Monday Night Preview: Seahawks at Rams
RAMS OFFENSE VS. SEAHAWKS DEFENSE
When the calendar flipped to October, the Rams turned away from most of their new spread concepts and went with a more conventional, inside-run approach. Speedy but unreliable tailback Daryl Richardson was benched for steadier fifth-round rookie Zac Stacy. Stacy has not lit the world on fire, but he has functional lateral agility in short areas, and he’s made good use of an offensive line that has improved on the ground (particularly on the left side with tackle Jake Long and rotating guards Shelley Smith and Chris Williams).
Presumably, the decision to scale back the offense was made with the idea of getting Sam Bradford comfortable in the pocket. The fourth-year quarterback responded well, but that’s moot following his torn ACL. The Rams reportedly called and offered Bradford’s vacant spot to a 44-year-old grandfather, but Brett Favre couldn't be lured out of retirement. This tells you exactly how the organization feels about Kellen Clemens.
Sticking with a run-based game plan will be tough this week; not only are the Seahawks expecting it, they’re fully equipped to stop it. Seattle’s defensive line staunchly plays the run out of reduced fronts (everyone aligned more toward the middle), while the linebackers are aided by an eighth man in the box, Kam Chancellor, who is a monster.
To have any chance with Clemens, Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will have to manufacture shot plays. That’s a technical way of saying he’ll have to hope trick plays can work. Now would be a good time for first-round rookie Tavon Austin to start contributing.
SEAHAWKS OFFENSE VS. RAMS DEFENSE
The Rams have been mostly horrible against the run this year, though they were very good against the Panthers last week. They need to repeat that kind of performance. The Seahawks are as run-based an offense as any in football, not just with early down carries but also with a passing game that centers around rolled pockets and play-action. That’s where Russell Wilson thrives. Stop Marshawn Lynch on first and second down and you prevent Wilson from playing to his strengths on third down.
Third-and-long in this game could actually spell disaster for the Seahawks considering they’re playing with second-string tackles Paul McQuistan (normally a starting guard) and Michael Bowie (a seventh-round rookie). Coordinator Darrell Bevell has done a good job protecting those tackles through play design, but in obvious passing situations it can be difficult to not leave at least one of them on an island. Right defensive end Robert Quinn, who has unbelievable quickness off the snap, and left end Chris Long, who has the burst to shed blocks, can be dominant one-on-one.
Against the Cardinals last week, Wilson fumbled in the pocket three times, which was likely an aberration since he hadn’t ever shown such a glaring tendency to hold the ball for too long. The Seahawks overall did not have much trouble with the Cardinals’ blitz-happy defense, because Lynch had so much success with misdirection runs. They’ll try to replicate that this week with a heavy dose of counter and wind-back carries on early downs.