For one night, at least, the Los Angeles Rams team that took the league by storm over the last few years made a return to the field. The Rams pretty much dominated the division rival Seattle Seahawks from the first snap on Sunday night, imposing their will offensively and holding Russell Wilson and company in check on the other side of the ball.
The Rams efficiently moved the ball through the air, with Jared Goff firing strikes to wide-open wideouts all night long. They used jet sweeps to confuse defenders and to actually run the ball. They threw screens and they faked screens to throw the ball down the field. They might have just hit another crossing route while you were reading this sentence. The run game did not ever really get going, but it also did not really matter.
Russell Wilson looked pretty uncomfortable throughout the game, as he was under pressure repeatedly and sacked nearly as often. When he wasn't pressured and he made good throws, he was victimized by drops. Rashaad Penny left the game with an injury early on, robbing Seattle of a speed element out of the backfield to complement Chris Carson's power game. The offensive line struggled to create space and to keep defenders away from the quarterback.
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They didn't get aggressive until it was too late. The final score read 28-12 by the end of the night; that's a two-score loss. The Seahawks played most of the game as if they were headed for a two-score win. An example of their lack of urgency: the Seahawks threw a 15-yard pass on second-and-23 with 36 seconds remaining in the third quarter. That play set up 3rd and 8, and the Seahawks were down by two scores at the time. They did not even try to get off another play, instead just letting the clock run down and taking the game to the fourth. They threw incomplete and gave the ball back to the Rams, who promptly walked down the field for yet another touchdown.
Wilson tried to engineer a miracle comeback late in the night, but he needed two touchdowns and two two-point conversions when he got the ball back with 4:32 remaining in the game. The odds of a win were already vanishingly low, and given the way the Seahawks approached this contest, even the mathematical chance they had to pull off a victory likely overstated their odds, which plummeted to zero when Wilson fired a Hail Mary into the end zone and saw it land in the hands of Troy Hill rather than Tyler Lockett.
Here are a few more things to know about the Rams' Sunday night win.
Why the Rams won
They turned back the clock with a vintage 2018 Rams offensive performance. Sean McVay seemed like he was one step ahead of Pete Carroll all night. The play-action game was working right from the jump. There were crossers running open in the secondary on just about every snap. Robert Woods was everywhere, and wherever he wasn't, Tyler Higbee was there. Jared Goff was rarely under pressure and was not sacked even once. The Rams utilized a whole bunch of jet sweep runs and they just kept working. Todd Gurley and Malcolm Brown each found the end zone on short runs. The Rams made five trips to the red zone and came away with four touchdowns. It was their best offensive performance of the season.
Why the Seahawks lost
They seemed completely unequipped to deal with anything the Rams were doing offensively. They were beaten by the exact same jet sweep action about five times. They let receivers run free behind the linebackers and in front of the safeties repeatedly. They stayed in their base defense even against 11 personnel and were unable to handle all three wideouts on the field. They did not get timely stops (the Rams were 7 of 13 on third down), pressure or sacks. Russell Wilson's receivers undermined him with drops, and Wilson took some uncharacteristically bad sacks himself. The Seahawks visited the red zone twice but were unable to record a touchdown. Basically, it was an all-around losing effort.
Late in the first quarter, the Seahawks were trailing 7-3. They had opened the game with a field goal and then allowed the Rams to methodically work the ball down the field, allowing multiple chunk gains on an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. On the ensuing drive, the Seahawks handed the ball off to Chris Carson three times. He gained five yards on the first carry to set up second-and-5. He gained three yards on the second carry to set up third-and-2. And he gained about 5 feet, 11 inches on the third carry, setting up fourth and a distance that was maybe as long as the length of a football.
Pete Carroll quickly hustled the punt team onto the field, apparently never considering for a moment the possibility that he might go for it, despite employing both Chris Carson (one of the best tackle-breakers in the league) and Russell Wilson (one of the NFL's most mobile quarterbacks). Michael Dickson unleashed a 51-yard punt that pinned the Rams back inside their own 20-yard line ... and they marched right down the field for a 12-play, 85-yard touchdown drive on which they barely broke a sweat. (They didn't face a third down until they were on the Seattle 10-yard line, and they converted it easily.)
The Seahawks were working from behind for the rest of the evening, and never really threatened the Rams' lead.
Plays of the game
The biggest highlight of the night was Quandre Diggs' pick-six on Jared Goff, which came on one of the only snaps of the night where Goff was pressured. But being that the Seattle pass defense was torn up for much of the evening, it doesn't feel right to use that highlight here. And really, most of that tearing up did not come on highlight plays. There were just a bunch of guys running in open space with Seattle defenders nowhere near them, almost all night.
It started on the first drive, with this fake-screen wheel route to Tyler Higbee.
It continued on like that throughout the evening. Robert Woods was wide open on his touchdown grab, his first of the season. Cooper Kupp was even more wide open on his own score. These are not difficult throws for an NFL quarterback to make.
Things did not get better for the Seattle defense later in the game. It was like this all night long.
The Rams run their record to 8-5 with this win and move themselves one game back of the Vikings in the wild card race. They're still two games back of the Seahawks and three back of the 49ers in the division, so if they're going to make the playoffs, it's likely going to be as a wild card. Up next for the Rams is a playoff rematch with the reeling Cowboys down in AT&T Stadium.
The Seahawks lose their grip on the top seed in the NFC after just one week, tumbling down to the No. 5 seed by virtue of their loss and the 49ers' win over the Saints earlier in the day. Seattle would inexplicably hit on the road to play Dallas if the playoffs started today, because apparently winning the decrepit NFC East matters more than being 10-3. Whatever. The Seahawks have a chance to get back on track next week when they visit the spiraling Panthers in Carolina.