LOS ANGELES – Although the Los Angeles Rams hadn’t lost a game until last week, their spectacular season has featured several close calls.
Not many were closer than their 33-31 victory five weeks ago in Seattle, where the Seahawks racked up 190 yards rushing, intercepted two passes by Jared Goff and came agonizingly close to a huge NFC West win.
With the second-place Seahawks (4-4) visiting the Coliseum on Sunday for the rematch, the Rams (8-1) have a chance to essentially end the division race with seven weeks to go.
The Rams aren’t looking that far ahead, but Aaron Donald hopes Los Angeles will learn from that narrow win in Seattle – and a 45-35 loss at New Orleans last week.
“We’re in a good place, and we’re locked in,” said the Rams’ superstar defensive tackle, second in the NFL with 10 sacks. “We play these guys twice a year, so we’ve got respect for them. We’ve just got to get after them.”
The Rams have never lost back-to-back regular-season games in their 1 1/2 seasons under Sean McVay, but they’ve thrived primarily on the strength of an offense that has outscored nearly every opponent, including the Seahawks. NFL scoring leader Todd Gurley rushed for three TDs in Seattle, and the Rams kept the ball out of Russell Wilson’s hands in the final 3:38 by running out the clock.
The Seahawks also are coming off a loss after the Los Angeles Chargers won in Seattle last week, but the Seahawks know they can beat the Rams because they did it last season at the Coliseum.
Even if the division race might already be out of hand, they have a chance to begin their playoff rally with a statement victory.
“We can’t allow them to score as many points as they put up,” Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “We feel like we did a really good job against the run for the most part. We have to find a way to do that, make them one-dimensional, make sure Todd doesn’t get into the end zone as many times as he did.”
More things to watch in this NFC West showdown:
Donald has sacked Wilson eight times in their careers, more than any other quarterback. But Donald and the Rams didn’t sack Drew Brees last week, and they still have something to prove to the Seahawks – particularly to guard D.J. Fluker, who wasn’t impressed by the toughness of the Los Angeles defense in the clubs’ previous meeting.
The Seattle offensive lineman said the Rams “want to be pass rushers,” but hadn’t “seen a team go out there and actually take it to them.” Donald had no interest in starting a public discussion last week: “We’re just going to go out there and play a game and let our play speak for us.”
Seattle’s impressive rushing performance in its first meeting with the Rams included 116 yards from Chris Carson, but he is questionable for the rematch because of a hip injury that caused him to sit the final 2 1/2 quarters last week against the Chargers. Mike Davis and seldom-used Rashaad Penny probably would replace Carson.
But Seattle also has offensive line concerns after Fluker injured his calf late in the loss to the Chargers. Fluker’s addition to the offensive line helped spark Seattle’s turnaround in the run game starting in late September.
Gurley has scored a touchdown in a franchise-record 12 consecutive games. His 868 yards rushing are the NFL’s most by a whopping 162 yards over Pittsburgh’s James Connor.
Gurley’s 16 TDs this season are the most in the league and the second most in NFL history through nine games, trailing only Jim Brown’s 17 in 1958. That’s the challenge facing Seattle’s run defense, which is giving up 4.8 yards per attempt – tied for fourth worst in the league – but has been effective in stretches.
Former Washington Huskies defensive back Marcus Peters was targeted repeatedly by the Saints, and the Rams’ top corner took the blame for much of Brees’ success. The Seahawks undoubtedly saw the former Pro Bowl cover man’s struggles on video, but Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has limited options in the continued injury absence of cornerback Aqib Talib. The Rams’ best solution might be increased pressure on Wilson, who has been sacked 25 times already this season.
Bradley McDougald has been one of Seattle’s defensive standouts, but with a quick turnaround to facing Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers on Thursday, McDougald might end up sitting out against the Rams because of a bothersome knee injury. If McDougald can’t play, the Seahawks would turn to second-year safety Delano Hill, which could create an extremely young secondary. If Hill starts, he would play alongside second-year free safety Tedric Thompson, second-year cornerback Shaquill Griffin and rookie cornerback Tre Flowers. Nickel cornerback Justin Coleman, in his fourth season, would be the veteran of the group.
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