December 11, 2011 in Sports

Seahawks fired up for tonight’s divisional tilt with Rams

Danny O'Neil Seattle Times
Seahawks’ keys to victory
  • 1. Subject St. Louis to a run-on sentence. The Seahawks have rushed for more than 100 yards in five consecutive games, the first time they’ve done that since 2005. With Paul McQuistan moving from right guard to left tackle, it’s even more important for Seattle to establish the run and avoid obvious passing situations that would allow Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo to choose from his vast menu of blitzes.
  • 2. Keep cranking out turnovers. The Seahawks didn’t force a turnover until Week 3 and had just 11 after eight games. They have 12 in the past four weeks, a total that includes eight interceptions. Seattle has 23 takeaways and has committed 19 turnovers, the first time all season the team has had a positive turnover ratio.
  • 3. Avoid early mistakes. Tarvaris Jackson’s first two passes against the Rams on Nov. 20 were intercepted, setting up St. Louis’ only TD of the game. That was, in fact, the only time the Rams moved the ball inside the Seahawks’ 30. The Rams have the lowest-scoring team in the league and are ill-equipped to help themselves with big point outputs.
Rams’ keys to victory
  • 1. Get Steven Jackson involved. The Rams RB back had just 11 carries in the 2010 regular-season finale in Seattle with a playoff berth on the line, matching his second-fewest carries in any game last season. Jackson ran just 15 times against Seattle when the teams played in St. Louis three weeks ago, as the Rams repeatedly used a spread offense with four receivers. Jackson is the best thing the Rams have going, and they need to make an earnest effort to run the ball even though that means going straight at the strength of Seattle’s defense.
  • 2. Don’t get behind early. The Rams simply don’t have the firepower to play catch up. They’ve scored a total of four TDs in their previous five games. A deficit would also make it more difficult for the Rams to stick with Jackson and the run game, while playing into Seattle’s plans to control the clock. St. Louis is allowing 157.8 yards rushing per game, most in the league, and plenty of that is because opponents get a lead and sit on the ball.
  • 3. Pressure the passer. The Seahawks have lost 60 percent of their starting offensive line in the past four weeks with injuries to guard John Moffitt and tackles Russell Okung and James Carpenter. The Rams defense has plenty of problems, but pressuring the passer is not one. They have 33 sacks, tied for fifth most in the league. Eleven have come in the past three games, including four against Seattle on Nov. 20.

The lights will be on at CenturyLink Field as the Seahawks play their second consecutive prime-time game. The cameras will be there, too – about 30 of them, as ESPN televises Seattle’s first Monday night game in four years. Action. That’s the cue for the Seahawks to step onto the closest thing the NFL has to a center stage. “Everybody enjoys the heck out of it,” coach Pete Carroll said. “And we’re fortunate to have the opportunity, and we want to play real well.”

The Seahawks are playing in the league’s showcase spot for the first time since shutting out San Francisco 24-0 on Nov. 12, 2007. And while the rest of the country may shrug at this matchup, it is an important moment for Carroll’s tenure. The Seahawks are double-digit favorites at home against a Rams team they beat by 17 points three weeks ago.

Seattle has a chance to make a statement – not just against St. Louis, but in the final four games of the season. The Seahawks can show that after playing for three coaches in four seasons, they have turned the corner and are ready to contend behind a new generation of players.

It has been 11 days since the Seahawks last played, a 31-14 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles that was Seattle’s most complete effort of the year. On Monday,  the Seahawks have a chance to pick up where they left off.

“The excitement is going to be there,” quarterback Tarvaris Jackson said. “You know the crowd is going to be hyped, so we’re just going to feed off that when the time comes.”

There is something special about playing on Monday night. It’s as true for the players as it is for the crowd. Their peers are watching, all eyes in the league trained on the final game of the NFL week.

But before anyone gets carried away, remember these Seahawks have lost three starters along their offensive line. And while they dominated the Rams less than a month ago, the NFL isn’t a league in which you can just Xerox the game plan and expect the same result.

“To think that it’s going to be the same and things are going to feel the same, we don’t want to do that,” Carroll said. “We want to treat this as a brand-new opportunity and challenge and approach it in that way, and hopefully the preparation will get us what we want.”

What Seattle wants tonight is to get one game closer to .500 and in the process keep alive what are admittedly slim playoff hopes. And for one of the first times under Carroll, it’s not a matter of what the Seahawks could do, but rather what they should do: handle a Rams team that is last in the league in scoring, owns the worst-ranked rush defense and hasn’t won in Seattle in seven years.

But stats don’t get you through a game. The question is whether the Seahawks will be ready when the lights come on tonight.

“You can’t get too far ahead of yourself,” Jackson said.

“Because if you do look over an opponent in this league, they’ll come out and beat you. We want to make sure that we do what we’re supposed to do: come out and play as hard as we can.”

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