BY Art Thiel 04:28PM 12/09/2019

Thiel: Rams’ tactics made Wilson more sackable

Rams pressured Russell Wilson further into a downward cycle with 5 sacks. Pete Carroll thinks he’s holding the ball too long. Related: RB Rashaad Penny is out for the season.

On too few occasions Sunday did Russell Wilson scramble for chunk yardage against the Rams defense. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Since the outcome Sunday was the Rams’ fourth win in the past five games against the Seahawks, and eighth in the past 12 meetings, there probably shouldn’t be much shock in Seattle’s 28-12 loss at the Coliseum. But 10 wins in the season’s first 12 games created an expectation that somehow things would have gone better.

In fact, the Rams own the Seahawks.

The pivotal reason the Rams lost in Seattle 30-29 Oct. 3 was because reliable kicker Greg Zuerlein missed a 44-yard field goal with 11 seconds left that would have won the game. Otherwise, the series would have been a sweep.

More important, the Rams know they can do one thing better than any other team against Seattle: Largely due to all-planet DT Aaron Donald, they can pressure QB Russell Wilson into indecision, errors and inefficiency.

“We’ve been doing this,” said Rams DE Michael Brockers after the game. “We feel like we’ve been beating the Seahawks. I’ve been here eight years years and I’ve been beating them since St Louis. So it’s nothing to be afraid of.”

Since the game in Seattle, the LA defense acquired an additional asset: Premier CB Jalen Ramsey, who bullied his way out of Jacksonville and into a midseason trade to LA. Sunday, Ramsey traveled with Seahawks rookie WR DK Metcalf, whom the Rams obviously deemed the most dangerous weapon.

Metcalf still caught all six balls thrown his way, for 78 yards. But he didn’t require double-teaming, and his biggest play, a 35-yard completion, came late, out of desperation with the game in hand.

Having a shutdown corner meant the Rams largely could use four rushers against Wilson  and blitz only occasionally, forcing him to hang onto the ball a beat or two longer. The results were game-changing: Wilson was hit 11 times, sacked five times, and had 28 yards in five rushes, only one of which was noteworthy, for 17 yards.

“We decided to rush together today, to collapse the pocket and don’t let him get out of there,” Brockers said. “I think that’s the best way of rushing him. I’ve seen him wreck games when we try to rush our own way and he gets out.”

The result Sunday was that, despite the Seattle defense’s second-half recovery with two interceptions and a blocked field goal, the offense could not take advantage. The tally of the final five possessions:

  • 3 plays / 4 yards / punt
  • 6 plays / 21 yards / punt
  • 3 plays /7 yards / punt
  • 13 plays / 59 yards / FG
  • 9 plays / 31 yards / INT

One drive was spoiled with a minus-11 sack of Wilson, another with a minus-12 sack. But the futility wasn’t all on him. One drive clanked with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Metcalf, who was suckered into a shoving match with the trash-talking Ramsey, and another by back-to-back O-line penalties on LG Mike Iupati (holding) and RT Germain Ifedi (false start).

Since the Seahawks entered Sunday having surrendered 18 sacks in the previous four games, the five by the Rams seems to have set off alarms at VMAC. Carroll put part of the blame on Wilson’s tendency to wait too long before releasing.

“There’s enough plays to say there’s an issue,” Carroll said on his weekly ESPN 710 radio show Monday. “It’s never one thing, because that would be easy to fix. There were times when Russ held the ball, waiting for another opportunity. He’s had so many marvelous things happen . . . but this group is coming at you. There was some really good pass protection when we got sacked, because he held the ball. Russ also makes (scramble) plays that were not available to to us. He did not get out and get scrambling as much as usual.

“We’re concerned about it. We’re running the ball efficiently. We need to keep the pass rush at bay. We have to do that with (our play-action calls), running the ball and slowing (the rush) down.”

Carroll calling out Wilson is a rarity, but the four-game trend in his play — passer ratings below 100 in all, with none prior to that — is downward.

The schedule offers a modest assist for implementing late-season amendments, with games at Carolina (5-8-1) Sunday and home against Arizona (3-9-1) the next week. Should the Seahawks win both, the regular-season finale against 11-2 San Francisco could be for all the goodies in the NFC playoff seedings.

But now the 49ers have the movie of how to stifle the Seahawks, with the Jalen Ramsey role to be played by noted thespian Richard Sherman. The Seahawks have time to change it from a horror film.

Penny out for the season

RB Rashaad Penny’s right ACL is torn and he will be lost for the rest of the Seahawks season, according to an NFL.com report.

Carroll said at his Monday presser that “we are going to miss him the rest of the season,” confirming the report. The first-round draft choice in the 2018 draft went down on his first play, a 16-yard swing-pass reception after he was tackled by former University of Washington star Taylor Rapp. Penny pounded the ground in pain, then limped into the injury tent before heading into the locker room.

The Seahawks will advance little-used C.J. Prosise into the backup role behind Chris Carson, with rookie Travis Homer in reserve.


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YourThoughts

  • Effzee

    That’s the rub. He’s short. His game is largely smoke and mirrors. When teams play the collapse-the-pocket-and-don’t-let-him-run game, he’s completely neutralized. So its like…. as long as our O-Line can handle the D-Line, we are good and RW can do his magic. But if that D-Line can get upfield on us, there are simply no answers.

    • Husky73

      If/when the Seahawks beat the Panthers next week, all will be right in Russell/Seahawk nation. Fans are fickle— for five weeks, all’s been peachy and RW is a bona fide MVP…… but after one loss….the weaknesses have been exposed!!!!!!

      • Effzee

        Yah, I’m not quite that simple. It’s not just this one loss. It’s the pattern of losses all looking relatively the same. There’s a formula to stop him, and when a team executes it, there’s nothing he can do to respond.

        • Husky73

          It is that simple, and I don’t see a pattern of losses. They are 10-3, and it’s not like they’ve lost seven Apple Cups in a row.

          • Effzee

            If you can’t see the obvious pattern/template that has been used by the Rams to beat Wilson 4 out of the last 5 times they’ve played, and 8 of the past 12, then I can’t help you. It’s the same defense that the Cowboys used in the playoffs, that the Niners are now using, that the Ravens used earlier this year. It’s an established formula that is clear for anyone to see.

          • Husky73

            It is football, and it is simple. The NFL is not dark matter and string theory. It’s 11 vs. 11.

          • Effzee

            I don’t want to assume what you’re saying, but it sounds like you just said that there’s no meaningful difference between the West Coast Offense, the I-Formation, Split Backs, The Wildcat, The Run and Shoot, the Spread Offense, the Run Pass Option, etc? And that there’s no real difference between the 3-4, the 4-3, Tampa 2, Zone, the 46…..

            Those are basically all just, what? Fancy terms that don’t really mean anything? I wonder why coaches bother with having different philosophies? I wonder why they run different systems? I wonder why a thing like “halftime adjustments” exists, if its all just “Hey you eleven guys…. go run some plays why don’t ya?”

          • Husky73

            There are differences, and they are not new. Most have roots in the 1930’s and 40’s. They have been defended for decades. Sid Gillman ran them in the 1960’s. Buddy Ryan defended them in the 1980’s.

          • Effzee

            Well, this isn’t the 1980s or the 1940s. I’m thrown by the use of the word simple. I’m not sure Chris Petersen or Pete Carroll would describe football as “simple,” except maybe in an esoteric sense, like how sometimes a team “makes it look easy” when everything flows and everyone is doing their job (running the right routes, staying in their gaps, etc). If this is what you mean by “it is football, and it is simple,” then fine. I can agree with that. But as far as the chess match, the intricacies, the battle of wits, every inch mattering… it seems like football is intensely cerebral, and far from a simple proposition, to me.

          • Husky73

            We should probably end this conversation. This is Art’s board, not ours. We are guests here, and I don’t want to be a bad visitor to a person I greatly admire. Best wishes to you and yours for the holidays. H73

          • art thiel

            This has been a civil conversation. It’s a public board I supervise, in the hope that we all learn a few things that add to the enjoyment. So far, so good.

          • Effzee

            :)

            I felt it was civil, and I was imagining you with a bucket of popcorn watching us have at our little debate, lol.

            Thanks as always for providing this forum, and for continuing to write. Best local sports scribe in the game.

          • Effzee

            You as well. I think I’ve observed us be on the same side of discussions many times. Nothing wrong with a little back-and-forth to try to reach understanding. Cheers!

          • art thiel

            Nobody this season has put up 14 on the first two possessions vs. SEA. CLE had a 20-6 lead, but that was a series of one-off play outcomes. Circumstances dictate the playbook choices, and the Seahawks didn’t stick with the run to work out of the hole slowly.

        • art thiel

          There’s always been a formula, but few teams have the Rams’ athletes up front. And it helped the rush to be up 14-3.

      • art thiel

        CAR is weak enough that a win proves little. RW has been on a slide for four games. Not terrible, just not maintaining the wicked pace.

    • art thiel

      The Seahawks needed to counter that rush with a good run game and play action, which they did in the first meeting. But 14-3 changed a lot. Teeing off on RW was mandatory.

  • Chris Alexander

    As Art pointed out, the schedule offers the Hawks a chance to get things sorted out with very winnable games at Carolina and at home against the Cardinals.

    Losing Penny hurts as it leaves us thin at RB but Carson can handle the load and I expect little-used Travis Homer to get a few carries and maybe turn a few heads. Would be nice if C.J. Prosise was able to contribute some as well but I’m not all that optimistic given his history (i.e. little production and an inability to stay healthy). Wouldn’t mind being wrong (about Prosise) though.

    Will be interesting to see if Richard Sherman recovers in time to face Seattle in Week 17 or if he has to just yell at the Seahawks from the sideline.

    • art thiel

      If I had to pick a breakout player for Sunday, it’s Prosise. He’s healthy, talented and really pissed off.

  • antirepug3

    Chris Collinsworth said the Seahawks were “flat” in the first half. JMO, they were more than flat, the whole tire came off the rim. It wasn’t just the offense, the defense pass coverage, something I have bitched about for some time, allowed Tyler Higbee, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp or Todd Gurleywide open. It seems that when the Hawks opponents play tight man coverage the passing game goes to pot while the opponents passing game soars to new heights whilst the Hawks are playing zone (read: no coverage) not only making catches but also beau coup yards after the catch.

    • art thiel

      As I wrote in the game column, it wasn’t that the Seahawks were flat, they didn’t bring the same edge as LA, because LA had to have the win. And I do think that having Cody Barton in his first rookie start hurt.

  • Matt712

    It’s good to see Pete publicly holding Russ accountable. Makes me wonder if that’s a lesson learned from the not-so-distant past. I do hope, however, that he’s also taking a hard look at himself along with his OC because I was not seeing in-game adjustments that might have mitigated LA’s pass rush.

    Russ is one of the best (if not the best) QBs in football at throwing accurately on the run, yet the Seahawks seemed to stubbornly stick to the five- and seven-step dropbacks for longer-developing routes which require a clean pocket. While on the other side, McVay had Goff rolling out or throwing quick underneath routes routinely.

    Seattle started the game creatively enough, but it seemed like once Penny went down, they regressed to a conservative, vanilla offense (e.g., hand off to Carson between the tackles, straight dropbacks on 3rd & long). I think Schotty had a script that featured a closed-to 50/50 spilt in plays for Carson and Penny, and when when that got blown up on the first series, the offense was reduced to routine plays, particularly with a short week to prepare.

    It’s infuriating to watch. If I didn’t believe that every team tries its absolute best to win every game, then I’d suspect The Seahawks didn’t open the playbook up because they didn’t absolutely need this game. Which, of course, is nonsense.

    • art thiel

      I tend to think they got away from the run too soon. The third-and-1 failure early scared them away from rushing. Vanilla well executed is tasty.

  • Joe_Fan

    A win in Carolina will get everyone feeling good again. Seahawks, and in particular Wilson, need to find that edge again. One game at a time.