A not so fun fact: the L.A. (formerly St. Louis) Rams are one of the only teams that possess a winning record against the Russell Wilson led Seahawks. After a dismal showing Week 2 of this NFL Season where both teams failed to score a touchdown, there was a lot riding on this game with the Arizona Cardinals reeling and the Dallas Cowboys surging towards the #1 seed in the NFC. This Thursday night was one of the last installments of the NFL’s season long ‘Color Rush’ uniform, with the ‘Hawks sporting Action Green.Another fun fact- the Rams recently fired their head coach, Jeff Fisher, after a 42-14 drubbing at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons. With the #2 seed up for grabs again after the Detroit Lions lost, the boys in blue and green needed to show up, and show out.
The ‘Hawks did not disappoint, putting on a defensive clinic (with Cliff Avril, Frank Clark, and Cassius Marsh tallying 4 sacks in the process), holding the Rams to a lone field goal in the second quarter. For a team looking to be the #1 scoring defense five years in a row, it’s a step in the right direction. The offense came to play too, with Russell Wilson throwing three touchdowns (one to Doug Baldwin, one to Tyler Lockett, and another to Luke Willson). Wilson had a possible fourth touchdown negated due to an incomplete pass (almost interception) of Jimmy Graham in the back of the end zone. The referees decided that neither Graham nor the defender had complete control of the balls, even with the defender toe tapping three times.
Tyler Lockett was the breakout star of this game- 7 receptions for 130 receiving yards, the longest coming off of a 57 yard catch-and-go score. Doug Baldwin’s juke move on a Rams cornerback in the end zone was easily one of his best highlights of the year, with the corner biting so hard on Baldwin’s fake to the inside that his ankles nearly broke. Jimmy Graham had a few targets, but turned one of those targets into a 31 yard gain.
The only spot for the ‘Hawks in this game that gave pause were the running game (72 total yards), 34 of those coming from Thomas Rawls 21 carries (1.61 yards per carry- YIKES!). The number of carries was a bright spot though, as it demonstrated persistence and faith in a balanced game plan, even when big rushing numbers weren’t coming. Another 26 yards came from a fake punt run by John Ryan. Ryan would sustain a concussion after bobbling the ball and barely recovering before a Rams player crashed him down into the turf. Michael Bennett would sustain an extremely scary neck injury after shedding a block and receiving the full brunt of Todd Gurley. He would leave the game but practiced all this week.
Rams rookie QB Jared Goff critically under threw at least two receivers, one in the end zone, and another who was streaking down the field past Steven Terrell. Goff passed for 135 yards, and at one point took off a full sprint when facing pressure. He nearly scored a rushing touchdown, but Richard Sherman came from the opposite sideline at full speed, hitting Goff with his shoulder so hard that Goff had to leave the game. It was a good thing Sherman got there first, as Kam Chancellor was hot on his heels waiting at the 1 yard line. Save for those mistakes, this game had a chance to be closer. Goff was strip sacked by Avril deep in Rams territory, but recovered. It was not a good day at the office for the face of the L.A. franchise.
Sherman took a lot of spotlight in this game, particularly when Wilsons’ throw to Graham in the end zone was nearly intercepted. Sherman became so animated that he found Darrell Bevell on the sidelines and let him know how displeased he was with the play call. Bevell returned the favor to Sherman after Wilson threw the one yard score to Baldwin.
The ‘Hawks offense went 7/15 on 3rd down, and 1/1 on 4th down. The defense though, held the Rams to convert only 3 of their 12 3rd down attempts, and 0 for 4 on 4th down. Todd Gurley went absolutely nowhere in this game, rushing 14 times for 38 yards, with 22 yards coming from one play. Simply put, once the ‘Hawks defense forced the Rams into being one dimensional, their game plan (authored by their interim head coach- previous special teams coach John Fassel) fell apart.
After the game, Pete Carroll told the press that: “I thought it was a nice bounce back night for Russ. I know last week you all had some questions about him, but he did a great job for us tonight.” When asked about Sherman’s outburst on the sidelines, Carroll said “Yeah, Sherman and I spoke on the sidelines. He went out and played a really good series after that. What was said out there (referring to the sideline dispute), I’m not going to say more. You’ll probably figure out more. Right now, that is one of our guys who has as much emotion and passion for this game as you could ever want. Sometimes it goes one way, and you gotta reel it back in.”
Next up for the ‘Hawks is their final home game against the Arizona Cardinals on Christmas Eve. The Cardinals have had a knack for beating the Seahawks on their home turf, and the chance for Seattle to go 8-0 at home looms large while trying to secure the #2 seed, and a much needed bye week before hosting a divisional playoff game. Dallas has since clinched home field advantage throughout. It appears the road to Super Bowl 51 goes through Jerry Jones’ stadium. The last time the Cardinals and the ‘Hawks met, it was a 6-6 tie in the Desert that required multiple Seattle players getting IVs. The weather for this game is forecasted to be partly cloudy with a high of 37. Prime football weather in the PNW, I think. The game is on FOX at 4:25 Christmas Eve.