Five Takeaways: Rams at Seahawks

Posted Dec 30, 2015

Team insider Myles Simmons reviews five key points from the Rams victory in Seattle, including strong performances by DE William Hayes and C Tim Barnes.

NAPA, Calif. -- The Rams played one of their best games of the season against the Seahawks on Sunday, coming away with their first victory at CenturyLink Field since January 2005. With only one week to go, here are five takeaways from St. Louis’ penultimate game of the season.

1) Playing with pride

While the Rams do not have the record they expected at this point in the season, the club has not laid down. If winning at Seattle illustrates anything, it’s just how much pride the team has in trying to make the most of each opportunity.

“We’re prideful. We’ll fight no matter the situation,” defensive end William Hayes said. “That’s why I can really appreciate this team. We go to work every day. We’re really hustling, and we put our best foot forward. We were 4-8, those eight losses, there was great effort in those eight losses. You couldn’t be but so upset about it. The goal is to just to continue to grow and try to get better day in and day out.”

If there is one unit that clearly worked hard to prepare, it was the offensive line. There’s more that goes into pass protection and run blocking than the starting five, but the group up front led an offensive unit that surrendered no sacks and had no pre-snap penalties. That’s a significant feat for any team playing in Seattle, notoriously one of the most difficult places for an opposing team in the NFL.

“I don’t think there’s many teams that can say they came in and out of here without either one of those two things,” head coach Jeff Fisher said.

Linebacker James Laurinaitis said after the game Sunday’s victory is one that can propel a team moving forward. If nothing else, it should provide a nice lift heading into Week 17 against San Francisco.

2) Big play Hayes

William Hayes has been one of the Rams most productive defensive linemen this season, and that may not be more true than his performance on Sunday. While he had 3.0 total sacks on Russell Wilson, he was involved in four -- two solo, and two half sacks -- to add up to the hat trick. The veteran lineman also had three quarterback pressures, two quarterback hits, and one tackle for loss in the victory.

“Obviously, the three sacks, he understands, as do our guys for the most part, how to get Russell on the ground because it’s really hard to do,” Fisher said. “It was one of his better games, not only with the three sacks but the hits and tackles for losses in the run game, and the effort plays downfield. He played a lot of snaps.”

Hayes said after the game he and some of the other linemen were trying to step up to take some pressure off of defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who has had an outstanding season even in the absence of defensive end Robert Quinn.

“He’s basically been carrying our D-line since Rob’s been out,” Hayes said. “I just wanted to put a little bit on [my] shoulders to take a little pressure off him.”

With the performance, Hayes now has 5.5 sacks on the year, which is his second-highest season total.

3) Barnes on the spot

There’s a saying that goes, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” Center Tim Barnes embodied it on a fourth-quarter drive when he made two drive-saving fumble recoveries that eventually led to a Todd Gurley touchdown.

On the first, Barnes recovered a Benny Cunningham fumble on third down at the bottom of a pile. There was some initial confusion as to which team recovered the fumble, but eventually the officials ruled Barnes had the ball and was down by contact.

“You’re always concerned, because I know I had it, but they also had their arms around it, too,” Barnes said. “Above me, I could hear, ‘White has it, white has it.’ But you don’t want to relax. You just try to hold onto it as long as you can, and they got it right.”

A few plays later, Barnes found himself on top of another loose ball after Gurley fumbled at the end of a 20-yard run.

“I was just trying to follow the play and I happened to be right behind him. It was a good clean recovery,” Barnes said.

“That’s the way they’re coached. They’re downfield in case that happens,” Fisher said. “That’s why you go down the field. They all do it. Tim happened to be in the right place.”

Barnes earned a game ball for his timely effort plays, both of which were key factors in the victory.

4) Timely turnovers

The Rams forced fumbles, got a pick, and took advantage of their opportunities defensively against a particularly explosive offense.

St. Louis’ defense set the tone early when Mark Barron forced a first-quarter fumble that Akeem Ayers picked up and went 45 yards to pay dirt, giving the visitors a 10-0 lead.

“It was a great hit by Mark Barron. He came through, hit the fullback and forced the ball out,” Ayers said. “I was then able to come in and the ball came right to me, so I was able to scoop it, make a few guys miss, have some good blocks down the field, and I was able to get into the end zone.”

“It was the difference in the game. Mathematically, it was the difference in the game -- it ended up being a six-point game. And that was huge,” defensive end Chris Long said. “It’s just opportunistic. That’s how we played defense today.”

Heading into Sunday, Wilson had throw for 19 touchdowns and zero interceptions in his last five games. That streak ended in the second quarter when Trumaine Johnson picked off Wilson for his seventh interception of the season. And then defensive end Eugene Sims forced Wilson to fumble in the red zone after a long scramble in the fourth quarter, which Ayers picked up for his second fumble recovery of the game.

On this one, however, Wilson was at first ruled down by contact.

“I saw a blur come past me and Eugene hit him,” Ayers said. “I had a good view of it. I saw the ball come out before he hit the ground. The referees blew the whistle, but I knew it was a fumble. So my first instinct was to get on the ball and let Fisher review it and then we’d get the turnover.”

Those instincts proved strong as Ayers’ expectation was the exact result.

With the performance, the Rams moved to No. 10 in turnover margin at 4.

5) Extra Points

— Gurley’s rushing touchdown was his 10th of the season, making him the second running back in franchise history to rush for over 1,000 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns. The other, of course, was Eric Dickerson in 1983.

— Donald may not have recorded a sack, but he made his presence felt by tallying nine quarterback pressures, three quarterback hits, and one tackle for loss. The DT now has 22 TFLs on the season.

— Wide receiver Kenny Britt scored his second touchdown on a deep pass in as many weeks with his diving 28-yard reception in the second quarter to put the Rams up 16-0. Britt now ranks No. 3 with 18.2 yards per reception.

— Quarterback Case Keenum is now 5-1 in his last six games as a starter, including 3-1 this season for St. Louis.

— With practice in Napa, Calif. this week, the Rams will be on the field Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday afternoon in preparation for the 49ers.