Rams offense fails to execute, Seahawks first losing team to make playoffs

St. Louis Rams starting quarterback Sam Bradford (8) is pressured by Seattle Seahawks defensive end Raheem Brock during the second quarter of their NFL football game in Seattle, Washington, January 2, 2011. REUTERS/Robert Sorbo (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

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.

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Seahawks’ playoff hopes rest on Charlie Whitehurst

The Seattle Seahawks’ season comes down to Sunday’s game against the Rams. Beat St. Louis at home and win the worst division in football. Lose and watch the Rams get destroyed by the Saints or Falcons next weekend.

The choice is yours, Seahawks.

With Matt Hasselbeck dealing with a hip injury, coach Pete Carroll told the media on Monday that the Hawks are planning to start backup Charlie Whitehurst. Hasselbeck won’t practice and would be a game-time decision, so it makes sense for Carroll just to get Whitehurst ready and to start him. (If Hasselbeck is deemed healthy enough to play, he can still suit up and be Whitehurst’s backup.)

Given how poorly Hasselbeck has played of late, the Seahawks may benefit from playing Whitehurst, even though the former Chargers’ signal caller hasn’t been very productive himself this season. He’s completed just 55% of his passes (35-of-63) on the year for 315 yards and one touchdown. He’s also thrown three interceptions and despite giving the Seahawks a shot of life off the bench against the Falcons two weeks ago, he was horrendous in his only start versus the Giants earlier in the season.

The good news is that Whitehurst is more mobile than Hasselbeck and therefore can buy himself extra time by moving around in the pocket. The bad news is that he isn’t accurate and can kill drives with the best of ‘em. He’ll face the 20th ranked pass defense in the NFL on Sunday, but any secondary can look good when the opposing quarterback only completes 55% of his passes. But at least he’ll be at home.

Whether or not the Seahawks win on Sunday, at least Carroll will have the opportunity to evaluate his quarterback position. If Whitehurst is a disaster again, the Hawks may need to draft a quarterback next year or retain Hasselbeck for at least another season. If he plays well on Sunday and again next week in the playoffs (assuming Seattle beats the Rams), then maybe Carroll will feel comfortable turning the offense over to Whitehurst in 2011.

This will be a huge week for Whitehurst.

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