The Seahawks’ secondary got schooled by the Rams on Sunday, and we have to hope they learned a few lessons — because they still face a handful of the league’s top offenses down the road.
Granted, only Kansas City looks as powerful as the Rams, but the Hawks need to learn from the lax coverage techniques, loose zones and missed tackles that enabled the Rams to roll up 468 yards and gain 30 first downs in a 33-31 shootout win.
Pete Carroll said the focus was on stopping Todd Gurley and deep passes — and the Hawks did that. Gurley ran for just 77 yards on 22 carries (3.5 average), and the Rams didn’t score from any deeper than six yards.
But they got down there fast, thanks to big plays. Three of their four TD drives lasted just 2:30, 3:09 and 1:41. Carroll said they had 11 explosive plays, “which is twice as many as should be allowed.”
Blame it on missed tackles, poor zone fits and simple inexperience. That’s what happens when you are starting two first-timers and a second-year guy in the secondary and the group has barely played a summer together. Add in an inexperienced weakside linebacker and no consistent pass rush, and it was easy pickings for the league’s best offense — even without concussed star receivers Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp in the second half.
“We wanted to make sure that they couldn’t run the football and control it there, which really was accomplished except for the one flat play that got out on us,” Carroll told 710 ESPN. “And then stay on top, not let them be as deep, and we did that.
“But they were able to play past us and get the ball between us too consistently. … They made yards after the catch that did not need to happen — a couple times in the flat, a couple times over the middle, they’d add 15 yards to a play. If those were kept to a minimum, we would’ve really been in control of the game much more.”
The Hawks missed a couple of tackles on the Rams’ first TD drive and then missed a tackle and botched a zone coverage on the next drive, which also ended in a TD. Missed tackles and confused zones were a big part of the success of Robert Woods (145 total yards) and Kupp (90 yards and a TD), who found big holes in the zone far too often.
Justin Coleman and Shaquill Griffin played as poorly as we have seen. Whether in man or zone, they often got lost in coverage, missed tackles, fell down or messed up in some other way. Tedric Thompson and Bradley McDougald both whiffed on at least a couple of tackles, too. And Bobby Wagner and the linebackers found themselves chasing or blocked out of pursuit several times, yielding big plays to Gurley, Kupp and Josh Reynolds.
The winning field goal came after Coleman left Woods free for a 20-yard gain and Griffin then missed tackling Woods, who gained 17 on the next play.
Carroll said tackling was a major issue, especially on play-action passes. “We knew they were gonna do them. We (hoped) we could get them down, get them on the ground, not get them easy plays like they’ve been getting. So they were able to chuck it underneath us. … I think there (were) 11 explosive pass plays in the game or something like that, which is twice as many as should be allowed.”
The underneath passes were the same approach many offenses have taken against Seattle over the years. The difference was the Rams often turned them into big gains.
Carroll, DC Ken Norton and DB coach Nick Sorensen need to quickly apply the lessons from this debacle and hope the young secondary will learn from them, because they still face five of the top 10 offenses in the league.
The AFC West teams they face are piling up yards. Oakland is chucking the ball around (316 passing yards per game) and the Chargers (Week 9) rank seventh in offense and eighth in scoring. The Hawks then face the Rams again in Week 10 — and we’ll see then whether the Seattle secondary learned anything from this.