The Rams surprised their fans – and the general gambling public, as well – with their gritty 14-9, last-play loss to Seattle on “Monday Night Football.” I told people coming in that all we could hope for was a chance to yell in the fourth quarter, and Rams fans were able to do that until the final gun sounded. With that, 10 takeaways from the Rams’ fifth loss of the season, making them 3-5 at the midway point:
1. For all of the fears about the Rams drawing 10,000, 15,000 or 20,000 fans, the crowd of about 40,000 was boisterous and appeared to be entertained by a close game in the fourth quarter. At this stage, with a backup quarterback and a defense that’s been shredded several times during the season, having something to cheer for in the closing minutes is about all for which Rams fans can ask. The team exhibited great effort, but just didn’t have the ability to close out a win.
2. It was disappointing to have the crowd be in such a frenzy on Seattle’s first possession, backed up to its own four-yard line after Robert Quinn dropped Marshawn Lynch for a three-yard loss, and have Kendall Langford commit an encroachment penalty. Then, on second and eight, Trumaine Johnson committed an illegal use of hands penalty that gave the Seahawks a first down. Ultimately, Seattle had to punt from its own nine after its own penalty, but early penalties that take the crowd out of the game are disappointing.
3. Speaking of penalties, committing three on one play might be an NFL first. The Rams did just that midway through the second quarter. Johnson was called for pass interference, Langford was called for unnecessary roughness, and Quinn was called for roughing the passer. The penalties against Langford and Quinn were declined, and the Johnson pass interference set up Wilson’s first touchdown pass of the game to Golden Tate, a two-yarder. If you’re going to commit them, you might as well use them up on one play.
4. I thought, for the most part, that Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer did a good job of calling the game within the confines of Kellen Clemens’ skill set. They didn’t try to have him throw passes deep downfield because he doesn’t have the accuracy to do so. He didn’t have to throw 40 yards downfield. One of his two picks did lead to the aforementioned touchdown, but 15-of-31 for 158 yards is about what should be expected. I did think that the Rams would have done well to run four times once they got to the six on the final drive, but they ran on first and third down, and passed on second and fourth downs. Of the first 90 yards on the drive that didn’t produce points, 44 came on five carries. I would have taken my chances on four runs from the six.
5. OK, Zac Stacy is an emerging star. He had 26 carries for 134 yards, a 5.2-yard average. Last year Steven Jackson had a 24-carry, 139-yard game. Stacy has been strong in each game he’s played, and this was the best one. If you can rush for 79 yards against Houston (No. 1 defense in the NFL), 53 against Carolina (No. 3) and 134 vs. Seattle (No. 2), you can run against anybody. The Rams’ next opponent, Tennessee, is eighth defensively. The Rams will have faced top eight defenses in each of their last four games.
6. How great was it to see the Rams put their cornerbacks up on the line of scrimmage and challenge receivers with press coverage? It’s not going to work every time, but it sure was nice to see a mixture of schemes, especially in short-yardage situations. With the Rams getting great pressure from their ends, the Seahawks had no timing in the passing game, which resulted in Wilson’s 10-for-18, 139-yard effort. Outside of his 80-yard touchdown pass to Tate, Wilson was a more-than-pedestrian 9-of-17 for 59 yards.
7. That pressure was enormous. Quinn simply couldn’t be stopped. His three sacks gave him an NFC-leading 10 for the year at the season’s midway point. Chris Long also had three to get to 5.5 on the season. The Seahawks’ offensive line leaves something to be desired, but when you think of the Rams having 13 sacks against Wilson in their last two games vs. Seattle, you have to believe Rams pass rushers have his number.
8. When the Rams took over at their own three-yard line with 5:42 to go, I said to the people with me, “Ninety-seven-yard, five-minute and forty-two-second drive.” I was off by one. They had a 96-yard drive that lasted 5:42. Clemens did a great job of getting the ball into the hands of his playmakers, completing passes on that drive to Chris Givens, Daryl Richardson and Lance Kendricks. It was an impressive display by Clemens to take the Rams that far. He certainly deserves another chance or two to start, including against Tennessee on Sunday.
9. Greg Zuerlein’s 50-yard miss spoiled what would have been a sensational night for the special teams. He hit on attempts of 33, 28 and 27 yards, and punter Johnny Hekker nailed four punts for a 45.5-yard average, and a net of 43.3. If Zuerlein would have hit that 50-yarder with 8:33 to go, obviously, he would have had a chance to win it with a field goal at the end. We all thought the 50-yarder was a chip shot. Unfortunately, he isn’t perfect.
10. It’s fair to question the Seahawks now. They’ve struggled in every road game they’ve played. They are dominant at home, and they get Percy Harvin back. But if they keep this up, they’ll lose another road game and cede home field in the NFC playoffs to San Francisco. I believe the winner of the NFC West will represent their conference in the Super Bowl. Seattle’s road detail includes a 12-7 win at Carolina, a 23-20 overtime win at Houston, a loss at Indianapolis, a 12-point victory at Arizona and this five-point win over the Rams. Fortunately for the Seahawks, their only tough road game is at San Francisco on Dec. 8, so they’re in pretty good shape.
Bonus: Congratulations to the classy Rams for providing updates and highlights of the Cardinal World Series game throughout the Edward Jones Dome. They could have determined that they weren’t going to serve their customers, but they did. It was nice to be able to walk out to a concourse and see the Cardinal game on TV during breaks in the Rams action. Their action is appreciated.