By Sam McPherson
The Los Angeles Rams started this season with hope and promise, winning three of their first four games. Almost three months later, the Rams are 4-10 after a resounding three-touchdown loss on Thursday Night Football to the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. With the 24-3 victory, the Seahawks clinched a third NFC West Division title in four seasons. For the Los Angeles Rams organization, the loss really doesn’t matter much as the team now focuses on moving forward toward 2017 after firing its head coach on Monday and dropping a ninth game in its last 10 contests.
Seattle jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the second quarter and added two TDs in the second half to effectively put the Rams down. The Seahawks defense showed no ill effects from last Sunday’s meltdown in Green Bay, while the Los Angeles offense continued to struggle, putting its defense in tough positions all game long. Rams interim coach John Fassel didn’t have much of a chance to win his NFL coaching debut, as Seattle clearly was on a mission at home to clinch the division title in front of the hometown fans.
The good news is that the Los Angeles offense didn’t commit a turnover in this game, after coughing the ball up four times last Sunday against Atlanta at home. The bad news is that the offense turned in the same ineffectual performance it has been producing all season, really. Running back Todd Gurley once again couldn’t gain any real yardage, running the ball 14 times for just 38 yards. He had a 22-yard carry, and simple math tells you how bad the other attempts were. Without a running game to keep the defense honest, rookie quarterback Jared Goff struggled, throwing for just 135 yards total.
Overall, the Rams offense gained a mere 183 yards in this game, and L.A. was 3-for-12 on third downs and 0-for-4 on fourth downs. Goff was able to spread his passes around to nine different receivers, but his 13-for-25 effort wasn’t enough on this night against the Seattle defense, which is one of the best in the league. Without Gurley running anywhere near his 2015 levels, the Rams offense has been dead in the water this year no matter who is playing quarterback. Incidentally, Los Angeles went 0-for-3 in the red zone, failing to score a TD on its deepest drives.
Los Angeles played solid defense in this game, holding the Seahawks to just 299 total yards and forcing the game’s only turnover (linebacker Alex Ogletree’s interception of Seattle QB Russell Wilson). The Rams held Wilson and RB Thomas Rawls to a combined 46 yards on 27 rushing attempts, which forced the Seahawks to throw the ball a lot. Unfortunately, Wilson made just enough plays through the air to score the points necessary to beat the Los Angeles offense on the scoreboard.
Wilson’s 57-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter to wide receiver Tyler Lockett was the big blow that sealed the Rams’ fate, but up until that point, the Los Angeles defense played rather nobly. The Rams notched two sacks on the night and generally held Seattle to short gains for most of the night until the big scoring pass to Lockett. All season, the L.A. offense has put a lot of pressure on the defense, and as we’ve seen all year, sometimes the defense just wears down in the fourth quarter from the strain.
Special Teams: B
There wasn’t much going on here, as placekicker Greg Zuerlein hit his one field-goal attempt in the second quarter to ensure the Rams were not shut out. Punter Johnny Hekker launched a 66-yard kick while averaging 50 yards per attempt on the night. WR Tavon Austin didn’t have any chances on punt returns, while WR Pharoh Cooper took over the kickoff return duties after miscues last week cost L.A. some points on the scoreboard. However, he didn’t do anything special in the role on the night.
Fassel was thrust into a tough spot for this game: Fisher was fired on Monday, leaving the interim coach just a few days to get a dysfunctional team ready for a division road game. It’s hard to blame him for anything that didn’t work in this game, and the true measurement of what he can do with an offensive game plan will come in nine days on Christmas Ever when the Rams host the San Francisco 49ers at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum. That being said, Fassel was aggressive on offense, despite not having the best “tools” to work with, and the defense held it together for most of the game despite once again being expected to carry a huge load.
Since Christmas Day falls on a Sunday, the NFL has scheduled the bulk of its Week 16 games on Saturday, December 24, and that’s when Los Angeles will host San Francisco. The 49ers beat the Rams, 28-0, in Week 1, but they haven’t won a game since then. This may be Los Angeles’ last chance of the 2016 season to win a game, as the Rams close in Week 17 with the Arizona Cardinals in Los Angeles. San Francisco is 1-12 going into its weekend match-up on Sunday in Atlanta against the Falcons, and it’s unlikely the 49ers’ league-worst defense is going to be able to beat Atlanta’s league-best scoring offense. Either way, the Rams coaching staff now has extra time to prep for that game, so look for Fassel to shape the roster and the game plan to his liking more than he was able to for this game in Seattle.