penalty... sorry, as awful as Hochuli's crew was, it's the right call. He clearly flinched. Refs got a lot of things wrong but Penny screwed up. pic.twitter.com/Qmr7sWVnQM— Field Gulls (@FieldGulls) December 22, 2021
3rd and 6 - Seattle inexplicably calls a run, which is stopped for no gain by Von Miller.
Third and 6: Seattle calls a run and Von Miller is all over it for the stop.— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) December 22, 2021
Fourth down incoming...
4th and 6 - It seems like the Seahawks are considering possibly punting the ball away and Wilson and the offense are late getting set up. Seattle has to take a costly timeout in the final minutes of the game. The offense comes back onto the field and defensive tackle Greg Gaines beats his man almost instantly to get a quick pressure on Wilson. Wilson’s pass is severely underthrown and Dallas must fight through Ernest Jones to get back to the ball. The call on the field is an incomplete pass and turnover on downs by Seattle.
Overall this was a poorly managed sequence by Pete Carroll, Shane Waldron, and Wilson - and the lack of a coherent plan proved costly for the Seahawks. With that said, they had their chances to convert, but squandered away the opportunity through a penalty of their own and an awful third down play call.
3 - Quarterbacks should not be rewarded for underthrown passes
The Seahawks had Dallas favorably matched up one-on-one against the Rams’ rookie linebacker, but Gaines quickly pressured Wilson to force an early throw. This is an example of pressure working in tandem with coverage.
If Wilson had enough time to size up the throw and deliver the ball to Dallas in stride, Dallas easily could have been another 10-15+ yards down the field. Instead, Wilson’s throw took a while to come down well short of its intended target, which gave Jones ample time to catch up. Dallas had to fight through Jones for the ball, and most of the time this draws a flag in the NFL.
But in the day and age where passing the ball has never been easier and defenders are at a clear disadvantage, why should quarterbacks also be rewarded for severely underthrowing passes? Don’t ask the officials to make the play for you - do it yourself.
4 - Dallas’s lapse in judgement may have spotted the Rams 3 points
Sure, the lack of penalty was a tough pill to swallow for players and fans alike; however, it is important to not compound mistakes and Dallas kicked the ball after the frustrating play resulting in a 15-yard personal foul.
The Rams did not get much going on their drive following the stop on fourth down and were forced to kick a 35-yard field goal that sealed the victory. If it weren’t for the penalty on Dallas, it’s possible that LA’s kick would have instead been for 50+ yards and the outcome could have been different.
Dallas’s penalty may have directly impacted the score of the game, but the same cannot be definitively said of the lack of penalty on Ernest Jones. Nevertheless, the lapse of judgement was easily avoidable and it was a selfish moment by the running back that sank his team’s hopes of winning.