By Cedric Williams
Most of the experts that make a living predicting and prognosticating professional football games were in agreement about Monday’s showdown at the Edward Jones Dome between the St. Louis Rams and visiting Seattle Seahawks — the 6-1 Seahawks were going to make mince meat out of the Rams.
Seattle boasts one of the league’s best young quarterbacks in second-year man Russell Wilson. They also have one of the most productive running backs in the league in Marshawn Lynch. And the Seahawk defense ranks among the league’s best in total yards allowed, points allowed, and run defense.
But on Monday, it was St. Louis that dominated the game. Holding the ball nearly twice as long as Seattle did (38:09-21:51), while also outgaining the Seahawks by more than 200 yards (339-135).
The Rams also put up a season-high 200 rushing yards against Seattle, and sacked Wilson seven times.
Unfortunately, none of that translated into the points St. Louis needed to pull off an upset to would’ve surprised just about any one that follows the NFL at all. Seattle won 14-9.
But it was a valiant effort by all three aspects of the team, which despite playing so well, fell to 3-5 on the season.
Here’s how we graded out the Rams in Monday’s last-second loss to the Seattle Seahawks:
Seattle came into Monday night giving up less than 90 yards a game rushing in its first seven games, but the Rams gashed the Seahawks for 200 total rushing yards, led by rookie Zac Stacy (26 carries for 134 yards), who turned in the first 100-yard rushing game by a Ram player not named Marshall Faulk or Steven Jackson since Brian Leonard ran for over a hundred in a game in 2007.
Backup quarterback Kellen Clemens, who was making his debut as the Rams’ signal-caller after starter Sam Bradford tore his ACL last week, completed just 15-of-31 passes for 139 yards, and threw two interceptions.
But his job wasn’t to win the game for the Rams, it was to not lose it. And he did his part, with a couple of timely throws that kept alive some of St. Louis’ best drives.
The Ram offense would’ve earned an A-plus had it been able to finish off its tremendous comeback at the end.
Unfortunately though, St. Louis couldn’t punch in a run attempt from the Seattle 1 on third down, then saw the game end as Clemens tossed high and wide on a pass attempt to Brian Quick on the game’s final play.
Defensively, the Rams may have played their best game of the season.
They held Seattle, which came in to Monday with the second-best rushing game in the league, to 44 yards on 15 rushing attempts (a measly 2.9 yards per carry), with Lynch gaining just 23 yards on eight carries.
St. Louis also sacked Seattle’s Wilson seven times, including three each for ends Robert Quinn and Chris Long. Wilson did make the play of the night though, hooking up with wideout Golden Tate for an 80-yard touchdown, which proved to be the game-winner for the Seahawks.
Quinn and Long were simply sensational for St. Louis, combining for nine tackles, six sacks, eight tackles for loss, and eight hits on the quarterback.
It’s just too bad their tremendous effort didn’t get backed up with a win.
Special Teams: B-
The Rams coverage teams were dynamite and didn’t the explosive Tate get loose for any big returns, while STL return man Tavon Austin had a couple of nice returns including a 32-yarder on a kickoff, which was about one good block away from going the distance.
Punter Johnny Hekker averaged 45.5 yards on four punts, and kicker Greg Zuerlein hit three of the four field goals he attempted, only missing a 50-yarder midway through the fourth quarter.
St. Louis’ special teams could’ve earned an A if Zuerlein had made that field goal, because then that would’ve put the Rams in position to possibly win the game on another field goal later.
Instead though, St. Louis had to drive the length of the field to try to get a game-winning touchdown, but fell just one yard short as time ran out.
Coaching Staff : B
The Rams coaches clearly had a terrific gameplan for how to stop Lynch and contain Wilson. They also seemed to know that Seattle’s tackles couldn’t block either of the Rams’ ends, so head coach Jeff Fisher and defensive coordinator Tim Walton turned them loose to fantastic results.
Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer should be commended for sticking with the run, despite Seattle’s run-stuffing reputation. But he should also be questioned for some of the play calls he made once the Rams got deep into Seattle territory.
St. Louis got to the Seattle 2-yard line and was able to run three plays before the clock ran out. Two of those plays were passes, which both fell incomplete.
The Rams were dominating Seattle’s defense with their run game, and they only needed two more yards.
Why did they run the ball on only one of those plays? That’ll be a question that will linger with the club until it finally can claim a win.
For more Rams news and updates, visit Rams Central.
Cedric Williams, a lifelong St. Louisan and proud UMSL alum, has been a freelance reporter/photographer covering St. Louis area sports for nearly two decades. Most recently, he has been working as a credentialed beat writer covering the Rams and small-school college sports for Examiner.com and other outlets from around the area. Please share any comments, questions, or feedback with Cedric at email@example.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com.