- It's clear that the NFC West now belongs to Seattle and Los Angeles—but while Rams QB Jared Goff may be finally settling into his role, he's still not quite the cluch quarterback his team needs him to be.
Three thoughts from the Seahawks 16–10 victory over the Rams.
1. Recently the NFC West has been a two-team division between the Seahawks and Cardinals, but this division now belongs to the Seahawks and Rams. Los Angeles may not have won Sunday, but they proved they belong at the top of the division—one they haven’t won since 2003. It’s OK if you were skeptical of the Rams after a few games under a 31-year-old coach and second-year quarterback who went winless as a starter after being drafted No. 1. But five games in they have proven capable of winning against playoff teams. Todd Gurley has returned to his Offensive Rookie of the Year form, Robert Quinn is speeding off the edge, Mark Barron has made the transition to the hybrid defender and Cooper Kupp has become a dependable receiver. The 49ers are still a few years away from competing and the Cardinals remain on the decline that began in the 2015 NFC title game. Gurley’s endzone fumble and Greg Zuerlein’s missed chip shot totally changed the complexion of this game, leaving 10 points on the field in a six-point finish.
2. Jared Goff may be ready—finally—for the big time, but he’s still not ready for clutch time. With more than six minutes left in a three-point game, Goff’s pass for Tyler Higbee was intercepted by Earl Thomas. The Rams’ defense forced Seattle to a three-and-out, but four plays later Goff coughed up the ball when he took a sack from Frank Clark. Those are two fatal errors in the span of less than four game minutes that aren’t acceptable. Sure, he made two nice passes on the final drive that got the Rams knocking on the door (and a third that maybe should have been caught by Cupp in the end zone), but without those errors those plays wouldn’t have been necessary. Goff has gotten a great deal of love for his play this year, and that love seems to be more relative to his horrendous play in 2016 than what he’s done in a vacuum in ’17. But just because he’s light-years better than his awful rookie season doesn’t mean he can perform late in games like winning quarterbacks do.
3. Seattle’s run game continues to struggle. Starting early in the 2014 season and ending late in ’15, the Seahawks put together 25 straight games of at least 100 rushing yards, which was the sixth-longest streak in NFL history at the time. This season, through five games, the Seahawks have rushed for less than 100 yards three times. Seattle finished Sunday’s win with 62 net rushing yards, continuing an ugly trend that dates back to last season when the Seahawks somehow went 6-3-1 in games where they rushed for less than 100 yards. This model clearly isn’t sustainable and shouldn’t help earn Seattle another NFC West crown. As the season grows longer the defense will be relied upon more, and we know well the real and perceived riffs between that offense and defense. Seattle has dealt with an incredible number of injuries at running back since Marshawn Lynch retired, but whether it’s going to be Thomas Rawls or Eddie Lacy, the leading rusher getting 20 yards in a win won’t do.