After finally getting around to watching the Week 13 clash between the Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks, I’ve compiled my usual list of observations from the game. While I wasn’t surprised by the loss, I was surprised with how the Rams fought and how a few players managed to standout on offense (words I haven’t typed much this season). Cue the analysis.
Offense: Wolford better, Tutu surprises
With Matthew Stafford on IR, the Rams were forced to continue to roll with John Wolford behind center. I did feel like he had a much better outing this week but the limitations are still maddening, particularly on a missed throw to Tutu Atwell that surely would’ve ended in a touchdown. The recent acquisition of Baker Mayfield is likely a direct response to the horrid backup play the Rams have seen in recent weeks.
Cam Akers had his best game of the season and showed decent burst through holes that were more developed than in prior weeks. I’m still miffed by the complete 180 turn in the Akers/Rams relationship and it’s safe to question if he will be part of the 2023 iteration of the Rams. Rookie Kyren Williams took a backseat to Akers in this game and had minimal impact. A puzzling decision there.
In the offseason, I was among the biggest doubters of Tutu Atwell. I didn’t like his size, he was a poor returner, and it seemed every hit was an injury waiting to happen. I never thought he could ever be more than a gadget player at best. I must admit that since his playing time has jumped, I have considered that I may have been wrong on my analysis. Tutu Atwell was the best Rams receiver on the field Sunday. He was routinely open on a variety of routes from underneath, middle crossers, and deep concepts. He looked fast and has definitely learned to better avoid big hits. It’s too early for me to apologize and admit I was wrong, but I’m coming around. Would love to see how Tutu performs with this snap count and Stafford behind center.
Brandon Powell is electric when he touches the football. He has good quickness, understands his assignment, and hits holes with good vision. He’s another player that should have been more involved all season. Regardless, he had a great game and is a joy to watch with the ball.
Tyler Higbee has had a rough year and made several errors in this game. I expected he’d be a bigger part of the offense as so many top options have gone on IR. Instead, he’s minimized himself with poor play. I’ve never seen Higbee as more than a mid tier player at his position and I could definitely see the Rams wanting to upgrade in the offseason.
The offensive line played better in this game but I’ve also shifted my expectations to be generously low. Ty Nsekhe is definitely the best option we have at LT at the moment and his return helped. Sean McVay also did a much better job coaching around this unit, which I’ll get into later.
Defense: Hoecht helps fill gaps, Wagner out of his mind
The defensive line without Aaron Donald, Greg Gaines, A’Shawn Robinson, and any notable pass rushers played a much better game than I expected and Michael Hoecht was able to sack Geno Smith twice. Not bad for a set of replacement level players.
Bobby Wagner played OUT OF HIS MIND in this game and looked like his past self, logging a pair of sacks and an interception. Clearly motivated to play his former team, it’s safe to wonder how much Wagner still has left in the tank and can potentially offer in 2023.
Jalen Ramsey was burned for another touchdown, Derion Kendrick continues to be a horror show, and our safeties no showed yet again. This secondary allowed Geno Smith to march down the field seemingly at will while looking like the second coming of Joe Montana. Pitiful outing for this unit. As usual, I’m not sure how much blame to place on players when the jet puffed marshmallow zone scheme remains. Soft zone or not, this team needs new safeties who can actually affect a football game consistently.
The special teams unit has quietly been great this season despite being overshadowed by offensive malpractice and the free yardage defense. Riley Dixon has been above average punting the ball and Matt Gay has developed into Mr. Automatic, routinely splitting the uprights when called upon.
Looking at the bigger picture, I felt Sean McVay showed the first signs of creativity in a long time. Where were the rollouts, screens, and commitment to the run game in the first 12 weeks? He coached around the offensive line and his QB limitations in this game and the results speak for themselves. The Rams should have won this game and would have if even remotely healthy.
Since the Rams play again on Thursday night, I figured I would add a few extra pieces to my post this week and detail three ways the Rams can improve upon their past performance and answer some questions against the Las Vegas Raiders.
Get Tutu Atwell involved early and often from various scheme concepts
Tutu was the best offensive player for the Rams last week and I’d love to see an even bigger role for him on Thursday. I’d like to see the schemed plays like screens and reverses but I’d also like to see him showcased as a receiver. Without Kupp and Robinson, it is Atwell’s time to develop.
Give Kyren Williams a larger share of the backfield reps
For the most part, I know who Cam Akers is. I need to see more Kyren Williams. Can he handle a full workload? Does he offer big play ability that the running game has been missing? Can he be a top target in the passing game? There are plenty of questions to answer with Williams and I’d like to see more of him.
Change up the defensive scheme
For the sake of my sanity, the Rams absolutely need to change this zone defensive scheme. It may not work. It may expose our young corners even more than the past weeks. But it absolutely must be done. This team is losing games by giving up free yardage. Time to put the secondary in tight coverage and see who can play and who cannot. I’d also like to see more of Cobie Durant and/or Robert Rochell because the David Long/Derion Kendrick pairing hasn’t been working.