Los Angeles Rams 30-20 Seattle Seahawks
“That’s who we wanted” Los Angeles Rams star defensive tackle, Aaron Donald told reporters a week ago when he found out his team would be visiting their division rivals, the Seattle Seahawks in the first round of the playoffs. It was clear from the outset that the Rams wanted this game more than their opponents, as they swept Russell Wilson and the Seahawks aside despite having to field an injured quarterback for the majority of the game.
The Rams defence was the story of the day, as they held a usually dangerous Seahawks attack to just 20 points and 273 total yards to secure themselves a spot in the divisional round. Lead by their talisman Donald, the Los Angeles defensive line overwhelmed their opponents’ offensive line, as they were able to apply pressure to the Seattle quarterback Wilson with ease. Wilson himself struggled aswell. He found it difficult to play against this Rams defence in their previous two meetings this season, but in this game, he looked even more unsettled than usual. The seven-time Pro Bowler had a dismal 40% completion rate and was only able to put up 174 passing yards, his second-lowest tally of the season.
Even though the defence was excellent, the LA offence wasn’t so good. On only their second possession of the game, starting quarterback John Wolford went down with a neck injury in the fourth quarter after taking a big hit to the helmet from Seahawks safety Jamal Adams. Regular starter, Jared Goff, who was benched due to the surgery he had on his right thumb less than two weeks ago, was forced into the lineup after Wolford was helped off the field. Immediately upon entering the game, Goff struggled, clearly affected by his injury. Even so, the dominant defence meant the visiting side’s lead never really looked to be under threat.
6-3 down midway through the second quarter, the Seahawks had been only able to generate 30 yards of total offence from their first four drives of the game, causing second year receiver, DK Metcalf to vent his frustration through shouting at various coaches on the sideline. On their next possession, Wilson tried to flip the ball to the Ole Miss product on a screen pass, but Darious Williams read the play like a book, jumping in front of the receiver, intercepting the ball and then taking it all the way back the other way for a touchdown.
Wilson did come back firing on the next drive, though, as he was able to find Metcalf in behind the Rams secondary for a 51-yard touchdown while being chased by a number of defenders. However, Sean McVay’s side were able to restore their ten-point cushion going into halftime, leaning on second-round rookie running back Cam Akers on their following possession, who clocked up 69 yards from scrimmage on the drive. 44 of those yards came from impressively taking a routine check down down the sideline to the Seahawks’ 30-yard line. A couple of plays later, he eventually got into the endzone for a five-yard touchdown run with less than two minutes to go in the first half. The Rams strolled into the locker rooms at the break leading by a score of 20-10.
If Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll thought the second half would be easier on his team, he was sadly mistaken. It did look promising early on, as D.J. Reed returned the opening kickoff 58 yards to the Rams 41-yard line. But Wilson and the Seattle offence couldn’t take advantage of the excellent field position, going three and out and having to settle for a 52-yard Jason Meyers field goal.
That disappointing drive summed up a fairly miserable second half. Neither offence was able to get in rhythm. After the Seahawks opening field goal, eight of the next nine drives ended in punts, the only exception being the Rams finally stringing a few good plays together to get into Matt Gay’s field goal range at the start of the fourth quarter before they inevitably stalled and had to settle for three. On top of that, Donald went down with an injury after making a great play on Wilson, forcing him to get rid of the ball earlier than he wanted to. Los Angeles fans held their breath as the three-time defensive player of the year was escorted to the doctor’s room, but he was thankfully back out before long, ready to get back in the game.
Still down by ten with seven minutes on the clock, the Seahawks sealed their fate, as Reed fumbled a punt return, allowing Rams linebacker, Micah Kiser to land on it and give his offence the ball on the 36-yard line. A few plays later, Goff hit a wide open Robert Woods off a play action fake for a 15-yard touchdown, making it a 17 point game and securing the win.
With the game all but over, the Seahawks offence suddenly found the ability to move the ball, as Wilson lead an impressive two-minute drive down the field for a touchdown with two minutes left. But it was too little too late, as Woods recovered the onside kick for the Rams, diminishing any glimmer of hope for a Seattle comeback.
As the sixth seed in the NFC bracket, Sean McVay and his Rams team will have to go on the road in the next game once again. It’s fair to say they will be the underdogs again, whoever they end up facing, but after dominating the Seahawks, anyone would be foolish to underestimate them.
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Sub-edited by George Overhill