Countdown to kickoff: Seahawks at Rams

Posted Oct 28, 2013

The Seahawks wrap up the first half of the season on Monday night at the Edward Jones Dome against the Rams, who last hosted a “Monday Night Football” game in 2006.

ST. LOUIS – Greetings from the Edwards Jones Dome, where the Seahawks will play the Rams tonight, just a short walk from where the St. Louis Cardinals are hosting the Boston Red Sox in the fifth game of the World Series.

So on this night the eyes of the sports nation are on this city that sits along the banks of the Mississippi River, but the attention the Rams are getting in hosting their first “Monday Night Football” game since 2006 is more flashlight than spotlight. It’s all Cardinals all the time here, while the 3-4 Rams are hoping to crash the party by upsetting the 6-1 Seahawks, and doing it without their quarterback Sam Bradford.

Off to the best start of his career, Bradford is out for the remainder of the season after tearing a ligament in his left knee during last week’s loss to the Panthers in Carolina. So rather than Bradford, the Seahawks will face Kellen Clemens, who last started a game in 2011 and has made only 12 starts in his first seven NFL seasons.

But the Rams won’t be crying over their plight, not if coach Jeff Fisher has anything to say about it – which, of course, he does. This week, he reached into his bag of coaching tricks and came up with a book, “A Setback Is a Setup for a Comeback,” to use as motivation.

“I referenced that back to them,” Fisher told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “So, that’s what we’re going to do. Our comeback’s already in place.”

It is against this backdrop that the Seahawks can’t afford to drop the edge – at times jagged, at times ragged – that allowed them to get out of Carolina with a victory in their opener; not overlook the still-winless Jaguars the week after their home opener against the 49ers; somehow pull out an overtime victory in Houston the following week; and rebound from their only loss in Week 5 at Indianapolis to dispatch the Titans the following Sunday and the Cardinals that Thursday despite a short week to prepare.

If the Seahawks are who we think they are, then they win this game as well – despite all the factors that could lead to a letdown.

“We’re looking forward to this week and this division matchup, and playing on Monday night is really cool stuff for us so we’re excited about that,” coach Pete Carroll said Saturday after the team’s final full practice. “We had very good work during the week and we’re right back on it. So, we expect to play well.”

To do that, the Seahawks will need to do a better job of protecting Russell Wilson, the second-year quarterback who has been under pressure on 46.6 percent of his attempts, according to Pro Football Focus. Wilson has shown a knack for being able to turn pressure into pleasure by whirling away from it and buying time to find an open receiver or running – he leads all NFL QBs with 323 rushing yards.

But sacks have been something else. He was dropped three times in last week’s game against the Cardinals, losing two fumbles that led to 10 Arizona points. And the Rams have the players who can duplicate that pressure-point kind of pass rush in Robert Quinn, who leads the NFC with seven sacks; and Chris Long, who has 2.5 sacks this season but had 11.5 last season, including three of the Rams’ six sacks of Wilson in the season finale.

The Seahawks will continue to play without injured starting tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini. So Paul McQuistan and Michael Bowie, who are replacing them, will need to play better in this nationally-televised game than they did in the nationally-televised game against the Cardinals.

Another way to reduce some of the pressure on Wilson is to force feed the Rams’ defense a steady diet of Marshawn Lynch. The Rams already have allowed three of the top seven rushing performances in the league and rank 30th in average rushing yards allowed (126.4). Lynch was No. 2 in the league in rushing entering this week’s game and the Seahawks are averaging 154.6 rushing yards.

Then there’s the defense that Clemens will be facing. The Seahawks have 11 interceptions, including seven from their All-Pro tandem of free safety Earl Thomas (four) and cornerback Richard Sherman (three). Against the Cardinals, they had seven sacks, from eight different players.

So against the Rams, the Seahawks need to stop a running game that is averaging 70.6 yards per game and 3.2 yards per carry and make Clemens throw to move the ball. He will take chances by going deep to the Rams’ fast wide-outs. The Seahawks need to turn that into a situation where they can “pad our stats,” as Thomas always puts it.

Easier said than done, on all counts. But if this game counts the same as any other game, and every other game, as the Seahawks are always saying, it’s a task they must be up to on a night when most of the attention will be focused on what’s taking place just up the street.

So sit back and enjoy, with kickoff and televised coverage on ESPN and KONG 6/16 set for 5:40 p.m. PT.