Seahawks-Rams: Vision Board
Aaron Donald, Matthew Stafford, and Cooper Kupp sit this one out: Seaside Joe 1369
There has never been a (probable) Pro Bowl quarterback like Geno Smith and there has never been a reigning Super Bowl champion as improbably bad as the 2022 Los Angeles Rams. After back-to-back losses against teams that were so hapless we had no idea that they could still hap until the Bucs and Raiders ran wild against the Seattle Seahawks defense, there’s no more room for getting our hopes up against the Rams.
Not even against John Wolford, the backup quarterback who became the starting quarterback who became the third-string quarterback and who is now back to being the starting quarterback.
Wolford has started two regular season games in his career and both came against the Arizona Cardinals. He started one playoff game, an eventual win by Jared Goff over the Seahawks. Now Wolford make his fourth career start and once again he’s double dipping, taking on Seattle for the “second” time. But dipping into the reserves behind Matthew Stafford is only a fraction of L.A.’s issues at the moment.
Can we envision the Seahawks back into the win column this week to guarantee Pete Carroll his 13th Seattle season with at least seven victories in 13 tries? It may not seem like that high of a bar to go 7-10 or better … but then you see that Sean McVay is merely counting down the weeks until the Rams lose 12 or more games during his sixth NFL season as a head coach.
If Pete can’t brush McVay aside this time, will he ever?
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Last time on Vision Board, Seahawks-Raiders:
Geno Smith brings back MVP talk (Vision: Not So Fast) I’m neither going to blame Geno for the loss nor overlook the plays that he could have executed better that would have guaranteed Seattle a win. We can do both! Geno’s final stat line of 73% completions, 328 yards (season-high), and 106.6 passer rating (fifth straight game over 100) does emphasize why he leads NFC Pro Bowl voting. His eight 100+ passer rating games is tops in the NFL.
Red Hot Red Zone (Vision: Even Slower!) Red Zone execution sucked and it has sucked all season. Geno’s completion percentage in the red zone (47.6%) ranks 26th, passing touchdowns (9) is tied for 21st, rushing touchdowns (8) is tied for 16th, and Geno is the third-most sacked QB in the red zone. Seattle is one of the best offenses in the NFL outside of the red zone, so why shouldn’t Shane Waldron be expected to dial up more touchdowns with DK Metcalf once they’re close to the goal line?
Tariq Woolen frustrates Davante Adams (Vision: Reasonable Speed) The Seahawks gameplanned to stop Adams and they did, but they failed to account for Josh Jacobs and it cost them dearly.
Perhaps I’ve been overzealous with my visions in the last few weeks, what can we “see” to proceed more cautiously against a Rams team that appears to be even more hopeless than the Houston Texans right now?
Keep Geno Smith clean: 0 sacks allowed with no Aaron Donald
It takes a lot of work for Matt Stone and Trey Parker to make South Park and their other collective universes as great as they have been over the last two decades. But perhaps the hardest part for the South Park creators is not what they put into the script… It’s what they’re forced to take out. Take 1:40 to watch a reading of a memo from Matt and Trey to the MPAA for their edits on Bigger, Longer, Uncut. (I guess you could’ve called it, Bigger, Longer, Somewhat Cut then.)
They kept it “clean” enough and now it’s Seattle’s turn to navigate the dirty work.
For the first time since he was drafted in 2014, the Seahawks can finally test themselves against the Rams without Aaron Donald. Donald has posted at least one sack in each of his last four starts against Seattle, including two in L.A.’s 2020 wild card win over the Seahawks with Wolford and Goff at the helm. Donald has 17 sacks in 17 career games against Seattle and the Seahawks have failed to score more than 20 points in any game against the Rams since Week 5 of the 2019 season, a span of six contests.
A 5-12 record against Aaron Donald at a time when the Seahawks were almost always the superior team to the Rams. Donald is not a “first ballot Hall of Famer” because frankly I don’t see the point of THE BALLOT. He should be the first active NFL player to have his bust in Canton.
But not this week.
The Rams are either doing the worst job in history of hiding their intentions to tank or things really have gotten this bad, this quick. The wheels for the Rams probably did not officially fall off until Week 10’s 27-17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, a game played between Wolford and Colt McCoy. L.A. dropped to 3-6 at that point, but really not a single thing had happened up to then that would have qualified as “encouraging” for the reigning NFL champs.
Most of their six losses were blowouts that were never in reach. None of their three wins were impressive. The Rams couldn’t do anything right on offense and the defense may have become overrated based on “points allowed” because of how little concern opposing teams have had for needing to score points against L.A. given their dramatic ineffectiveness with Stafford.
In the last month, the Rams have lost Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson for the season, conspicuously put Stafford into concussion protocol for a second time despite never declaring that he suffered a head injury (he is officially out now with a “neck injury”), and now Donald is ruled out with a high ankle sprain that nobody saw happen and wasn’t announced until 24 hours after their most recent game.
Bobby Wagner and Jalen Ramsey will play this Sunday against the Seahawks, but their odds of still being available when the teams meet again in the Week 18 season finale couldn’t be any lower if they were Tutu Atwell’s chances of making the Pro Bowl. Seattle must take advantage of every opportunity at their disposal with the Rams in such disarray and that could start with keeping Geno Smith off of the ground for the first time since Week 4.
Smith has been sacked at least two times in every game this season with the exception of Week 4’s 48-45 win over a Detroit Lions team that also doesn’t play defense. That includes 21 sacks in his last seven games, which would put Geno on pace for 51 sacks in a 17-game season. Of course, Geno owns some responsibility here and the addage that “sacks are a QB stat” rings true:
The last time Geno was a starter in 2014, he had a sack rate of 7.1% on 367 pass attempts. This year, Geno has a sack rate of 7.1% on 353 pass attempts.
The Rams could barely generate pressure around Aaron Donald even when he was on the field this season, something that rarely has happened in his career. Without Donald, Seattle’s offensive line and quarterback have no excuses for him losing yards on sacks to the Rams this time around.
Hold Rams under 50 rushing yards
Did you know that Thomas Edison filmed the very first on-screen kiss? Feels more like “side-smoochin’” when you watch it, and in fact back then indoor kissing (“sparkin”) had a different name than the outdoor version (“spoonin”). Call it what you will, this brings us back to days gone by. Days gone wayyyyy by. Days so long gone, you thought they’d never come back again.
Well, time for Pete Carroll to pull from the “wayback machine” to get back to one of the fundamentals of football, especially Pete football: Stopping the run!
There are two run-related issues that Pete Carroll needs to get right this week: Offensively, the Seahawks have gained 87, 158, 39, and 65 rushing yards in their last four games. Among all NFL teams through their 8th-11th games of this season, Seattle’s 349 rushing yards ranks 26th overall and their 3.6 YPC ranks 29th, only ahead of the Bucs (by a fraction of a fraction), Saints, and Patriots.
Even the horrible rushing offense of the Rams has out-paced them: 398 rushing yards and 3.9 YPC, but an 0-4 record given that L.A. is on a five-game losing streak right now.
The Rams story at running back has been as tumultuous as anything else. The team went into the season with high hopes because Cam Akers had returned to health after tearing his Achilles last offseason, and they could complement him with former starter Darrell Henderson and fifth round pick Kyren Williams out of Notre Dame.
The result: Akers looks far worse than he did pre-injury, Henderson has been cut, and Williams could be the new de facto starter but he has missed most of this year with a broken foot and is working his way into the NFL. And Williams is just a fifth round pick, one without high expectations from most experts; he had 11 carries for 35 yards in last week’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Rams rank 30th in rushing attempts, 31st in rushing yards and yards per carry, and 27th in DVOA.
Seattle’s run defense now ranks 29th in rushing yards allowed, 27th in yards per carry, and 19th in DVOA.
When something gives this weekend between L.A.’s rushing offense and the Seahawks lack of a run defense, Seattle fans will hope to see a much improved unit compared to what we saw against Josh Jacobs. I see you seeing what you want to see for Sea: A season-worst 49 rushing yards for the Rams and a season-best 49 rushing yards allowed for the Seahawks.
Get bested by Kyren Williams on Sunday and Pete Carroll can officially kiss his run defense reputation goodbye.
Don’t forget to leave me your Week 13 visions!
3rd-and-Right: Seahawks knock out L.A.’s third downs with John Wolford
Sometimes your first choice is not always the best choice. Sometimes what you want is not what you need! That was the case for Quentin Tarantino and Bruce Willis, respectively, when casting for Pulp Fiction in the early ‘90s. As I learned this week, Tarantino wrote the part of “Butch” for Matt Dillon, but a lack of enthusiasm to jump at the opportunity opened the door for Willis to land one of his most iconic roles.
And Willis didn’t want to play Butch at first. Like every other actor, he wanted Vincent Vega. When he didn’t get that, he wanted Tarantino to change Samuel L. Jackson’s part into that of a white hipster guy. And when he didn’t get that, he got the part he always needed to have.
The shuffling of deck chairs on the Rams isn’t likely to have such a positive outcome and Seattle needs to take advantage of the understudy if they want to avoid becoming the gimps of the situation.
As somebody who has covered every John Wolford moment, from the preseason to his three previous starts and all the reasons why McVay has proven to lost his mind for not getting a better backup to MATTHEW STAFFORD, let me attempt to quantify how bad he is relative to NFL quarterbacks.
At this point, the Seahawks should feel no shame in losing to Colt McCoy or Nick Foles in their past lives. They can’t get out of bed on Monday if they lose to Wolford.
The Jets were better off with Joe Flacco or Zach Wilson or Mike White. The Steelers are better off with Kenny Pickett. The Texans are better off with Davis Milles or Kyle Allen. The Bears are better off with Trevor Siemian. The Panthers are better off with Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield.
Wolford and L.A.’s other quarterback, Bryce Perkins, would be better off in the XFL. In fact, Wolford. was a star—with the Arizona Hotshots of the Alliance of American Football. That should have probably been the end of his professional career, but Sean McVay can’t help himself from working with people who look exactly like him.
In his only other start this season, Wolford went 24/36 for 212 yards with one touchdown and one interception against the Cardinals, but those stats only emphasize how horribly wonky passing numbers have become in the modern era. Wolford was 3-of-6 on third downs against Arizona, gaining just one first down, and the Rams finish 3-of-11 on third downs in the game.
L.A. was 2-of-2 on fourth downs and we could see quite a lot of “four-down territory” this weekend.
The Seahawks need to create a lot of third-and-Long situations because nobody on the Rams has confidence that Wolford can pick up more than six yards on a play. Not only because of his own lack of arm talent, but also because he’s playing behind the worst offensive line (the Rams are the first team to ever have 11 starting OL combinations in their first 11 games), without their top two receivers, or a good tight end, or a good running back.
It’s like the Football Gods watched Seattle’s game against Las Vegas and said, “Uhhh…okay…so the Raiders weren’t bad enough for you? Try this!”
The Seahawks need to hold L.A. to an embarrassingly low amount of first downs, improve their third down defense (45.7% conversions allowed ranks 29th, better only than the Lions, Bears, and Falcons), and make Rams punter Riley Dixon (watch the fake!) work overtime on Sunday.
A day like that against an offense like the Rams shouldn’t have to be the work of Fiction.
Regarding the Rams, I think this comes back to something I heard in an interaction I had back in May. I met a reporter who covers the Seahawks, and he revealed to me that the Rams are one of the most dysfunctional teams in the NFL by his estimation. Kenneth, you may know better, but his point was that Kroenke is a terrible owner, and that he's the reason McVay though about retiring.
I do think it's very interesting how many of the Rams talked about retiring before the Super Bowl. McVay and Donald both were reported to be contemplating retirement if they won. Some part of that may be because they knew the roster would be in a much worse spot anyway, but I can't help but wonder if there really is more going on. This seems more than just the butcher's bill coming due for the "F them picks" franchise. I can't help but wonder if some of the key figures in that building really want to be there.
Last week I envisioned "as the defense focuses on stopping the Raiders run game, Carr takes his shots downfield and Quandre Diggs reminds us that he's really good with two interceptions." Somehow the only thing correct in that vision was the two Diggs interceptions. I thought I was making a logical if-this-then-that kind of vision, but instead it was an in-spite-of-this-then-that scenario. It's pretty much the only vision I got sorta right all year, but in my defense my visions are usually way too specific to have much probability of coming true.
The Hawks show they are capable of learning and play to stop the run, but unfortunately 2/3rds of the team are playing with the flu and struggle to contain as the game wears on. Jordan Brooks throws up on Kyren Williams after tackling him on a screen pass in the third quarter.
Ken Walker explodes for 200+ yards and 3 TDs because Aaron Donald isn't playing and sometimes things just go the way everyone expects them to.
DK and Ramsey both get fined.