Rams hassle Hasselbeck early
By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Monday, Nov. 26 2007
The game was barely a minute old Sunday and the Rams already had sacked Seattle
quarterback Matt Hasselbeck twice. Or twice as many times as they dropped him
in their loss in Seattle last month.
"They put together a nice defensive scheme and gave us some problems," coach
Mike Holmgren said after his Seahawks rallied for a 24-19 victory. "Anytime you
start off a game with sacks, unless your quarterback is Superman, he's going to
get a little grumpy. That's kind of what happened."
In its previous three games, Seattle had gained 77.8 percent of its yardage
through the air, with Hasselbeck averaging 320 passing yards per outing. With
running back Shaun Alexander (knee) out, the Rams figured they'd see more of
So defensive coordinator Jim Haslett deployed five defensive backs most of the
way and replaced a down lineman with a linebacker, either Will Witherspoon or
Brandon Chillar lining up as a rush end. Then Haslett turned them loose.
"Hasselbeck throws a good ball, very precise," linebacker Chris Draft said. "If
we can't get people in his face and just let him sit back there, he's going to
have a nice day. We weren't going to let that happen."
The Rams collected a season-high five sacks — Witherspoon and Chillar had two
apiece, and tackle La'Roi Glover added another — and knocked Hasselbeck to the
turf many other times.
Haslett ordered up a similar approach two weeks ago, when the Rams snapped
their eight-game skid with a 37-29 victory at New Orleans. They were even more
aggressive this time.
"We kind of knew that they were going to come in chucking it, and we just tried
to disrupt (Hasselbeck's) rhythm as much as we could," Glover said. "It's an
aggressive scheme, something that we like a lot. We're able to disguise some
things, so they don't who's coming and from what position guys are coming from."
The flummoxed Seahawks, who strolled into the Edward Jones Dome with the NFL's
ninth-best offense, finished the opening quarter with 0 yards rushing, minus-1
passing and a 16-7 deficit. Seattle's points came on an 89-yard kickoff return
by Josh Wilson; the Rams got two back when tackle Adam Carriker dropped running
back Maurice Morris in the end zone.
"We came out and got after them," Witherspoon said. "We were getting pressure
on the quarterback, and I think it forced them to change part of their scheme."
The stunts and blitzes continued, and by halftime the Seahawks had produced
just 89 total yards and trailed 19-7. The Seattle coaches used the 12-minute
break to map a different strategy.
When the third quarter began, the Seahawks were employing more backfield
protection for Hasselbeck, and he was taking shorter drops to get the ball out
quicker. "Matt is good at reading coverages and defenses," Witherspoon said.
"He made some good judgment calls."
Seattle closed to 19-17 on two third-quarter scoring drives in which Hasselbeck
completed five of seven passes. It took the lead with 5 minutes 57 seconds to
go on a 10-play, 80-yard march.
That five-point edge held up when the Rams' final possession ended with a
botched snap at the Seahawks' 1-yard line.
"Obviously, it's frustrating," Carriker said. "We played very well; we had a
lead on them. We feel like we should've won this game."
Seattle wound up with 302 yards, about 50 short of their average. But that
didn't soothe the sting of the Rams' sixth consecutive loss to the Seahawks.
"I'm not a stats guy; I'm about wins," said cornerback Ron Bartell, a
third-year pro. "To lose a game like that when you come that close to winning
... that's probably the toughest loss I've had in the league so far."