INGLEWOOD, Calif. — The rebuilding Los Angeles Rams’ emphatic road victory over the Seahawks in Week 1 was a shock to a Seattle team that began the season thinking it was good enough to contend for a playoff spot and more.
Two months later, that season opener looks like an anomaly for both NFC West foes. The surging Seahawks (6-3) have the chance to emphasize it in the rematch Sunday.
“That game was so far away,” said Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner, who spent last season with the Rams. “We’re not that team, and we’ll show it.”
The Seahawks and the Rams have both been pretty much what they were expected to be before that season-opening stunner briefly changed the discourse.
Wagner was one of several stars jettisoned by Los Angeles in the offseason for salary cap reasons, and the remnants of the Rams (3-6) have lost six of eight with a three-game skid since that surprise in Seattle. Although Matthew Stafford is expected to return this week from his latest injury absence, Los Angeles has never played as well this season as it did in Week 1.
The Seahawks have won six of eight, with only a blowout loss at Baltimore detracting from their perception as a talented team with a shot to make noise in the NFC playoffs. Seattle’s ineptitude in Week 1 seems a long way away, but a trip to SoFi Stadium is an opportunity to show what Pete Carroll’s club has learned.
“Sometimes that can be a letdown for a team, but it’s just (about) understanding that the season is a very long season,” Wagner said. “We were able to rebound from that and have a really good win over Detroit. You can’t allow the outside expectations to affect.”
Rams coach Sean McVay hasn’t gotten much out of his team lately, scoring only 40 total points during their three-game skid before their bye week.
Unless McVay and his staff can rally their undertalented roster, Los Angeles will miss the playoffs in back-to-back seasons — something that’s never happened to the Seahawks in Carroll’s 14-year tenure.
“What a good job they do of just consistently getting better,” McVay said of the Seahawks. “One of the things I always respect is they consistently take steps. There’s always an identity that they play with.”
Former University of Washington receiver Puka Nacua’s dynamic season for the Rams began with 10 catches for 119 yards in Seattle. But Nacua missed workouts this week while Los Angeles attempted to get the NFL’s top first-year wideout ready for Sunday.
“He’s just banged up,” McVay said. “You could see he was a little bit limited in terms of just some of his overall movement against Green Bay. I’ll be interested to see if he’s ever truly back full speed — not full speed, but feeling like you don’t have to be cognizant of taking care of him to get him to game day feeling as good as possible.”
KEEP UP THE RUSH
It’s not quantity but consistency that’s defining what second-year edge rusher Boye Mafe has accomplished for the Seahawks during his recent run of success. Mafe has had one sack in each of the past seven games going back to Week 3 to set a franchise record. It’s a level of consistency in pressure that the Seahawks have needed.
“He’s still a new guy coming up, but he’s playing with such consistency now that it gives him a chance to be available for those kinds of plays,” Carroll said.
Seattle also received a boost last week from Leonard Williams, who got a sack in his second game. The arrival of the former USC star has allowed Seattle to push Dre’Mont Jones outside on the defensive line to help make up for the loss of LA-area native Uchenna Nwosu to a season-ending pectoral injury.
Receiver Tyler Lockett needs just three catches and 27 yards receiving to move past Brian Blades into second place in both categories in Seahawks history, behind only Hall of Famer Steve Largent. While he sometimes gets forgotten in the broader league-wide discussion of top wideouts, Lockett has been reliable and steady throughout his Seattle career.
“He’s the only person I think that really taught me it’s chess not checkers when you’re going against a defensive back out there, and how one play can set up the next play,” DK Metcalf said.
WITHERSPOON VS KUPP
Seattle rookie cornerback Devon Witherspoon and Rams receiver Cooper Kupp both missed the season opener, but they’re ready to face off Sunday. Kupp, the Yakima native and Eastern Washington product, hasn’t faced the Seahawks since the 2021 season because of injuries.
I LOVE LA
While Carroll’s roots and connections to Southern California still run deep, going back to Los Angeles hasn’t been the most joyous of trips since the Rams came home from St. Louis.
Seattle is just 2-5 in the seven games played in LA following the Rams’ return.
AP Sports Writer Tim Booth in Seattle contributed.