In a mirror game of the 2023 season opener, the Los Angeles Rams defense bent like a pretzel in the first half versus the Seattle Seahawks, but then got itself straightened out as the game progressed. Defensive coordinator Raheem Morris’s unit put a second half kibosh on the Seahawks and kept things close until the Rams offense finally woke up enough to steal a 17-16 win.
Just like in Week 1, Seattle scored on three of four first half possessions, rolled to nearly 200 yards of offense, and went into the break with a 13-7 lead. While the Rams could not shut them out again in the second half, they did hold the Seahawks to a field goal and the L.A. come-from-behind win keeps the flickering flame of a possible playoff spot from extinguishing.
It’s always much more fun to watch film and do the drive chart review when the Rams win and it’s been so long, hopefully I won’t be too gushing.
A methodic 13 play to open the game for Seattle. No big plays, seven quick, short passes, six runs and one 15 yard penalty to go 88 yards for a touchdown. No missed tackles or blown assignments, just the Seahawks staying patient and taking what the Rams gave. One big play that ended up being a “might have been” was edge (E) Byron Young getting isolated in coverage on a ‘Hawk wide receiver (WR) down the sideline. Quarterback (QB) Geno Smith recognized it and dropped the pass over Young and in front of the safety. The receiver wasn’t able to get his footwork down in bounds and a 23 yard completion was rightfully ruled incomplete. Seahawks 7, Rams 0.
After the Rams failed fourth down attempt, the ‘Hawks took over at the two and went right back to their Drive #1 formula to grind out a pair of first downs. From the 25, the Rams had a chance for a stop and good field position after two passes, one complete, that netted zero yards. On third and ten, QB Smith threw a lollipop into what was basically double coverage, but both Rams deep safeties (S), Jordan Fuller and John Johnson could not react to the high, underthrown ball. The Seattle WR came down with it for a 32 yard gain into Rams territory. Three runs and a fourth down conversion got another first down down to the L.A. 26, but the Rams defense stiffened. After a pair of of small penalties made it first and 20, cornerback (CB) Ahkello Witherspoon made a sure tackle on a flat pass, another quick out went incomplete wide, and a third down run gained two, forcing a long field goal attempt, The kick was good from 54 yards. Seahawks 10, Rams 0.
In what seems like a weekly occurrence, CB Witherspoon lets a WR get past him deep down the sideline. And while only a few of have been converted, this one was good for 53 yards into the Rams red zone. Only S Jordan Fuller hustling over in deep support saved the touchdown. Again, the Rams defense toughened up. After a short run up the gut, defensive tackle (DT) Aaron Donald stepped up. He swam through the blocking and used his speed to blow up an outside run and then on third down ate up a triple team pass block that let DT Kobie Turner loop around him and hound the ‘Hawks QB into an intentional grounding. Seattle was forced to settle for a field goal. Seahawks 13, Rams 0.
Kneel down to close out the first half. Seahawks 13, Rams 7.
The Seahawks come out in the final 30 minutes throwing. A dropped short pass by the tight end Will Dissly , a quick WR screen for seven, and fine, sticky coverage by S Russ Yeast to break up another toss to the TE make for a one minute three and out to open the closing half. Seahawks 13, Rams 7.
A 15 yard punt interference penalty allowed the Seahawks to start in Rams territory at the 42. And again, Seattle strayed from the run game. After a run to open the drive, six straight passes were on the docket. The Rams brought linebacker Ernest Jones on pressure and QB Geno Smith didn’t have time to throw deep. The blitzing Jones combined with DT Bobby Brown on one sack and forced a bad throw on another. The ‘Hawks could only move forward 12 yards, but were able convert another long field goal, this one from 52. Seahawks 16, Rams 7.
A short pass to WR Tyler Lockett gained 10 and a quick first down, but the Rams flipped possession three plays later. After a short run up the gut, DT Jonah Williams lined up wide like a hand-on-the-ground defensive end and bull rushed the right tackle into the pocket securing a sack. On third and long, Seattle ran a screen, but DT Kobie Turner read it and hustled laterally down the line to make the tackle near the sideline to force a punt. Seahawks 16, Rams 7.
As the third quarter ticked down and into the fourth, the Seahawks eschewed trying to kill clock with the run game. On the series’ first play, DT Aaron Donald shot through the A gap, barely touched, and into the face of the QB Geno Smith. AD also stuck a big paw into the QB’s throwing arc, tweaking his elbow and forcing him from the game. The backup QB, Drew Lock, handed off up the gut for no gain and then missed an open receiver deep down the middle. Seattle punts again. Seahawks 16, Rams 7.
Seattle got the ball two plays later on a Matthew Stafford interception deep in their own territory. The ‘Hawks cannot capitalize and go three and out, throwing twice and only burning a couple of ticks over 1:30 off the clock. A flat pass for four, a run up the middle for three and deep corner pattern that was too wide. Punt number four. Seahawks 16, Rams 7.
Again, the Seahawks take flight. The first play is a counter bootleg pass off a fake wide zone run, a play the Rams know well. TE Will Dissly is open, but CB Derion Kendrick is rushing the passer and jumps up to bat down the pass. Play two is a WR screen that LB Christian Rozeboom reads and reacts for a loss of one. On the the third and final play of the drive, CB Kendrick looks a step behind on a streak down the sideline, but the pass is underthrown and the CB makes the interception. Seahawks 16, Rams 7.
Derion Kendrick in coverage vs the Seahawks:— PFF LA Rams (@PFF_Rams) November 20, 2023
3 receptions allowed, 21 yards
6.3 passer rating allowed
After the Rams come all the way back to take a lead, Seattle takes over at their own 25 with 1:31 to play, no timeouts and needing to get to the Rams 38 for shot at a game-winning field goal. The first play goes for 13 yards against no blitz and soft coverage. The Rams sent LB Ernest Jones on the blitz for the next two plays, an incompletion and two yard pass gain. On third and eight, LB Jones again came on a blitz, but ‘Hawks line was up to the task and QB Smith found WR D.K. Metcalfe down the seam for 21 yards to the L.A. 39. A run up the middle trying to catch the Rams asleep only went for two and a spike to stop the clock set up a 55 yard game clinching field goal attempt. It faded wide right and looked like it may have been a bit short as well. Rams win, 17-16.
What went right?
The Rams pass rush did a good job of creating pressure when QB Geno Smith wanted to go down field and did an even better job of keeping and collapsing the pocket integrity, Smith was unable to extend plays or create yards with his feet. Jonah Williams looked good coming off the edge and the whole front played well against both run and throw.
Kobie Turner had another solid effort. His hustle and effort lead me to believe that Aaron Donald is in his ear for his overall game, not just technique work. This is a rookie without an outstanding draft pedigree, nor was he an early selection. He’s only had one season of D1 play in preparation of the NFL. That’s a steep learning curve and Turner’s navigating it.
Derion Kendrick had a good game between the lines, maybe his best showing as a pro, BUT between the ears, it was pretty poor. I have often called him out for mediocre play, and he deserves a some run for his game on Sunday.
DC Raheem Morris’s use of the blitz game, both true and sims, created pressure. Generally speaking, the ‘Hawks were limited to underneath stuff in the passing game and those formations/sets worked well against the run game as well. Something forced Seattle to abandon the run game. Yes, their RB#1 did leave the game fairly early, but they had a good lead until late in the game and did not try to beat on the Rams and eat clock. It creates more of a question mark as to why the defense was so static against Green Bay.
The two weeks off helped Ernest Jones, he looked much more nimble than the last couple games he played in. Both he and Christian Rozeboom reacted quicker, closed well in pursuit, and tackled better. In fact, the whole defensive group tackled much better than in past games.
Hopefully, for the defense as a whole, it’s “lessons learned.” Next week, the Rams make a short jaunt to Phoenix for a tilt with the Arizona Cardinals. Kyler Murray, another QB who can extend plays with his feet and throw the ball on the move, brings many of the same problems that L.A. has struggled with this season.
It’s a game the Rams should win, but that hasn’t meant much this season. The Cards will have both Murray and top running back James Conner back from injury. Neither played in L.A.’s 26-9 win in Week 6.