In what amounted to a passing of the torch in the NFC West, the Rams throttled the Seahawks 42-7 last December in Seattle. Rams running back Todd Gurley was nearly unstoppable as he rushed for 152 yards and scored four touchdowns. In a season with plenty of ugly games, this was the most unwatchable of all and likely played a big part in Seattle’s massive overhaul of coaches and players in the offseason.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Old Ball Coach vs. Young Gun
At 67 years old, the Seahawks’ Pete Carroll is the oldest head coach in the NFL. At 32 years old, the Rams’ Sean McVay is the youngest head coach in the NFL. During Carroll’s first season at USC in 2001, McVay was a sophomore … in high school. Want another one? When Carroll was defensive coordinator with the 49ers in 1995-96, McVay’s grandfather, John McVay, was a high-ranking executive in San Francisco’s front office. And that’s just off the field. On the field, McVay is known for his innovative offensive mind, Carroll is known for his defensive genius. The Rams have adopted the NFL’s pass-first mentality, while the Seahawks still want to beat you with the run. This is as stark a contrast as it gets. Here’s to hoping Carroll finds a way to get McVay off his lawn. Or FieldTurf.
Doesn’t matter vs. Aaron Donald
In eight career games against the Seahawks, Donald has 23 tackles and seven sacks. It really hasn’t mattered who lined up across from him. So good luck to J.R Sweezy, Justin Britt and D.J. Fluker, the trio who will be tasked with stopping this freak athlete. The Seahawks have yet to find a way to slow down the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and that’s not likely to change Sunday. Sweezy has done a nice job filling in for Ethan Pocic at left guard, good enough to keep starting even though Pocic is healthy, but it’s a lot to ask of a guy with not a lot of experience at the position to stop Donald. It’s a lot to ask of anyone.
Not Earl Thomas vs. Rams wide receivers
Not to take anything away from new starting free safety Tedric Thompson, but filling Thomas’ shoes is a nearly impossible task. Thomas is the perfect free safety for Seattle’s Cover-3 scheme with his ability to take away so much of the field, particularly on the deep end. Thomas was perhaps playing the best ball of his career when he broke his legs against the Cardinals last week. The Rams had a field day in the passing game game in last week’s 38-31 shootout win over the Vikings. Three different Los Angeles receivers went over 100 yards in the game — Cooper Kupp (162), Brandin Cooks (116) and Robert Woods (101). Sounds dire, correct? Yes and no. While it will be a tough task for Thompson, the rest of Seattle’s secondary has been a bright spot this season. According to FootballOutsiders.com, a football analytics website, the Seahawks’ pass defense DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average; compares a team’s performance to a league baseline) is ninth best in the league. Carroll’s ability to coach a secondary strikes again.
Austin Calitro vs. Todd Gurley
With Mychal Kendricks suspended indefinitely by the NFL and K.J. Wright not fully recovered from arthroscopic knee surgery, Calitro steps in as the Seahawks’ starter at weak-side linebacker. Calitro fared well in that spot after Seattle benched rookie Shaquem Griffin in the opener at Denver, but the Rams are a different beast entirely. Gurley is the second-leading rusher in the league so far (338 yards) and has killed the Seahawks on screen passes in the past. Calitro will need to play confident and fast for the Seahawks to have a chance.
7 — The number of times the Rams have punted this season. Seven punts in four games. Less than two punts per game. Yikes. The Seahawks have punted seven or more times in a single game twice this season and have punted 25 times overall. Sure, Seattle rookie Michael Dickson is fun to watch, but the Seahawks need to see far more of Rams All-Pro Johnny Hekker, a Bothell High School alum, than any team has this season.
DID YOU KNOW?
According to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, in 45 rushing attempts, Seattle running back Chris Carson has faced an eight-man box 13.33-percent of the time. That percentage is among the lowest in the league for a primary ball-carrier with a minimum of 25 attempts. Rashaad Penny has yet to see an eight-man box. (Note: Mike Davis has 24 attempts on the season, so his Next Gen Stats are not available yet.) So what does this mean? That remains to be seen, but it’s likely opponents are confident they can stop Seattle’s run game without safety help.
One of the first orders of business for any defense before a play is identifying what personnel the offense has on the field. With six of the 11 offensive players being the quarterback and the offensive line, the number of running backs and tight ends on the field will tell the defense all it needs to know about the offensive personnel grouping. The grouping is typically identified using a numerical system like “11” or “21.” The first number is the number of running backs on the field and the second number is the number of tight ends. So “11” personnel means there is one running back and one tight end on the field, “21” means two running backs and one tight end, and so on. Once this is identified, the number of wide receivers falls into place. The Seahawks and Rams both run the majority of their plays out of “11” personnel, so that grouping should be easy for fans to identify Sunday.
It always hurts when you are no longer king of the mountain, and that’s certainly the case with the Seahawks in the NFC West. The best way to cope? Comfort food and some strong beer. Chicken wings would be the correct choice on Sunday. Buy a few pounds of drumsticks and flavor them to your liking (some combination of garlic powder and Frank’s Red Hot will do the trick nicely). Fremont Brewing’s Bourbon Barrel-Aged Dark Star imperial oatmeal stout, released at the beginning of October each year, would be an excellent pick. At 13.6-percent alcohol by volume, this beer should help ease the pain in the event of a blowout.
Rams 34, Seahawks 17
Unfortunately for the Seahawks, this matchup doesn’t look all that competitive on paper, especially given Seattle’s injury situation. The Rams are the class of the NFL so far this season, while the Seahawks are about as average as it gets. Maybe playing at home will give Seattle some juice, but it’s not likely to be enough to keep this one close.