JOHN CLAYTON

Clayton’s Observations: Seahawks showed they could take NFC West back from Rams

Oct 4, 2019, 1:10 PM
Seahawks RB Chris Carson...
The Seahawks handed off to running back Chris Carson 49 times in a five-day stretch. (AP)
(AP)

After reflecting on the Seahawks’ thrilling 30-29 win over the Los Angeles Rams, a thought came to mind:

Is this the beginning of the torch being passed back to Seattle in the NFC West?

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I say it’s the beginning because you can’t accurately say the Seahawks have passed the Rams as of today. Sure, they have a 4-1 record and the Rams are a game behind at 3-2. Remember that the Seahawks still have to go to Los Angeles for a Sunday night game on Dec. 8, though, plus the fact that the Rams kept putting themselves in position to win the game on the road. You also know that the San Francisco 49ers are 3-0 and have become a factor in the division.

My thought is the Seahawks can only get better as the season progresses. The pass rush should improve as Jadeveon Clowney and Ziggy Ansah play together more. Seattle is only one game away from getting Jarran Reed, who had 10 1/2 sacks last year, back on the defensive line after his six-game suspension ends. And defensive tackle Poona Ford keeps getting better and better.

The Rams look like a great team but one that might be peaking too soon. Losing Rodger Saffold on the offensive line hurts. Tackles Andrew Whitworth and Rob Havenstein are struggling. The 3-4 defense is thin for backups at linebacker. And Todd Gurley doesn’t look the same as the team’s main back. What this means is the Rams look more like an 11-win team than a 13-win team.

Let’s review what we learned from the Seahawks’ 30-29 victory over the Rams.

• The Seahawks’ base defense allowed them to copy some of the things other teams did against the Rams’ offense last year. Linebackers Mychal Kendricks and K.J. Wright lined up often next to the defensive ends to give the Seahawks a six-man defensive front. Early last December the Detroit Lions tried a 6-1 defensive formation that loaded up the line of scrimmage and helped to stop the run. The New England Patriots took that to a new level and totally shut down the Rams’ offense in the Super Bowl.

Even though the Rams are effective at passing the ball, their key is the running game. They are a running team first that needs the run to set up play-action passes for Jared Goff.

During the first two Rams’ possessions on Thursday night when they had field goal drives, Gurley had six carries and 31 yards. Talking to Seahawks defenders after the game, they said in the first couple possessions that they were adjusting to what the Rams were doing on offense, trying to figure it out. Once they did, Gurley had only 20 yards rushing on nine carries for the rest of game. Overall, the Rams had 82 yards rushing on 18 carries and were forced to throw the ball 49 times.

• Even though the Seahawks didn’t record a sack, they did cause problems for Goff throwing the football. Clowney, who did a good job of pressuring Goff, said that a lot of times Goff was throwing off his back foot. The pressures caused him to be off-target, and he had 20 incompletions.

• Pete Carroll was truly rewarded for keeping faith in running back Chris Carson after he fumbled in each of the first three games. Carson’s powerful running style allowed him to gain 118 yards rushing on 27 carries. In a five-day stretch, he had 49 carries, and with 380 yards for the season he is well on pace for his second straight 1,000-yard season.

Carson has also been a presence in the passing game. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said before the season that he’d like Carson to catch 50 passes this season. Carson has the third-most receptions on the team with 15, which have gone for 105 yards. He also caught the decisive touchdown against the Rams.

• Jamarco Jones filled in for D.J. Fluker at right guard after Fluker suffered a hamstring injury early in the first quarter against the Rams. Jones, drafted as a tackle, has been practicing at guard the past couple of weeks with Ethan Pocic injured.

Jones looked good and might be a future starter at either guard or tackle. He showed good movement.

The challenge was trying to block two-time defending NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald. While Donald created havoc along the line, he had just three tackles and no sacks.

• Russell Wilson has to be in the mix to be in the top three in voting for league MVP. He’s completing 73.3 percent of his passes with an incredible 9 yards per attempt. His quarterback rating is 126.3. No doubt this is his best season.

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