Here are five quick-hit thoughts on the Seahawks’ playoff-clinching 16-6 win over the Rams on Sunday night.
1. Did a losing team really just make the playoffs?
I know Seattle fans are excited that their team just made the playoffs. They should be. I would be excited too if the Seahawks were my team. But it’s disgusting that a 7-9 team just qualified for the postseason and will host a game next weekend. The Giants and Bucs each won 10 games this year and they’ll be watching the playoffs from their couches next week. The Seahawks finished with only one more win than the Lions, Cowboys, Redskins, Vikings and 49ers. Think about that for a second. Think about how bad the 49ers, Vikings and Redskins were at times this season and they finished with just one fewer win than Seattle. In terms of competitiveness, this can’t be what the NFL wants. Regardless, the Seahawks are in and that’s all that matters. When they play the Saints next weekend, the regular season records won’t matter.
2. One team played to win tonight and the other didn’t.
Criticize the Seahawks and their record all you want but at least Pete Carroll’s squad went for it on Sunday night. They started their backup quarterback but as Al Michaels and Cris Colinsworth said throughout the broadcast, Jeremy Bates removed the shackles from Charlie Whitehurst and let him play. Granted, Michaels and Colinsworth made him out to be Dan Marino but there’s no denying Whitehurst stepped up with the playoffs on the line. The Rams, on the other hand, played true to Steve Spagnuolo’s conservative nature and tried not to lose. I don’t know if it was him or it was by design, but Sam Bradford threw most of his passes under 10 yards and rarely tested Seattle’s shaky secondary. Not much separated these two teams at kickoff, yet one made plays when it had to and the other one didn’t. The Seahawks aren’t very good but they approached this game as if it was the last one they would play this season. As it turns out, it won’t be.
3. Rams’ offense fails to execute.
The Rams’ offense was putrid tonight. Bradford and Pat Shurmur played things way too conservatively and the results were disastrous. On a night when two touchdowns and a field goal would have won the game for St. Louis, the Rams produced seven three-and-outs and racked up just 184 yards of total offense. Michaels noted how Steven Jackson only had seven carries at halftime but the Rams only ran about eight plays in the first half. The Rams never got into a rhythm and therefore, could never get Jackson rolling. Bradford wasn’t very accurate and even when he delivered a catchable ball, his receivers would drop it. How many first downs did the Rams fail to pick up because their receivers couldn’t make a play? You could see the wideouts’ confidence shrink as the night wore on and after Bradford threw that horrible pick midway through the fourth quarter, the entire team shut down. Their defense played well enough to win, but the offense never gave them a chance. This team also settled for field goals when it got inside the red zone all season long and what happened against Seattle? They settled for field goals on their two trips inside the red zone. How frustrating.
4. Can the Seahawks actually beat the Saints?
There will be a few overzealous members of the media that will lay out reasons why the Seahawks can beat the Saints next week at home. Hell, I may even be one of them. Seattle is a tough environment to play in and New Orleans’ offense has sputtered the past two weeks. But no matter how much the Saints’ offense has struggled lately, they won’t produce seven three-and-outs like the Rams did on Sunday night. Their receivers also know how to hold onto the ball and you better believe Drew Brees will attempt more than six passes beyond 10 yards. The NFL is always full of surprises but 16 points won’t cut it for Seattle next week.
5. The Rams really did have a tremendous season.
I’ve been hard on the Rams for most of this post but let’s take a second to appreciate how far they’ve come in just one year. Coming into the season, this was a team that had just three wins in two years. Bradford had a great rookie campaign and Spagnuolo got this team to believe in itself. They need to give Bradford more weapons in the passing game and they’re still a couple of defensive backs shy of getting really good on defense, but they’re moving in the right direction. Nobody (and I mean nobody) expected the Rams to be playing for a playoff berth this late in the season. Granted, that was a by product of the division they played in but again, this team won one game last year. It was a quite the turnaround and despite its disappointing ending, it really was a remarkable season.