The Los Angeles Rams may enter Week 11’s game against the Seattle Seahawks by trailing three games in the standings, but they blew them out in Week 1 and have gained even more intel since then. That includes arguably the biggest weakness on the Seahawks defense, a hole that teams have been exploiting week after week against Seattle: Passing to your running backs.
This could be Darrell Henderson’s big moment.
This weakness was fully uncovered last week by the Commanders, as running backs Brian Robinson Jr. and Antonio Gibson teamed up for 11 receptions, 161 yards and two touchdowns. The Seahawks have teased this weakness for a while. We saw it earlier in the year with Lions rookie Jahmyr Gibbs, who caught seven passes for 39 yards. We then saw it a week later with Carolina’s Miles Sanders going for five catches and 38 yards. Matt Breida of the Giants followed suit without Saquon Barkley, as he hauled in five passes for 48 yards.
Brian Robinson caught all 6 of his targets for 119 yards and a TD, setting career-highs in yards after the catch (115) and receiving yards over expected (+50).— COMMANDERS FOOTBALL (@HogsHaven) November 15, 2023
The Washington Commanders gained 240 yards after the catch as a team, the 4th most in any game this season.
This problem has always been there for Seattle.
Stick with the plan
Teams haven’t always caught on but the Seahawks have a problem in letting up big plays in crucial moments to running backs in the passing game. The Browns had a big play in the form of a 41 yard screen pass to Pierre Strong. It’s always been there. So, why did the Commanders take a weak point and turned it into such a problem for Seattle? It’s because they stuck with it.
The Commanders weren’t able to feel confident in running the ball against a defense that was one of the better run defenses in the league at one point. The best way to still “run the ball” without running the ball is the short passing game.
Sam Howell was not able to feel confident targeting deep downfield against the likes of Seahawks cornerbacks Devon Witherspoon and Riq Woolen. So, he did the next best thing and dumped it off to Robinson and Gibson and the two had success but Robinson was key and critical after the catch, as he accumulated 113 yards in that department.
Due to this establishing threat it opened up a late game touchdown to receiver Dyami Brown. Seattle linebackers Jordyn Brooks and Bobby Wagner may be very athletic but the two have combined to give up two touchdowns and 420 yards after the catch. Teams have been wildly successful when targeting the middle of the Seahawks defense.
This is the Rams weakness they can poke and prod at.
How Rams attack
The great thing about the Rams is that they have a bevy of skill position players in Cooper Kupp, Puka Nacua, Tutu Atwell and Tyler Higbee that teams already have to account for. Now, the Rams can take advantage of that and challenge the Seahawks linebackers to finish plays.
Running backs Darrell Henderson, Royce Freeman and rookie Zach Evans could all see touches in this game and they could get a few targets in the passing game to truly stab into this Seahawks defense’s weakness. Henderson has been the only receiving threat in the trio so far, as he’s caught six passes for 75 yards in three games since returning to L.A.’s backfield. Freeman has only been targeted once in six games and Evans only has four touches, all of which are rushing attempts.
Another fun pick by the Rams with Zach Evans. Has really impressive tape and massive upside. Awesome value here. So fluid and looks like he’s gliding as a runner. Good contact balance too. Really believe he can be an impact player. Look at him go: pic.twitter.com/j4LHe4mmMp— Bobby Football (@Rob__Paul) April 29, 2023
It’s also worth noting how last week the Commanders got Boye Mafe and Dre’mont Jones on some big explosives where they were practically fish out of water. I expect Sean McVay to put together a gameplan and study real hard on the different things the Commanders did to move the ball last week in the passing game without much of a run game.
While I’ve spoken at length about the fact the Rams need to utilize Tutu Atwell, it’s important to also consider just in general how susceptible Seattle has been versus the running backs since Devon Witherspoon and safety Jamal Adams have come back. Surely, this was a big reason for sending a second round pick to the Giants acquire Leonard Williams at the trade deadline in the first place.
It still hasn’t mattered a ton, teams are choosing to go around Witherspoon, Woolen and that secondary and attack the Seahawks linebackers, it has certainly worked. Keep in mind the Commanders lost but go back before the Commanders game and you’ll see that Seattle was just recently blown out 37-3 by the Ravens.
In the Ravens game, Keaton Mitchell took nine carries for 138 yards and a touchdown. Gus Edwards ran five times for 52 yards and two touchdowns. The Seahawks are just not prepared to stop explosive running backs, it’s just a matter of whether L.A. has one of those since Kyren Williams went on IR.
Attacking Seattle’s defense in the passing game with running backs and going after their linebackers is the problem that Washington and Baltimore have exposed, now it’s time for McVay to make it even more obvious.
Can the Rams put together a full 60 minutes of football or not? The last time they came the closest to doing that was when they played Seattle.