Of course, just because they can doesn’t mean they will.
I have an inkling that things are going to go Seattle’s way in this one, and I base that on absolutely nothing. Since my gut is usually wrong about 8/10 times, my official prediction is that the Rams prevail. But, these are SLIGHTLY different teams than a year ago.
You remember last year, right? It was Week 5 in fact, just like this season! We were hosting the Rams – this time on a Sunday afternoon – and were 2-2, just coming off of a victory down in Arizona. Déjà vu all over again, right? Well, sort of. Now we’re 3-1, a little bit older, and a little bit wiser.
Last year, I don’t know if there was a non-homer on the planet who believed the Seahawks legitimately had a chance against the Rams. They were THE RAMS! They were undefeated, they’d unlocked something in their offense no one had ever seen before, and surely they’d steamroll the Seahawks!
Then, we did something crazy. We hung around and hung around, kept scoring right along with the Rams, and even had a brief 7-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. A couple of punts in the final frame on our end – and a couple scores on their end – left us with one final opportunity. The Rams had the ball, 4th & 1 at their own 42 yard line, and we just couldn’t get the stop we needed.
The Seahawks did everything they could do this past offseason in response to this game exclusively. We’re a better team than we were a year ago, even though the results on the field don’t really tell that story. The run defense is improved, which is huge. We’re getting moderately better play out of our secondary. Beyond that, the tape is out on the Rams. They haven’t been figured out entirely, but teams are slowing them down some. We know what it takes to beat this team, we just need to go out and execute.
On the offensive side of the ball, Russell Wilson is playing better than he has in his life. We’re starting to figure out how to get our running game where we want it, but I would argue we’re actually better in balancing out the offense to where it needs to be. In 2018, the Seahawks were just a LITTLE too run-heavy after those first couple weeks; I believe we’ve done a better job as a team to incorporate more passing early in games, without entirely losing our identity.
I LIKE that we like to run the ball a lot. I like to zig when other teams zag. Most teams are adept at playing in nickel defense, which means if we go heavy more often than not, other teams are forced to go with their less-effective base unit, or else risk the consequences of Chris Carson busting it down their throats. Then, when we go 3-wides and force teams to go nickel, we can still run it out of these formations for considerable gains.
The Rams’ defense looks beatable. They were gashed awfully hard by the Bucs last week, and maybe that’s because they were looking ahead. I can’t really say. All I know is that this team isn’t the same one it was last year, and that bodes well for a Seahawks victory.
This one will boil down to getting pressure on the quarterback. The Rams punted one time in Seattle last year, and that was the first drive of the game. Jared Goff has proven he’s not the same guy when he’s being pressured (just as he’s shown he’s not the same guy on the road as at home). The Seahawks have shown to not really be too interested in selling out to blitz the quarterback, so that’s going to necessitate a consistent push from our front fours and occasional front fives. If the Seahawks can do what they did to Kyler Murray last week, I think we’ll be just fine (particularly because Goff isn’t anywhere near the runner that Murray is). With how the Rams’ offensive line has played so far this year, I think this is more than do-able.
We finally have a primetime game to look forward to, so I expect the fans to be in a lather. We’re 3-1 and effectively playing for the division lead at this point (no one believes the 49ers are for real), so if I don’t see Rams players putting their hands over their ear holes, then the Seattle fans have truly gone soft and jaded. There is no bigger game than this one tonight, so we better BRING IT!
The biggest concern, again, is pressure on the quarterback, specifically what the Rams are able to do to our O-Line year-in and year-out. Aaron Donald’s winter home is right in Russell Wilson’s face; he’s got a lovely fireplace, a nice den with all his volumes of literature, and even a butler’s quarters where Justin Britt is on-call at all hours of the night to make him a motherfuckin’ sandwich whenever he wants one. Points are still going to be needed to beat the Rams; we’re not going to beat them in a grudgematch. So, keeping Wilson upright and providing running lanes to Carson will be of utmost importance.
If the Seahawks win, it’ll be in a squeaker. Something along the lines of 27-24 (my gut). If the Seahawks lose, probably the same deal, but my hunch is we’d lose somewhere in the 36-33 range (my head). Our defense hasn’t really been tested by an elite offense yet, which isn’t ideal. We’ve sort of held up, but there have also been some considerable lapses in tackling, in coverage, in pass rush, and even in run defense. If anyone is capable of taking advantage of our weaknesses, it’s the Rams. They’ve got the coaching staff, they’ve got the talent, and they’ve got the play-calling to make it happen. Fortunately, it’s a short week, so hopefully that disadvantage will prevent them from finding ALL of our weaknesses.
I’ll say this, I’d expect the Rams to be in no less than 3-wides for 95+% of the game. The Seahawks have shown a desire to stay in base defense, to keep Mychal Kendricks on the field for as long as possible. Part of that is because he’s so good and so versatile (he can cover as well as he rushes the passer, which makes him lethal against most teams), but part of that is also due to the fact that the Seahawks are afraid of being in Nickel too much. We don’t have Justin Coleman anymore, and his replacement is nowhere near his league. So, don’t be surprised if whichever linebacker is out in coverage gets beaten repeatedly by whoever’s in the slot (Woods or Kupp). Again, that points to the importance of getting pressure with just 4 or 5 guys; if Goff has all day to pick apart our defense, he will.