To do their part in setting a record against the Rams, Seattle’s linebackers had to do something that goes against their attacking style. They had to be patient.
The Rams carved up the Seahawks for 200 rushing yards in their first meeting, the second-highest rushing total Seattle has allowed this season. This time, though, the Seahawks remained patient. They waited for the Rams to pick their running lane, then pounced once they committed.
The result: Seattle tied a franchise record by holding the Rams to just 13 rushing yards. At one point in the fourth quarter, St. Louis had negative rushing yards. (It helped immensely that Seattle’s defensive line also played what safety Earl Thomas called “the best football I’ve seen”).
“Usually teams just come downhill,” linebacker Malcolm Smith said. “But they have more of a search running game where they’re looking for openings and waiting for you to make a mistake. We felt we’d let them make the first move and just attack them after that.”
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The opposite happened the first time the two teams played. The Seahawks were missing middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, and Seattle’s linebackers were too eager to attack the line of scrimmage.
Running back Zac Stacy and the Rams largely used cutbacks and misdirection plays to take advantage of that aggressiveness. The idea was to take a few steps one way, so it looks like Stacy is going through a certain hole, before cutting back and leaving Seattle’s linebackers pinned.
This time, Seattle’s linebackers chopped their feet and shuffled until Stacy committed to a spot. Only at that point did they launch forward to meet him. Wagner finished with a game-high 12 tackles, many of which came right at the line of scrimmage.
“I thought Bobby Wagner played a great football game,” coach Pete Carroll said, “and that’s without looking at the film.”
Smith added five tackles and made the play of the game. In the first quarter, he picked off St. Louis quarterback Kellen Clemens and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown. Smith, who is filling in for injured linebacker K.J. Wright, also had an interception last week that he nearly returned for a touchdown.
“He doesn’t know how good he is yet,” Thomas said of Smith. “He’s special.”
Jayson Jenks: 206-464-8277 or firstname.lastname@example.org