The only other time the Seahawks squared off against the Rams in the playoffs was in the 2004 season. We went 9-7 and won the NFC West – the first of four consecutive divisional championships under Mike Holmgren – in the year before we made it to our first-ever Super Bowl. We were the 4-seed in 2004 and somehow the 8-8 Rams were the 5-seed (the Vikings also had an 8-8 record that year, which landed them the 6-seed). In spite of the Rams’ mediocrity that year, they beat the Seahawks twice in the regular season. Even though it’s pretty difficult to beat the same team three times in the same year, I vaguely remember being concerned, as those Rams seemed to have our number (just as these Rams today – and as all Rams teams in the Pete Carroll era – seem to have our number).
I don’t remember much about that playoff game, other than the fact that we did, in fact, lose to the Rams for a third time that season. 27-20. We apparently overcame a 14-3 first half deficit to take a 20-17 lead early in the fourth quarter. But, we stalled in the red zone on our final drive with less than two minutes to go, turning it over on downs. I remember none of this, of course (the game from that year I remember vividly is the first time we lost to the Rams in the regular season, in overtime, when our friend who’s a 49ers fan showed up halfway through, just as those very same Rams mounted a comeback – down 17 points halfway through the fourth quarter – to win by 6 in less than 15 minutes’ worth of game time; our friend is a jinx and I vowed to never watch any more Seahawks games in his presence for the rest of my life).
I’ll be honest, there’s a significant portion of my brain that thinks the Seahawks already used up all of their good luck in defeating the Rams two weeks ago. Is that at all rational? Of course not. But, such is my life as a Seattle sports fan.
That having been said, I’d rather the game be played in Seattle than in Los Angeles. Since we needed to defeat them two weeks ago to make that happen, I guess I shouldn’t be too broken up over that one. This would be the best thing going in our favor right now. It’s not a lot – and certainly there won’t be any fans in attendance to give us our usual boost – but it’s something. The 2020 Seahawks still went 7-1 at home, so you can’t tell me Home Field Advantage doesn’t exist at all; it might be lessened, but it’ll never be zero.
The next feather in our cap is the Rams’ quarterback situation. It’s only unfortunate that we don’t have that crowd noise here, because I think we could really get into his head what with this being our first home playoff game since 2016. Jared Goff famously injured the thumb on his throwing hand the last time these two teams played. He managed to finish that game, but then needed to have surgery soon thereafter. Goff missed last week’s finale – where the Rams ousted the Cardinals from playoff contention – but he’s been seen practicing on a limited basis so far this week and it looks like he’ll be able to play. His backup is a guy whose name I refuse to learn, who made his first career NFL start last week. The backup is mobile, but obviously far from good.
I think a lot of Seahawks fans are looking forward to having Goff back behind center; I don’t know if I’m necessarily on the same wavelength. I think Goff – as flawed as he is – is still leaps and bounds better than his backup (otherwise, at this point, I don’t know why the backup wouldn’t have been given more of a shot, given Goff’s limitations from a mobility standpoint, as well as the fact that he seems like a fucking dullard). Nevertheless, if the Seahawks are going to win this game, they’re going to need Bad Goff to show up. The Rams are 4-6 when Goff throws an interception; they’re 5-0 when he doesn’t (technically, they’re 6-0, since he clearly didn’t throw an interception in the game he didn’t play in). They’re 2-5 in games where Goff has been sacked two or more times. In only one of the games the Rams lost did Goff have a passer rating over 100. There’s a pretty clear correlation there that if you can harass Goff into mistakes, it means bad things for the Rams as a team.
The Seahawks should have the horses on defense to do just that. There are concerns, though. Jarran Reed and Bryan Mone – two of our three best defensive tackles – came up injured in the last week. Reed has an oblique strain and is questionable; Mone has an ankle injury that he previously had to overcome after missing a few weeks. This is the exact reason why you hate to lose someone like Snacks Harrison, but he couldn’t bring himself to stick it out for the playoff run as a backup/bench guy. This obviously hurts us in our interior pass rush, but more importantly it seriously weakens our run defense. I do expect both to play, but it also wouldn’t shock me in the slightest for one or both of them to come up lame in the first quarter and have to sit out the rest of the game.
The Rams want to run they ball. They’re DYING to run the ball! Whatever it takes to reduce the load on Goff’s shoulders. You want to know why the Seahawks looked so good in the second half of that game down in L.A. earlier this season? Because the Rams went super conservative with a run-heavy gameplan so their quarterback wouldn’t lose the game for them! Run defense has been the Seahawks’ specialty throughout this season – even when our pass defense and pass rush stunk early on, we could be counted on to stifle the opposing run attack – but there have been spots here and there where we’ve struggled. The Vikings figured us out. The Giants had a couple of drives in their game that cost us dearly. Everyone thinks the Rams are the second coming of The Greatest Show On Turf, but the truth is they love to run it as much as anyone. It opens up their play-action game – which they’re terrific at – and obviously (as I’ve said multiple times) it takes the ball out of Goff’s hands. If the Rams are able to run the ball at will, there’s no stopping them.
At which point, it would be incumbent upon the Seahawks’ offense to show us LITERALLY ANYTHING against the league’s best defense. We’ve managed all of 36 points in two games. I’m pretty confident that it will take more than 18 points to beat the Rams tomorrow.
This really gets to the heart of my discontent; I don’t think the Seahawks’ offense is good against anything other than the worst defenses, none of which will be stepping foot out there on Saturday or ever in these playoffs. We’ve been scuffling for so long now, and for so many different reasons, that we have to conjure up conspiracy theories as to why this side of the ball has been underperforming so badly. Secret, undisclosed injuries; Pete Carroll meddling too much with the offensive gameplan; guys saving themselves for the postseason. That’s on top of legitimate concerns like the actual health and injuries to our offensive linemen and running backs, and the fact that D.K. Metcalf can’t go one game without dropping a ball that hits him on the hands.
I don’t really love this Seahawks offense against ANY defense in the NFC, but I especially don’t like them against the league’s absolute #1 defense.
Which means, *sigh*, we’re in for another low-scoring slog-’em-out slug-fest that’s nothing but punts and turnovers. And that’s probably a BEST-case scenario! There’s a relatively decent chance that the Rams run away with this one; there’s almost zero chance the Seahawks do so. We need to hope the game remains close, and that we can find away to eke it out in the end.
I’m not super confident. I know I’m this dick-wagging swagger machine when I come on here and talk about my favorite sports teams; but I’m really nervous, you guys! I have zero confidence that we’re going to get it done this weekend!
And, of course, when we lose, it’ll probably look a lot like what happened the last time the Rams beat us in the playoffs, when they went on and got throttled by 30 points in the Divisional Round to the Falcons. Presumably, this time it would be the Rams getting throttled by the Packers, but you get the idea.
Fingers crossed for a mini-miracle, everyone! Otherwise, it’s going to be a long and terrible fucking offseason.