After the Seahawks 16-10 win over the Los Angeles Rams most expert's analysis focused on the Seahawks defense. The prevailing opinion was the Legion of Boom had shown itself to be as dominate as ever. They held the highest scoring offense in the league to just 10 points, all of which came in the first half. The defense also caused five turnovers. However, I left the game feeling it was just more proof the Seahawks defense doesn't have what it takes to win the Super Bowl on their own. They are not as good as they have been in the past. They are not elite.
The Seahawks defense didn't play poorly against the Rams. The defenders played like a middle of the road NFL defense. They made several good plays. They capitalized on Ram's mistakes. Most importantly though, the Seahawks had luck on their side and they won the game because of it.
The first drive against the Seahawks was a dominate showing by the Rams offense. It ended with what normally would have been a touchdown run, but instead was a fumble out of the back of the end zone, which resulted in a touchback. This was caused by an amazing play by Earl Thomas, but it was also incredibly lucky. If the ball had bounced out of the side of the field, instead of in back of it, the result would have been Ram's ball on the 1 yard line. If Gurley had reached out a second earlier it would have been a touchdown. If Gurley had tucked the ball in and powered forward it would probably have been a touchdown, or at least a first down on the 1 yard line. Nine times out of ten that drive would have ended with a touchdown. Regardless of the eventual outcome that drive was an impressive showing by the Rams. They were in such a rhythm that they never faced a third down. The team never once looked phased by the Seahawks defenders.
Later in the game, near the beginning of the second quarter Ram's Wide receiver Tavon Austin took a third down run 22 yards for a score. This play was concerning to me because giving up big runs has become a trend for the Seahawks in 2017. So far this year the Seahawks once stout run defense has been gashed repeatedly for 20 plus yard runs. DeMarco Murray ran for 75 yards in week 3 and his teammate Derrick Henry added another 20 yarder in the same game. In week 2 the Seahawks defense gave up a 61 yard run to Carlos Hyde. In three out of five games this year the Seahawks have failed to contain opposing running backs. The Rams game added to the evidence that the Seahawks struggle to avoid giving up big running plays.
Twice more the Seahawks defense escaped the Rams offense with the help of some luck. To start the third quarter the Rams had a 12 play drive that ended without points only because kicker Greg Zuerlein missed a 36 yard field goal, a distance that he hits 88.7% of the time in his career. Later in the game normally sure handed running back Todd Gurley tipped a screen pass, instead of catching it, resulting in a Sheldon Richardson interception (Richardson is a defensive tackle, which makes this super awesome). The interception was at the Seattle 25 yard line, ending a drive that normally would have resulted in a field goal.
The Seahawks defense luck hit again on the Ram's penultimate play of the game. With 12 seconds left in the game rookie wide receiver Cooper Kupp beat Seahawks Strong Safety Kam Chancellor to get open in the endzone. Quarterback Jared Goff threw a dime that hit a diving Kupp in both hands before falling incomplete. That pass should have been a game winning touchdown for the Rams. The Seahawks defense didn't defend the Rams drive well and were extremely lucky to escape. On any other day, when the Rams had even a modicum of luck on their side, Kupp would have made that catch securing a victory for Los Angeles.
If you focus on the individual drives and not the final outcome the Ram's game highlighted the flaws in the 2017 Seahawks defense. They have flashes of brilliance, but are not consistent. They feature several super stars, but lack depth. They are prone to untimely penalties.
This is bad news for the probable outcome of the season because the Seahawks offense is terrible, meaning the defense is going to have to be on the field a lot. They are going to have to put in a herculean effort every week and try to keep every team in the low teens. To pull this off the defense needs to be the most elite unit in the league. They need to be historic in their greatness. In the modern day NFL elite offenses are a dime a dozen so it is a sure thing that the Seahawks are going to face one in the payoffs. If the defense can't shut down a scoring machine like the Atlanta Falcons, the Seahawks won't have a chance.
Watching the first five games of 2017 has convince me that the Seahawks defense isn't elite. The Rams game was a perfect example of why they aren't. The team relied more on luck then good play to stop a dangerous Rams scoring attack. If the ball had bounced another way, quite literally in this case, the Seahawks would have lost that game.
References: Pro Football Reference