Rams vs. Seahawks Monday Night Football: Live Reaction, News and Analysis
The Seahawks find themselves in an interesting position coming into the game. With a 5-7 record, the Hawks are not yet out of the playoff hunt for a Wild Card spot. They must find a win tonight in order to stay alive in the race.
Despite an injury to quarterback Tarvaris Jackson that has prevented the Seahawks from throwing the ball effectively since the beginning of October, the team has managed to turn around a flagging season in recent weeks.
They have built up a great deal of momentum behind the powerful running of Marshawn Lynch and a series of stingy defensive performances.
Even if the Seahawks are not able to sneak into the playoffs this season, there will be plenty of positive momentum to build upon heading into the offseason. They blossomed late this season, but this team is ready for prime time.
Meanwhile, the Rams are a team that is headed in the opposite direction. Although quarterback Sam Bradford put together an excellent rookie season, it seems that he has slipped into a bit of a sophomore slump in 2011.
Of course, Bradford’s flagging performance is due in large part to a series of injuries that have plagued the team on both sides of the ball. The injuries have been seemingly unstoppable, and have included Bradford himself as he has struggled with a high ankle sprain.
A midseason trade that brought wide receiver Brandon Lloyd into the fold has paid big dividends, but even that spark hasn’t been enough to make the Rams a team of relevance this season.
At this point in the year, the Rams are out of the playoffs and in a position of playing spoiler. They will have much to play for tonight as they try to snuff out the Wild Card hopes of one of their division rivals.
Stay tuned for live analysis on these topics and more as the Rams and Seahawks battle it out on Monday Night Football.
At the end of the day, the most important play of the matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and the St. Louis Rams turned out to be the blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown after the first Rams offensive possession.
When Doug Baldwin threw himself in front of punter Donnie Jones and made contact, he couldn’t have known that he would be setting the tone for the rest of the game.
The blocked punt did more than to just put the Seahawks on the board.
In the short term, it forced an injured Sam Bradford to take the field again after just moments of rest on the sidelines. Bradford had almost no time to catch his breath, let alone speak with his offensive coordinator. Given that Bradford hadn’t had any meaningful practice or play time, this was a huge break for the Seahawks.
In the longer term, it fired up the Seahawks on special teams and offense—especially Baldwin. He was almost as important a weapon offensively as Marshawn Lynch. By the end of the night, Baldwin had accounted for seven catches for 93 yards and a touchdown.
Check out this link for video of the touchdown.
Every year rookies are brought in to fill holes on NFL teams. Some of them get the chance to make a difference as starters right away, while others must work their way up through outstanding special teams play.
There are some rookies who are expected to be great from the moment they’re drafted. Those who fall to later rounds in the draft or who are later signed as undrafted free agents are often just expected to not mess up too badly.
It is always something special to watch the later type of rookie find success in the NFL.
For the Seattle Seahawks, the biggest rookie surprise of the year has been Doug Baldwin. An undrafted free agent out of Stanford University, Baldwin was brought in to back up Sidney Rice and Golden Tate.
He has evolved into a standout player on both offense and special teams.
As the year has progressed, Baldwin has become one of the go-to guys for Tarvaris Jackson. He’s a great deep receiving threat who is able to reel in deep passes and break tackles. With 38 receptions and 625 yards (and counting), he is the team’s leading receiver in every statistic. He has also proved to be a passable blocker when the ball isn’t in his hands.
On special teams, he has made his mark by being in the right place at the right time. Against the St. Louis Rams Baldwin threw himself in front of an intended punt, blocking it so that a teammate could run it back for a touchdown.
Although Baldwin won’t enter the conversation for this year’s Rookie of the Year Award, his contributions to his team are certainly noteworthy. He has made a positive impact, and has gone to incredible lengths to help his team find new ways to win.
If your fantasy football league hasn’t started its playoffs yet, then it is surely around the corner.
The playoffs are simultaneously one of the most frustrating and one of the most competitive times of the year for any fantasy owner. The general rule of thumb is that teams are one and done—one loss in the playoffs will knock even the most dominant team out of competition for the number one spot.
As NFL teams begin to lock up their playoff positions some will rest their star players. Others will let them play only half the game. Either way, you have fantasy owners who are scrambling to fill important holes late in the year.
This is the time to turn to NFL teams whose playoff hopes are on the line. These are the teams who have everything to play for, and whose players will likely be a source of fantasy production in the waning weeks of the year.
The Seattle Seahawks are one of those teams.
Stars like Marshawn Lynch will be long gone from the free agent pool in your fantasy league, but there are still some gems hanging around.
Take, for example, the Seattle defense and/or special teams. The Seahawks have been a well-oiled machine on both special teams and defense, forcing plays that sometimes border on unbelievable. Thanks to the pathetic first half of the season, the Seattle defense is flying under the radar in many leagues right now.
If you’re in need of a wide receiver who will produce, consider checking out Golden Tate or Doug Baldwin. With Sidney Rice on injured reserve and Tarvaris Jackson slowly mending, these are the young men who will need to step up to keep Seattle’s passing game alive.
For leagues that count return yardage, it’s worth taking a look at Leon Washington. He is buried in the depth chart behind Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett, but he has averaged about 75 return yards per week in the last month. If you’ve watched the way he runs, you’ll know that it’s just a matter of time before he brings one back for a touchdown.
With just three weeks of football left, the 2011 season is winding down. There’s still a lot of excitement ahead, though, so let’s take a look at what’s coming down the pipeline next week.
Although the St. Louis Rams have been officially eliminated from the playoffs they still have the opportunity to play spoiler to three teams with playoff consequences on the line.
In Week 15 the Rams will meet the Cincinnati Bengals at home. The Bengals have been one of the surprise stories of the 2011 season as they have rallied behind rookie quarterback Andy Dalton to put together a 7-6 record. Right now the Bengals are on the outside of the playoffs looking in, so expect them to play no holds barred football against the Rams.
The Pittsburgh Steelers will represent another challenging matchup in Week 16, as will a division matchup with the San Francisco 49ers in Week 17. Both of these teams are likely playoff bound (although only the 49ers have clinched a playoff berth), but both are jockeying for preferential seeding in the playoffs.
While the Rams attempt to become a disruptive force, the Seattle Seahawks will spend the next three weeks fighting for their playoff lives. They aren’t currently in a position to determine their own fate in the Wild Card race. All they can do is try to win out and hope for some help from help from outside.
The Seahawks have a very winnable upcoming schedule for the last few weeks of the season. In Week 15 they will face a Chicago Bears team that is sinking without their star running back and their starting quarterback as well.
Weeks 16 and 17 will be divisional battles between the San Francisco 49ers and the Arizona Cardinals. With the New Orleans Saints breathing down their necks for the number two seed in the NFC, the 49ers can’t afford to let their foot off the gas. The Arizona game the following week has the potential to have huge implications for both teams, as the Cardinals are also shooting for a Wild Card berth.
Even though these two teams are headed in divergent directions, the next three weeks will certainly be full of excitement.
If there is a prize for the most improved unit on a football team in the NFL, it should perhaps go to the Seattle Seahawks special teams.
At the beginning of the year, the Seahawks special teams were laughable. The special teams unit was singlehandedly responsible for costing the team a game against the San Francisco 49ers in September. As recently as late October opposing teams were taking advantage of poor defense on special teams.
Then, in November, something changed. Maybe something clicked in practice. Maybe the young special teams squad finally gelled into a true team.
Regardless of what caused the change, it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Seahawks.
The turnaround has been shockingly complete. The same Seahawks that have been torched for touchdowns and long field goals has quietly turned into an elite force in the later months of the year.
In the past month they have stuffed kickoff and punt returns, pinning many balls inside the 10-yard line. They’ve stepped to a new level by blocking multiple field goal attempts, including two in one game against the Washington Redskins.
Now they’ve advanced to blocking punts and running them back for touchdowns. Against the St. Louis Rams it was the Seattle special teams unit who put the first points on the board for the Seahawks.
As the season draws to a close, the Seahawks’ remaining opponents need to beware the Seattle special teams. It seems that their time has finally arrived, and they are hungry to make up for time lost earlier in the season.
It seems that there’s something in the air this week with regard to getting rid of ineffective coaches. Following horrible losses by both teams, the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs have each fired their head coaches.
For Spagnuolo it would be a bitter pill to swallow after the improvement that the Rams had shown and hoped to build upon in 2010.
A year ago, the young Rams team was full of promise and hope. Steve Spagnuolo had a bright future to look forward to as Sam Bradford and his receiving corps would grow together. Obviously the 2011 picture hasn’t been nearly as rosy, particularly after many of the Rams’ offensive weapons have gone down for some or all of the season due to injury.
In the world of football coaching, there is no such thing as using rampant injury to starters as an excuse for poor performance. At the end of the day, the team’s performance each week is on the shoulders of the head coach. If the team underperforms, it is the head coach’s responsibility.
There can be an argument that Spagnuolo has made a positive impact, though. When the Rams have clicked as a team they have been a force to be reckoned with, as they proved to the New Orleans Saints with a shocking 31-21 upset a few weeks ago.
Spagnuolo has also done a decent job in filling in holes left open by injury, including bringing in wide receiver Brandon Lloyd to give Sam Bradford a Pro Bowl caliber target to throw to.
Time will tell regarding Spagnuolo’s fate, but facing off against a bitter rival on prime time television is a big test for this head coach. If his team is embarrassed and blown out of the water, Steve Spagnuolo might be looking for a new job come Tuesday.
It’s no big secret that Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has essentially entered into beast mode over the past several weeks. With Tarvaris Jackson playing through an injured pectoral muscle, it has been on Lynch to give the defense something to think about besides pressuring the quarterback, and he has stepped up big time.
Over the past five weeks Lynch has averaged nearly 120 yards and a touchdown on the ground. He is a bruising runner who is difficult to bring down; he’s close to the top of the league in yards after contact.
That type of running game is exactly what the Seahawks will need to carry them to victory tonight. The Rams enter this game with the worst rushing defense in the league coupled with the eighth best passing defense.
If Jackson can pass as a compliment to the running game, the Rams will be forced to play the Seahawks offense honestly instead of stacking the box against the run on every play.
The Hawks tried that method of attack last week against the Dallas Cowboys and found it highly effective. It had the added benefit of keeping Jackson from attempting many passes, which in turn improved his accuracy and effectiveness dramatically.
With a slim hope of the playoffs on the line, the Seahawks will attack the St. Louis Rams with everything they have. The best they have is Lynch. Expect to see him run wild tonight. Anyone who has benched Lynch on their fantasy team is missing out on more or less guaranteed points tonight.
Before breaking into the fantasy implications of Bradford’s start, let’s take a moment to actually discuss Bradford’s injury: a left high-ankle sprain. This type of injury is often confused for the more common lateral ankle sprain, yet it is an entirely different monster.
Instead of simply stretching or tearing ankle ligaments by bending the ankle the wrong way, a high ankle sprain is sustained when the bone of the foot is forced up so that it separates the two bones of the lower leg. This is an incredibly painful injury that cannot be easily taped or physically supported to help it heal. It can take up to a year to heal fully, and often requires surgery.
By even attempting to play through this injury, Sam Bradford has demonstrated his toughness and his dedication to his team. Pain will lance through his leg with every step that he takes, and any pivoting or cutting motions he makes will be agonizing.
Having their starting quarterback under center should give the Rams offense a big boost. If Bradford can stay in the game, expect better fantasy production out of star wide receiver Brandon Lloyd and running back Steven Jackson than they turned out last week.
Sam Bradford’s personal fantasy impact should be minimal given that his status was questionable up until just hours before game time on a Monday night. For those who gambled, the bad news is that with a high ankle sprain there is no guarantee that Bradford will be able to play for the entire game.