Up next: St. Louis Rams

Posted Dec 24, 2013

The Seahawks enter their regular-season finale against the Rams on Sunday with the same goal they’ve had twice in the past three games: Win, to clinch the NFC West and home-field advantage in the playoffs.

A look at the St. Louis Rams, the Seahawks’ Week 17 opponent:

When: Sunday, 1:25 p.m., CenturyLink Field

Record: 7-8 after Sunday’s 23-13 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Rams’ fourth win in their past six games

Playoff implications: The Rams were eliminated from the playoffs after their Dec. 8 loss to the Cardinals in Arizona; the Seahawks will clinch the NFC West title, a first-round bye in the playoffs and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a victory

Where they rank: No. 26 on offense (16th rushing, 27th passing); No. 17 on defense (7th passing, 20th passing)

TV: FOX (Q13), with Chris Myers, Tim Ryan and Jennifer Hale

Series: Seahawks lead 18-11, including a 14-9 victory in St. Louis in Week 8 and wins in 15 of the past 17 meetings

Star power: Robert Quinn. Remember those three sacks the Rams’ defensive end had against Russell Wilson in Week 8? It was not a fluke. Quinn also had three against the Buccaneers on Sunday, giving him six on former North Carolina State quarterbacks this season (Wilson and the Bucs’ Mike Glennon). And it was the third time this season Quinn has had three in a game. Not surprisingly, Quinn leads the league with 18 sacks, and also in forced fumbles with seven. Somewhat surprisingly, Quinn’s 18 sacks also are the franchise record for a franchise that moved from Los Angeles in 1995. “When you take into consideration the history of this organization and the defensive linemen, the passer rushers, the Fearsome Foursome, and all that stuff, to set the single-season sack record is pretty impressive,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. You also need to take into consideration that sacks did not become an official NFL statistic until 1982. So the 22 sacks posted by Deacon Jones in 1964 and again in 1968 and the 18 by Jack Youngblood in 1979 aren’t official. But still, 18 sacks are 18 sacks, and Quinn broke the official record of 17 set by Kevin Carter in 1999. “It’s definitely a great honor,” Quinn said after Sunday’s game, and after being carried off the field at the Edward Jones Dome by his D-line mates. “Kevin Carter was a great player. You can’t do it by yourself. A lot of the credit goes to my D-line and defense to get that number.”

Unsung hero: Zac Stacy. During the Rams’ first four games, the rookie running back had one touch – a carry for 4 yards. Entering Sunday’s game, he needs 42 yards to join Eric Dickerson (1,808 in 1983) and Jerome Bettis (1,429 in 1993) as the only rookies in Rams’ history to rush for 1,000 yards. The Seahawks know all about this guy, because Stacy had 134 yards in their “Monday Night Football” matchup in St. Louis. Stacy also has seven rushing touchdowns and another receiving.

On the spot: Rodger Saffold. When LT Jake Long went out on the Rams’ third offensive play with torn knee ligaments, Safford moved from right guard to replace him – and was replaced at right guard by Shelley Smith. So Saffold will be protecting Kellen Clemens’ blind side on Sunday, not an easy thing to do for even the most seasoned tackle in the noise factory that is CenturyLink Field and against a Seahawks’ multifaceted pass rush that includes DEs Cliff Avril (eight sacks) and Chris Clemons (4.5) and DTs Michael Bennett (7.5) and Clinton McDonald (4.5). The O-line that will start against the Seahawks also includes three players who began the season as backups – RT Joe Barksdale, C Tim Barnes and Smith.

Burning question: What’s the Rams’ motivation in this one? The Seahawks are playing to win the NFC West. When the Rams played in Seattle in the 2010 season finale, the winner would capture the division title – which the Seahawks did, 16-6. But this season, the Rams were eliminated from the playoffs three weeks ago and even getting to 8-8 would mean they still haven’t had a winning season since 2003, when they won the NFC West with a 12-4 record. But the Rams haven’t even been .500 since 2006, so 8-8 looks pretty good. “I want to get to eight (wins),” said fifth-year LB James Laurinaitis. “I’ve never been at .500 or above. I’m trying to take us there.”

Numbers to know: 43.8, Johnny Hekker’s net punting average which leads the league. … 2.8, average yards allowed per carry by the Rams defense over the past six games, when they’ve yielded 408 rushing yards on 145 carries. … 8-8, since posting that record in 2006, the Rams have gone 3-13, 2-14, 1-15, 7-9, 2-14 and 7-8. … 144, LB Alec Ogletree’s tackles to lead the team; 10 more than Laurinaitis, who has led the team the past four seasons. … 101, points scored by the Rams in the second quarter, their most productive quarter. … 57.1, Kellen Clemens’ completion percentage since stepping in after Sam Bradford was lost for the season with a knee injury. … 4, the number of receivers who lead the Rams in touchdown catches, and the number of touchdown they have – TE Jared Cook, rookie WR Tavon Austin, WR Austin Pettis Pettis and TE Lance Kendricks.

Familiar faces: Rookie WR/PR Justin Veltung was with the Seahawks in training camp. He returned punts against the Buccaneers because Austin was out with an ankle injury. Backup OT Mike Person also was with the Seahawks in training camp as well as this season.

The last word: “This game will still be a mammoth challenge for the Rams. To avoid another losing season and top last year’s victory total, they will have to do it the hard way – by beating a talented squad focused on delivering a huge bounce-back performance.” – St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer Jeff Gordon