Rams coach Sean McVay won’t say whether injured QB Jared Goff will start Sunday. Seahawks probably prefer him over another obscure backup.
Without looking it up, do you recall the name of the most recent quarterback to beat the Seahawks?
If you said Colt McCoy, you win the Case Keenum Trophy for Obscure Quarterback Triumphs over the Seahawks.
On Dec. 6, McCoy, 34, who had started three games in the previous four years, subbed for injured starter Alex Smith and led the New York Giants to a surprising 17-12 win over favored Seattle.
That was the low-water mark of a Seahawks season that finished with four wins in a row, a 12-4 record, and the No. 3 seed in the NFC playoffs.
The lesson? The meek shall inherit the turf.
Keenum was the starting quarterback for the Rams early in the 2016 season when they beat the Seahawks 9-3 at the Coliseum, in which Russell Wilson played on an ankle sprained in the season opener against Miami.
But by the time the Rams came up to Seattle in December, head coach Jeff Fisher had just been fired, replaced temporarily by special teams coach John Fassel. Keenum was replaced by rookie Jared Goff — the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft — and the Rams lost 24-3. Keenum, Goff and the Rams completed the Seattle season series without scoring an offensive touchdown.
Fassel was replaced in 2017 by Sean McVay, who at 30 was the youngest head coach in the NFL’s modern history. He delivered on his reputation as a brilliant offensive innovator by directing the high-octane Rams to 11 regular-season wins, then in 2018 13 wins and a berth in the the Super Bowl.
After missing the playoffs in 2019 with a 9-7 record, he is back in the postseason this week at 10-6. But the Rams arrive in Seattle Saturday with an anomaly: They haven’t scored an offensive touchdown in two games, reflective of production of the sort that helped get Fisher fired.
Yes,” he said on a Zoom conference Wednesday. “It was, a bit.”
Genius can run thin in the NFL.
The first zero-six was rung up by the Seahawks Dec. 27, when they held the Rams to three field goals in a 20-9 triumph that secured the NFC West title. The second zero-six was Sunday, when the Rams used an interception return, a safety and three field goals to beat Arizona 18-7.
Wins are wins, as Seahawks coach Pete Carroll will suggest often, without prompting. But the wrinkle against the Cardinals was the Rams QB — John Wolford.
The sub-immortal Wolford, an undrafted free agent from Wake Forest, was forced to start because Goff had surgery to repair his thumb broken on the helmet of Seahawks DE Benson Mayowa. Even though his first career NFL pass was intercepted, Wolford recovered to complete 22 of 38 passes for 231 yards. He also led the Rams in rushing with 56 yards on six carries.
Most important: He didn’t screw up the game.
That is Job One when thrown unexpectedly into the cockpit: Just land the sucker. No barrel rolls.
That’s how McCoy did it.
So, Pete, is Wolford the next McCoy?
John Wolford’s best plays from his first NFL game! pic.twitter.com/cq5UEDVxq4
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) January 5, 2021
“Well, it’s interesting you would say that. He’s about the same size,” he said of the 6-1, 200-pounder. “He had a really good game. To bounce back from his first throw, he had a really winning football game. I’m sure they were just really excited about it.
“They didn’t protect him to be safe at all. He threw the ball all over the yard, made some big throws down the field and spread the formations. It was really impressive, and he ran well, too.”
In LA, McVay spent about half of his presser explaining that Goff’s rehab is coming along well enough that he is under consideration to start, but that no decision will be made until more information is gleaned from practice.
“Just for you guys’ edification, I’m not gonna make an announcement on who’s starting and who’s not,” he said. “I’m not gonna answer that question this week.”
But is there an imperative to decide sooner rather than later?
“Saturday, at 1:39,” he said. You might have gotten a dime through his lips with a sledgehammer, but you’d had to have swung like Aaron Judge.
My guess is Wolford gets the start. Goff had three pins inserted into the thumb, and he can’t take pain-killing shots because needs feeling in the hand. But as Keenum and McCoy, among others, have established, it isn’t always about the quarterback, especially when it comes to playoffs and teams with good defenses.
In the two regular-season games between the Rams and Seahawks, each has scored a combined three touchdowns against the other. All three Rams TDs were in their 23-16 win in LA, and the Seahawks had two in the December rematch. So the offensive pyrotechnics for this party are on the damp side.
The Rams are statistically the best defense in the NFL, and the Seahawks might have been a little better than that in the second half of the season. Each offense is going to be risk-averse, McVay because he has to and Carroll because he wants to.
In Wolford, McVay at least has a quarterback so far without brain-freeze syndrome, unlike Goff.
“I was pleased with the way that (Wolford) settled in, and we were able to control the possession and come away with the win (against Arizona),” he said. “We’re definitely gonna need a much better result and offensive performance to come away with the win against a great team.”
In the knockout round, neither coach dares dial up something that makes for an early turnover, which morphs into a dead-man’s deficit of 10 or more points.
So brace yourself for a majestic punting duel between Michael Dickson and Johnny Hekker. In a don’t-screw-it-up game, put the ball in the hands and on the feet of the most reliable players, until somebody else screws up.