- Seahawks and Rams meet for third time this season in Wildcard Weekend
- Seattle and LA took one regular season matchup apiece
- Get complete preview of how the Seahawks can beat the Rams below
One of the most fundamental aspects of coaching is the ability to adapt and keep your opponent guessing. The need to adapt your game-plan is enhanced when teams will be meeting for the second or third time this upcoming postseason.
One such matchup comes in the form of the L.A. Rams @ the Seattle Seahawks on Super Wildcard Weekend. This will be the third time these two teams will have faced each other this season. During the regular season, these two teams split their games one win apiece, making their game this weekend even more unpredictable.
Facing an opponent so many times can be both a blessing and a curse. Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson have two full games of tape to review. By now, they know the Rams inside and out. The Seahawks have already demonstrated that they can adapt and adjust to win, as we saw when the teams played each other for the second time, Seattle won convincingly 20-9.
So, on the eve of Super Wildcard Weekend, what can the Seahawks do to ensure that they beat the Rams and move on and stay in the dance?
Negate the pass-rush
It doesn’t matter the time or place, whenever a team is preparing to face the Rams, the number one priority on offence is to slow/contain/nullify the best defensive player in football, Aaron Donald.
In the two meetings against the Rams, Donald racked up 1 sack, 3 QB hits, 1 TFL and 8 pressures. For a guy that is being doubled teamed, triple-teamed and chipped for 99% of the game, that is incredibly impressive.
Different teams and offences have different ways of negating the pass-rush. Within the NFC West, you have the prime two examples. In San Francisco, Kyle Shanahan took Donald out of the game by designing a litany of plays that made quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo get the ball out quickly.
Screens, play-action, bootlegs, jet sweeps and plays designed with short-to-intermediate routes were all utilised to perfection by Shanahan when the two teams met this year in Week Six.
However, despite Shanahan completely designing his gameplan around negating Donald, the DPOY still took over in the third quarter during their Week Twelve game and almost won the games single-handedly for the Rams.
The second way you can negate Donald is riskier but can be equally as effective as method one, and that’s having a scrambling quarterback behind centre. Luckily for the Seahawks, they have one of the best, most intuitive scramblers in the history of the game in Russell Wilson.
Although relying on your quarterback to scramble and generate offence on his own can be risky; injury, sacks, fumbles can all occur, Wilson is extremely adept at rolling out and finding one of either Lockett or Metcalf for a big gain. Moreover, Wilson is often great at knowing when to slide and avoid contact.
We saw the pros and cons of this strategy in both the games against L.A. this season. In their first meeting, Wilson looked panicked behind the line of scrimmage and played badly as a result, throwing 2 interceptions.
However, in the second meeting, Wilson looked calmer and demonstrated the poise we all know he has. Wilson played a clean game with a completion percentage of 62.50 and scoring 2 touchdowns (one with his arm and one with his legs).
While Wilson’s scrambling shouldn’t be entirely relied upon, if Seahawks offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer can devise a gameplan where Wilson gets the ball out quick, in combination with using his legs to extend plays from time to time, then the Rams pass rush could be having a very long day.
Force Jared Goff to think
It’s become cliched at this point but that’s because it’s true; Jared Goff melts down when forced to take the initiative.
In their first meeting, outside of a few schemed up Jamal Adams blitzes, the Seahawks rarely forced Goff off of his spot and off of his first read. In total, the Seahawks only registered 8 pressures. Goff threw for 302 yards, on 72.97 completion percentage and a healthy Y/A of 8.16. As a result, the Rams offence hummed along at a measured pace.
In their second meeting, the Seahawks, despite registering the same amount of sacks as their previous meeting (3), pressured Goff 21 times! Consequently, Goff melted under the pressure and his completion percentage plummeted to 55. 81%, he threw an interception and his Y/A was a concerning 5.44.
It is currently uncertain whether or not Goff will start against the Seahawks. Partly due to a thumb injury and partly due to the impressive debut of back up quarterback John Wolford.
Against the Arizona Cardinals, Wolford impressed with his ability to move around the pocket, scramble and work through his progressions. However, it was only one game and the Wolford dream could come tumbling down at the drop of a hat.
Whoever, Sean McVay decides to play under centre, one thing is for sure. It is a weakness and the Seahawks must exploit it.
Get Lockett cooking early
With Ramsey expected to make life tough on Metcalf again, it is crucial that speedster Tyler Lockett steps up in Metcalf’s absence and recaptures his early season form that lead to Wilson playing like an MVP.
During the ‘Let Russ Cook’ phase of the season (Weeks 1-7), Lockett registered 45 reception, 542 yards receiving and 7 touchdowns. Since Week Seven, Lockett’s play has diminished somewhat.
Through Weeks Eight to Sixteen, Lockett accumulated 43 receptions, but only 422 yards receiving and 1 touchdown. Lockett’s Y/R also decreased, from 12.04 to 9.81.
However, in the Week Seventeen victory over the 49ers, Lockett looked like his old self in the second half, racking up 90 yards receiving, 12 catches on 14 targets (his highest since Week Seven) and 2 touchdowns. As a result, Wilson looked to be back to his dynamic best in the 4th quarter, scrambling out of the pocket and hitting Lockett for big gains in plays out of structure.
If we are to see Russ ‘cook’ again, Lockett must be at the centre of the offence.
As the great Mike Tyson said, everyone has a plan until they get hit in the mouth. However, the Seahawks know the Rams well and should not panic if Goff looks comfortable early and Donald gets pressure on Wilson (which he is undoubtedly going to do).
If the Seahawks try their best to negate the pass rush, force Jared Goff to move off his spot and look for his second read and get Lockett going early, they should best their divisional rival and move on to the next round of the playoffs.