NFC West: 2013 Week 9 Upon Further Review

Upon Further Review: Seahawks Week 9

November, 4, 2013
A review of five hot issues from the Seattle Seahawks' 27-24 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

Much improved played on the offensive line: You might not have noticed it when the Seahawks got behind 21-0, but the blocking up front for the run and the pass was much better than it had been the previous two games. The line was opening holes for running back Marshawn Lynch, who rushed for 125 yards, and doing a better job of protecting quarterback Russell Wilson. It wasn't perfect by any means, but going from seven sacks at St. Louis to none on Sunday was a quality effort. The bad news is center Max Unger suffered a concussion, and his status for Sunday's game at Atlanta is unknown. The good news is injured offensive tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini both worked out and ran well on the field before the game. They will begin practicing this week and will return later this month.

[+] EnlargeSeattle's Marshawn Lynch
Steve Dykes/Getty ImagesMarshawn Lynch rushed for 125 yards on 25 carries against Tampa Bay.
Tate making game-changing plays: Two weeks in a row, Golden Tate has made a big play that had a major effect in the Seahawks' eventual success. And this time, he did it without controversy. With the Seahawks trailing 24-14 late in the third quarter, Tate fielded a punt at the Seattle 4, headed up field, broke six tackles and returned the kick 71 yards to the Tampa Bay 25. "That was a huge emotional swing for us," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. "That kind of let everyone know, 'We're here. We're coming for this win.'" Tate had an 80-yard touchdown catch at St. Louis that was the difference in Seattle's 14-9 victory, but it was remembered for Tate's taunting penalty during his run into the end zone, a mistake for which he later apologized.

Missed tackles: The Seahawks' defense gave up 205 yards rushing Sunday, the second game in a row that Seattle has allowed 200 yards on the ground. The reason is simple: poor tackling. “We're not tackling well,” Carroll said. “We're trying to take the ball away so much that we're not tackling very well. Until we fix that, we're going to continue to struggle. We're kind of going for too much and trying a bit too hard. But there are a lot of yards after first contact, so we need to do much better there.”

Baldwin is back: After having only one reception in each of the previous two games, slot receiver Doug Baldwin stepped up when Seattle needed him most Sunday. Baldwin had six catches for 75 yards, including a 10-yard TD that tied the game in the fourth quarter. On the touchdown, he grabbed a Wilson throw at the Tampa Bay 5, then slipped past the defender to the end zone. Baldwin also did what he does best with another tip-toe catch on the sidelines for a 19-yard reception to the Tampa Bay 10 that set up a Wilson TD run on the next play. All three Seattle receivers played well, including Jermaine Kearse, who had a 16-yard TD catch and made up for the absence of Sidney Rice.

Wilson does it again: For the 10th time in his 27-game NFL career, and the third time this season, Wilson led the Seahawks to a come-from-behind victory in the fourth quarter or OT. He threw two interceptions in Tampa Bay territory, including one on a first-and-goal play at the Tampa Bay 3. But Wilson kept his composure, as always, and guided the team to victory in the end. He threw two TD passes, completing 19 of 26 throws for 217 yards, and ran for another touchdown.

Upon Further Review: Rams Week 9

November, 4, 2013
ST. LOUIS -- A review of four hot issues from the St. Louis Rams’ 28-21 loss to the Tennessee Titans.

There for the taking: Sunday’s loss dropped the Rams to 3-6, a disappointing record well below the team’s preseason expectations. Of course, if you knew quarterback Sam Bradford would miss most of the season because of a knee injury, that record wouldn’t cause much surprise.

What has to be most maddening for the Rams is how they’ve dropped the two games since Bradford’s injury. The two losses post-Bradford have both been one-possession games and have been there for the taking.

The Rams haven’t been able to overcome their mistakes or take advantage of opponents' miscues enough to steal either one of those games. The margin for error in the NFL is small to begin with. It’s even smaller for the Rams without Bradford at quarterback.

[+] EnlargeCortland Finnegan
AP Photo/L.G. PattersonCortland Finnegan's interception set the Rams up with a golden opportunity, but the offense couldn't take advantage.
Missed opportunities: Speaking of small margin for error, the Rams did something against Tennessee that they couldn’t do against Seattle: force a couple of mistakes. The Rams had two interceptions against Jake Locker, one from Cortland Finnegan and another from safety Rodney McLeod.

Although the run defense was atrocious and the overall defensive performance wasn’t even close to what is was against the Seahawks, a couple of takeaways can often help mask other struggles.

But the Rams were unable to take advantage of either takeaway. Finnegan’s interception gave the Rams the ball at Tennessee’s 26. They promptly went three-and-out and missed a field goal.

McLeod’s pick gave the Rams a first down at their 21 with a chance to take a late lead. They again went three-and-out, this time with the help of a second costly tripping penalty in three weeks.

Clemens improves: Rams coach Jeff Fisher maintained all week that quarterback Kellen Clemens would be better in his second week as a starter than he was in his first week. Fisher was right.

Clemens was downright sharp early in the game, completing his first seven passes and putting together some solid drives. Clemens’ late touchdown pass to tight end Jared Cook was a thing of beauty, and he finished with an 84.2 quarterback rating, the third highest of his career.

Of course, Clemens couldn’t make it through completely unscathed. His late fumble set up Tennessee’s winning touchdown run.

Stacy the centerpiece: There’s not much left to say about rookie running back Zac Stacy, who has been a revelation for the Rams' offense. It’d be easy to make the case that he’s the team’s best offensive player right now.

After putting up 178 yards of total offense with a pair of touchdowns, Stacy has clearly established himself as the team’s best running back. This week, he also made an overwhelming case to be the focal point of the entire offense moving forward.

Fisher has found his newest bell cow running back.