Sunday isn't just a bounce back opportunity for the Seahawks, it's a chance to maintain their lead in the division. Here are three key matchups for the Seahawks game in Los Angeles against the Rams.
1. Aaron Donald vs. Seattle Pass Protection.
Aaron Donald is always a concern, but the matchup takes on greater significance after Buffalo sacked Russell Wilson five times and racked up an additional 11 quarterback hits. Donald has accounted for nine sacks and 15 quarterback hits this season and is ranked as the top defender in the league according to Pro Football Focus. "He is as good at his position as anybody has ever been," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "It's a real challenge to go against him and it's good for us. We need the work and the challenge. It's hugely important for us to be able to handle him and not let him be a factor, and that's what we're going to try and get done."
Donald has been a one-man wrecking crew against Seattle, racking up 12 sacks, 33 quarterback hits and 19 tackles for loss in 12 career games. The Rams move Donald around to get the best matchup, but it's his ability to rush as an interior lineman that causes the most problems according to left tackle Duane Brown. "With an edge rusher, depending on what lane they take and what lane they force, you still have a chance for the quarterback to step up in the pocket and have a throwing lane. When a guy is very successful rushing from the inside it flushes the quarterback out to different directions, so it's a little bit more of a challenge," Brown said.
Adding to the challenge is the absence of center Ethan Pocic. He suffered a concussion in Buffalo and will miss Sunday's game. Kyle Fuller will take his place and make his first start of the season.
2. Seattle Pass Rush vs. Jared Goff.
Seattle tallied a season-high seven sacks Week 9 against Buffalo. That means the Hawks have produced 10 sacks in the last two weeks after just nine in the first six games. Maintaining that pace against Los Angeles will be a challenge. Goff has been sacked just 10 times, tied for second fewest in the NFL. Goff isn't known as a mobile quarterback, but he managed to elude the Seahawks pass rush last season. Seattle did not record a sack in either meeting against the Rams and only managed nine total QB hits.
The bar is set high after last week's performance, but there's reason to believe the pass rush can be even more productive with another week of practice for newcomer Carlos Dunlap. Last week he was just trying to fit in. This week he's more in tune with the entire defense. "Football is still football, but now I have a better feel for how our DC calls a game, get a rhythm for how players play, and find my spot and find a way for me to make plays," Dunlap told reporters this week. He finished the game in Buffalo with a sack, three tackles for loss and two quarterback hits.
3. Who wins the turnover battle?
Taking care of the ball will be a point of emphasis for both teams this week. Los Angeles turned the ball over four times in a loss to Miami in Week 8. It was the first time all year the Rams turned the ball over more than twice. They're facing a Seahawks defense that has forced seven turnovers in the last three weeks and is tied for fourth in the league with 14 total takeaways this season.
Meanwhile Buffalo scored 16 points off four Seattle turnovers last week. "The execution wasn't good enough," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. "We were still able to score a bunch of points, but we have to be better and we have to be cleaner in general." It's especially true when facing an opportunistic Rams team that's scored 41 points off turnovers, which is tied for the 13th most points off turnovers this season. Seattle is 5-0 this season when winning the turnover battle.