Kinda not feeling it after this one, so I'm just going to hit on the major points tonight.
I've defended the OL all season. Statistically, they've been neck and neck with the 2005 unit- in fact the run blocking has actually rated higher this year than 2005 did. But today was brutal. Lynch had another productive day as did Wilson running the football, but far too often did the Rams stuff runs or produce negative plays in the running game. A few brilliant plays helped mask what was a bit of a struggle in the running game today, at least when compared to what we are used to.
And pass protection revealed some very real problems. Okung gave up a sack. Giacomini gave up a sack. Sweezy gave up at least two sacks. In total Seattle gave up six sacks, which is probably the worst display of the entire season. Wilson had only been sacked 27 times over 15 previous games. But what really worried me was how the Rams did it with a base rush. That Wilson finished with a 136.3 passer rating today and very good rushing numbers is stunning. There is no question that the Rams dominated in the trenches today.
JR Sweezy has the tools and ability to be a good RT, so being a good pass protecting G really shouldn't be this hard. I think his problem is mostly experience related. On one of his sacks he picked up the wrong player, and on another he didn't fight hard enough with his hands. I am not giving up on him, not at all. But I think that if Moffitt is cleared to play, Carroll has to start him in the playoffs. Moffitt may not have Sweezy's upside, but he's a better guard right now.
I have respect for the Rams, who had won 4 of 5 before this game. I have respect for Jeff Fisher, who outcoached Carroll in the first matchup.
But that said, I don't think the Rams could have gotten much luckier than they did today. They had an early Seahawks touchdown wiped out by an unnecessary screen block by McCoy. They had a brilliant surprise onside kicked by the Seahawks wiped out by Chancellor grabbing it a foot too early. Take note that Jeff Fisher was badly fooled on that onside kick, btw. They had a fumble-sack for a TD that was called back (I thought it was the right call but wow was it close). They had a (at the time) game winning type play on 3rd and long to Baldwin for 49 yards that was wiped out by a (legit) hold. Not that I'm griping about the call, but it was lucky. I lost count of how many uncalled holds I saw today, but that was not among the missed calls.
The Seahawks kept shooting themselves in the foot like we had not seen since the last time these teams played each other- a game Seattle lost despite never allowing an offensive TD. Seattle dominated the 1st half, but entered halftime trailing 7-3.
Seattle ended up winning 20-13 once the breaks started going away, but you couldn't help but feel like if Seattle plays an ordinary game they would have won today 41 to 13 instead. I wonder if they even have a foot left after shooting it so many times.
Sadly, that pandemic of screw ups ultimately cost Wilson sole possession of the rookie TD record, although I suppose there are worse things than sharing a record with a guy named Peyton Manning.
Overall, this was a frustrating game that was on pace to be the most upsetting loss of the season (for me, at least) before Wilson finally took a load off my shoulders by securing the record tying TD. Andrew Luck beat the fading Texans today to reach 11-5. If Wilson had fallen short of the record today, I think Luck (quite unfairly) would have probably hit the driver's seat for the rookie of the year award.
I'm not used to rooting for individual awards. Only a few times before has Seattle had a player in this kind of situation- Alexander in 2005 and Tez in 1992. I know it's illogical, but I've come to realize that seeing Wilson win the award means a great deal to me. In the end, sports are all about recognition. A win is recognition for being the better team that week. A playoff berth is recognition for a good season. A Superbowl win is the ultimate recognition- a statement that says your team was the best in the land.
Individual awards are recognition too- and Russell Wilson just completed arguably the best rookie season in NFL history, with only Big Ben and RG3 making compelling counter-arguments. I'd hate to pick between RG3 and Wilson this year, really it's a shame they can't split the award. But last I checked, RG3 is not a Seahawk. He was not a 3rd round pick. He was not a guy labelled too short to play in the NFL. He was not a backup in August. So with all due respect to RG3, I would really like to see Wilson get that stupid award. Obviously, winning a championship is priority one, but seeing Wilson take home hardware is a surprisingly close second, at least for me.
So in that sense today was bittersweet. Wilson just had one of the best games of his career and somehow only walked out with one passing TD, when two would have given him sole possession of the record. That sucked- but we won, and he at least got a share, even if he deserved an even better result than what he got.
Seattle finished with the #1 scoring defense with a comfy margin to spare. Last offseason we pined for an elite defense. Nobody would question that we have one now.
With that said, am I the only one who feels that our pass rush is actually worse than last year's? I know the stats don't play that out, and Irvin has basically done what we could have realistically hoped for in the Raheem Brock role, but Seattle did not sack Bradford even once today. This is not the first time Seattle has struggled to pressure a team that came in with below average pass protection. In fact, it seems like poor pass protection numbers from an opponent have been a kiss of death to our pass rush this year. Arizona twice, the Rams twice, the Bears and so on.
I can't say it enough- the Red Bryant experiment cannot succeed without sending extra rushers. Maybe if we traded for JJ Watt and Justin Smith, it could. But in the real world where the best we could do last year was Bruce Irvin, Seattle is essentially committing to a 3 man rush on every non-blitz play. Red Bryant brings value in other areas, but in the pass rush department he's a non-factor even by 3-4 end standards. And that's okay- if Seattle had a 3-4 mentality and sent a 5th rusher fairly often. When Seattle does blitz, or even show blitz, the difference in pressure is night and day. I've given Pete the benefit of the doubt the last several weeks, but the playoffs are here and it's time to stop being cute.
Kudos to the officiating today- you will rarely see a tougher game to call. There were probably five or six moments in this game that merited instant replay or otherwise were decided by less than an inch or a hundredth of a second. Although some of the decisions against us sucked, I felt every one of them was correct- save for the DPI on Maxwell- but that play wasn't as big a deal since it was only worth a few more yards than Irvin's legit late hit on the same play. They had a blown call against Janoris Jenkins for "holding" that balanced it out. I felt the officiating was remarkably good and balanced for how tough the situation was. I'm guessing fans weren't exactly rushing to give the refs hugs after this one, but they had a very tough job today and I've rarely seen a crew handle a game with so many tough decisions better.
This might have been Golden Tate's best game yet. He had a terrific scoop catch and made multiple defenders miss after the catch. He broke 100 yards today on just 3 catches.
Unsurprisingly the Redskins emerged victorious from the Sunday Night Cripple Fight. Griffin is a shadow of his former self when hurt and he got up very slow after a crunching hit late in this game. Since it's the playoffs I will respectfully decline the chance to be cocky. Any given Sunday is doubly true in the playoffs. But you have to feel good about this one. Alfred Morris is all that team really has going for them right now, and his mini-beast mode style is a convenient match for our D-line that prefers physical backs over ultra quick ones.
I guess it's only fitting that the two best rookie QBs in NFL history (by passer rating) would meet in the first playoff game this year. It's a fitting way to kick off a great playoffs following one of the most storyline filled regular seasons ever.