Note: I haven’t been commenting much on the Seattle Seahawks so far this season. With the year ending injuries to key defensive stars Cliff Avril, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, plus the problems with the offensive line and the running game, I have been, more or less, in “wait and see” mode as regards this […]Read the Rest →
Based on how the two teams played each other last season Seahawks fans could expect that Seattle’s upcoming game this Monday night against the St. Louis Rams would present a significant challenge. In two taught and low scoring games last year the NFC West division rivals split, each winning at home. The second of the two, a 20-13 Seattle victory, was last December 30th at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. The Seahawks were just coming off one of the most dynamic three game stretches of any team in NFL history during which they went 3-0 while averaging 50 points a game and giving up only 10. Seattle fans justifiably were thinking that the Rams game would go likewise, and so were shocked when they witnessed their hometown heroes struggle to defeat St. Louis; requiring a Russell Wilson led 90 yard drive in the last five minutes of the game to do it.
Such is the way of things in the NFL. As they say…“On any given Sunday (or Monday, or Thursday)…” and so on.
Drawing from how they looked last season, the Rams appeared to be an up and coming team and one many thought would challenge for the playoffs in 2013, if not the NFC West title outright. Their head coach Jeff Fisher, the man who took the Tennessee Titans to the 2000 Super Bowl, which they ironically lost to the Rams, would be launching his second season with the team; and quarterback Sam Bradford, a former Heisman Trophy winner out of Oklahoma, would be going into his fourth year as the starter. Bradford had won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors for his 2010 campaign and had shown flashes of brilliance since. In 2013 it was expected he would come into his own. On top of this the Ram defense was stout in 2012, as the Seahawks found out, and logic would dictate improvement on that side of the ball as well.
With all of these expectations, Ram fans have to be disappointed at their team’s season so far. Going into Monday’s game with Seattle they sport a 3-4 record and reside toward the bottom end of the league in a number of key statistical categories. In terms of yards gained they are the third worst team in the NFL (number 30 of 32 teams) and are woefully inept at rushing the ball, averaging only 71 yards a game for 29th in the league. Going up against Seattle’s number two ranked defense, the Ram offense appears to be in for a long Monday night.
Defensively the Rams are a bit better overall, but still not in Seattle’s league. After seven games they are ranked number 22 in terms of yards allowed, while Seattle, as noted above, is number 2. But they are terrible at rushing defense allowing 126 yards per game, which is 30th in the league. Match that up with Marshawn Lynch’s “beast mode” runs and Seattle’s number 2 ranked rushing attack and you can see why national pundits have the Hawks favored by ten points or more.
To make matters worse for the Rams, Sam Bradford tore up his knee last week and is out for the season, which thrusts the signal calling chores onto his backup, the little used Kellen Clemens. Reportedly, earlier this week after hearing that Bradford’s injury was season ending, someone with the Rams had the insane idea of asking the 44 year old Brett Favre if he would consider coming out of retirement to play for them. If true it’s a move that smacks of both desperation and a lack of confidence in Clemens.
A look over the Ram backup QB’s career stats illuminates why, with Bradford down, St. Louis might possibly want to bring in a serviceable veteran quarterback (though the choice of Favre for this role remains odd). Clemens is a thirty year old, career second string, NFL quarterback who is in his eighth season overall and third with the Rams. He has a Pac Ten pedigree having played his college ball for the Oregon Ducks. It is a bit hard to get a handle on him statistically due to the limited playing time he has had in his career, which in itself is a kind of negative stat. The one season he did have significant playing time was in 2007 with the New York Jets. Through 10 games that year he completed 130 passes out of 250 attempts for 1500 yards, with 5 TDs and 10 interceptions. Those are not stats likely to strike fear into Seahawk hearts or favorably impress the Ram coaches. Those same coaches also get to see Clemens in practice every day, which may explain their rash offer to Favre.
Nevertheless, Kellen Clemens is a veteran, professional quarterback who, even if facing the fierce Seahawks, relishes the opportunity to start. He is not without a sense of humor about the predicament he finds himself in for this Monday night tilt against Seattle. When it was pointed out to him that the Hawks have the league’s number two rated defense Clemens had a dry response:
“Well, that’s good,” he said. “It could be the first.”
Beneath the humor Clemens is well aware of the problems caused by the Seahawks “D”. When asked what challenges that unit will present to him, he commented:
“Every challenge you could think of. They’re a good football team. They really are. They’re solid up front, the D-line. Obviously, they’ve got Chris Clemons coming off the edge, (Cliff) Avril when they want to bring him in. So, they’ve got a great pass rush. Linebackers are solid, good players, (who) run to the ball.”
As regards the Seahawks’ “Legion of Boom” defensive backs Clemens went into rave mode:
“Then, the secondary’s going to be a great challenge for us, probably one of the better combinations of corners that we will face between (Richard) Sherman and (Brandon) Browner. Kam Chancellor is a great run-stopping safety. He’s good in coverage. He’s a safety in a D-end’s body. It’s not fair. It really isn’t. Then, Earl Thomas playing in the back, Pro Bowl guy. He plays the entire field. He really does. You’ve got to be aware of where he is because he’s got some Ed Reed (All Pro and future Hall of Fame safety) tendencies where he just goes off feel. He’s very dangerous, (a) great athlete. He’s good with the ball in his hands. There’s not a lot of chinks in that defensive armor.”
Clemens may not have the greatest quarterback skills in the world, but you can tell that he is a smart guy who studies film.
As for the Seahawks, the return of Zach Miller to his tight end position last week after missing two games with a bad hammie was huge. He caught five passes against Arizona for forty yards and a touchdown. The offense should be further bolstered this week with the return of fullback Mike Robinson. Robinson was signed after the Cardinal game last week when rookie fullback Derek Coleman went down with an injury. If you are a Hawks fan you know “MikeRob”. He has been with Seattle the last three years and is a Pro Bowl caliber fullback. During his time on the team he was one of the most popular Seahawks but was a late cut out of training camp this year; the result of a serious illness he contracted half way through camp and the fact that he was due to make a salary cap-busting $2.5 million this season. That he was still available to Seattle this late in the season is an example of the kind of luck usually reserved for winners, which the Hawks certainly are this year. Also it looks like linebacker Bobby Wagner will be back this week after missing a couple games with a high ankle sprain, which will add to the Seahawks’ already strong defense.
Do not expect wide receiver Percy Harvin to make his Seahawks debut in this game. Hawks head man Pete Carroll is committed to bringing Harvin along slowly and he is at least another week away from taking the field, assuming things go well in practice.
As you can see from the evidence, Seahawks fans, this game looks to be a relatively easy Seattle win. If I were a betting man I would put the grocery money on Seattle minus the ten or whatever points. But I am not a betting man, and I worry about what are currently being called “trap” games, where a better team doesn’t bring their best effort against an inferior opponent and therefore lose. St. Louis has some excellent players, particularly on defense. Linebacker James Laurinaitis and defensive end Robert Quinn are Pro Bowl type players who make big plays. They will have to be accounted for by that make-shift Hawks offensive line.
All that said, this year it seems the Seahawks are in lockstep with Pete Carroll and his “every week we need to go 1-0” philosophy. I think they have their heads straight and I do not expect them to have a letdown. Though I would never advise anyone to bet the grocery money, if you do put it on the Hawks for this Monday vs. the Rams, I think you’ll be eating “high on the hog” for the next few weeks.
Copyright © 2013
By Mark Arnold
All Rights reserved