Rost: 3 lessons Seahawks can learn from Rams’ Super Bowl run
Seahawks fans might not have loved watching the Rams, their NFC West rival, in the Super Bowl.
But watching Los Angeles’ season from afar, and watching this team on the NFL’s biggest stage, also imparted three big lessons:
• If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again… is something that doesn’t always apply to football
You know what we’re all talking about if the Rams lose this game?
Joe Burrow. Clearly. And the Bengals’ unlikely Super Bowl run, and the clear facemask penalty that should’ve been called on Tee Higgins, and the Rams spending a ton of draft capital to come up short.
But we’re also talking about Sean McVay’s offense falling flat once again on the biggest stage, highlighted in part by Matthew Stafford’s mostly lackluster second half. But mostly by McVay’s stubborn adherence to the run despite the Rams’ issues on the ground.
The Rams finished with an abysmal 1.9 yards per carry. They picked up just two total first downs by rushing, and one of those was a fourth-down conversion by wide receiver Cooper Kupp (in fact, take out Kupp’s seven-yard gain and the Rams’ team yards per carry drops to 1.6).
The effort to diversify an offense whose receivers were drawing even more attention after the departure of Odell Beckham Jr. made sense – whether it was because the Rams were seeing more two-high safety looks or whether their receivers couldn’t find separation – but the execution itself was far from effective.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Rams became just the fifth team ever to finish with fewer than two yards per carry in the Super Bowl, and they are the only team of those five to win.
There are lessons to learn from both teams here, but sticking with something that isn’t working in a game shouldn’t be one of them – whether that’s running the ball or going to a certain target or running a certain play. There was no real reward for their patience on the ground; in the end, the Rams won this game despite their run game, not because of it.
• The best are the best for a reason, and usually they win
Two things were true following this game: firstly, the Bengals’ defense is better than critics gave them credit for. Secondly, it didn’t matter in the end, because no one is better than Aaron Donald.
You can try to out-scheme and out-block the Rams’ best player, but the last eight years would show you it’s a mostly fruitless endeavor. That’s especially true for a Bengals offensive line that graded out in the bottom third of the league.
Donald finished with two sacks, seven pressures, and four combined tackles, including the game’s most pivotal rush on fourth-and-1 to stifle any hope of a Bengals’ upset.
"Aaron Donald's gonna make a play."
— NFL (@NFL) February 14, 2022
The best teams outsmart, out-scheme, out-draft, and stay healthier than their counterparts. But sometimes, football is almost offensively simple: the best teams often have the league’s best players, and usually those players win.
• Homegrown talent still matters (and sometimes it matters most)
There’s a narrative with the Rams that isn’t wrong, but it’s also missing some important context.
The Rams have been aggressive with trading in their years long quest for a Super Bowl win, shipping out more draft capital than any other team (they’ll be without a first-round pick until 2024). They traded a pair of first rounders for cornerback Jalen Ramsey in 2019, a pair of first rounders for quarterback Matthew Stafford last offseason, and 2022 second- and third-round picks for ex-Broncos linebacker Von Miller. Outside of trades, they’ve made key free-agent signings, adding wide receiver Robert Woods and tackle Andrew Whitworth in 2017, linebacker Leonard Floyd in 2020, and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in 2021.
But they’ve also done something else well: they’ve found stellar homegrown talent.
Aaron Donald and Cooper Kupp, two of the league’s best players, were also both draft picks.
Donald was selected 13th overall in 2014 – too high for the Seahawks, who made their first pick in the second round (having traded their first to the Vikings) and selected Colorado wide receiver Paul Richardson with the 45th overall pick.
Kupp was the 69th pick for the Rams in 2017, a year where Seattle selected center Ethan Pocic at 58th overall and defensive tackle Malik McDowell 35th overall.
If there’s one big lesson for Seattle, and any other team, it may not be to trade multiple first-round picks, but rather to make the most of its acquisitions and complement talent added from outside the organization with talent drafted within (and accompanied by rookie contracts).
Easier said than done, right? But it’s certainly an area where the Seahawks can improve. And for all the moves they make to acquire stars – from Jimmy Graham to Jamal Adams – the Seahawks’ best chance to return to a Super Bowl is to continue to get contributions from that homegrown talent.