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2021 Week 5 Key Matchups: Seahawks vs. Rams

Three key matchups that could make the difference in Thursday night’s game against the Rams.


The Seahawks host the Rams on Thursday looking to continue their success playing games on short rest. Since Pete Carroll took over in Seattle, the Seahawks are 10-1 on Thursday Night Football, including nine straight wins dating back to 2013. Extending that streak, however, will be a big challenge given this week's opponent. The Rams come into the game 3-1 following last weekend's loss to the Cardinals, and in their first three games at least, looked like one of the NFL's most complete teams, particularly with the addition of Matthew Stafford at quarterback.

"They're off to a terrific start," Carroll said, "And it really looks like a great move to get (Stafford). I think he's uplifted their program."

If the Seahawks are going beat the Rams and improve to 3-2, these are three key matchups that could make the difference in Sunday's game:

1. The chess match between Seahawks offensive coordinator Shane Waldron & his former team.

One of the most fascinating battles in this game will take place not on the field but in the minds of the coaches on both sidelines.

Before becoming Seattle's offensive coordinator this offseason, Shane Waldron spent four seasons working under Sean McVay in Los Angeles, including the past three seasons as the passing game coordinator.

So short of McVay himself calling Pete Carroll this week, Waldron might be able to give Seattle's defensive coaches more insight into the Rams offense than just about anyone in football. Waldron also has spent years going against the Rams defense in practice, so he knows what L.A. likes to do on that side of the ball as well.

Then again, the familiarity goes both ways. Yes, Waldron has put his own touches on the offense he brought with him to Seattle, but there is still plenty of carryover from the Rams offense, which means Rams coaches have a pretty good idea of what Waldron might be thinking.

"We have been talking about it the whole time in all aspects," Carroll said when asked if Waldron can give Seattle more insight into the Rams offense. "We really couldn't have more help in that regard. It doesn't mean it shows, but we do have a lot of insight. They do too, they have theirs because he's been with those guys a lot longer than with us. It's a factor in some regard but I don't know where it fits. We have a lot of respect for what they do, obviously, so much that we brought it here. It will be interesting to see how it goes."

As Carroll notes, it's hard to know which side, if any, will benefit from the familiarity, but it will be fascinating to see how it plays out when the teams face each other this season.


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2. Seahawks receiver DK Metcalf vs. Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

When it comes to great one-on-one matchups, few things are more exciting in football than seeing an elite receiver battling with a shutdown cornerback, and since Jalen Ramsey joined the Rams in a 2019 trade, every game between these teams has featured that when Ramsey and Metcalf face off. And that's not to say Tyler Lockett isn't elite too, but the Rams have tended to have Ramsey spend more time covering Metcalf because at 6-foot-1, 208 pounds, Ramsey is better equipped to deal with the physically-imposing Metcalf.

The Seahawks have faced the Rams four times, postseason included, since Ramsey was acquired in a 2019 trade, and like nearly every team that has faced the four-time Pro Bowler, the Seahawks haven't had a ton of success targeting him.

Metcalf's best game against the Rams came in last year's Wild Card game in which he had five catches for 96 yards and two scores, and while he did some of that damage against Ramsey, including one touchdown, Metcalf's biggest play, a 51-yard score, came when he was lined up on the opposite side of the field. And that very well could be the best way for the Seahawks to win that matchup—find ways to get Metcalf and Lockett away from one of the game's best corners. Of course that's easier said than done given how much the Rams move Ramsey around, including using him more in what they call the "star" position, similar to the nickel role.

"They have done a really good job of mixing Jalen around," Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said. "Obviously, he's such a tremendous football player, he can do everything. He can obviously cover guys, he can make plays on the ball, he's a physical tackler, and he's really intelligent, you can tell on film. They mix him around, they put him outside which is a normal thing, but they put him inside playing some slot and he will pressure off of the edge too. He's just a really good football player, he's versatile. He's one of those versatile players that has always been a playmaker and so you have to really respect how he plays the game."

"Jalen is one of those guys that doesn't have any weaknesses, he's really special and is a great football player, so you have to know where he is, what he's doing, and how he's playing the game."

3. Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald vs. pretty much everyone on Seattle's offense.

Last but definitely not least when it comes to players who could impact the game is Rams game-wrecker Aaron Donald, a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and six time first-team All-Pro who will go down as one of the best defensive players in league history when all is said and done.

Donald has been a menace against pretty much everyone he plays, and that definitely includes the Seahawks. In 14 career games against Seattle, Donald has 13 sacks, 37 quarterback hits and 20 quarterback losses, highest total against a single opponent in all three categories.

Seattle's interior linemen will obviously be the ones most involved in trying to stop Donald, but that task falls on a lot of other people too, from tackles when Donald occasionally lines up outside, to running backs when Donald breaks through the line, to Waldron who has to call plays cognizant of what Donald can do, to Russell Wilson, who will need to get rid of the ball quickly enough that Donald can't ruin the game for Seattle's offense.

"I think about some of the great players that I've played, I played against some amazing players in my career," Wilson said. "… I think Aaron Donald is arguably the best I've ever played against in terms of all of the things that he can do. He's a 3-technique that can get to the quarterback, you don't see that very often. He's a guy that causes havoc in the run and pass game, he's a really great player in that sense. You can measure someone's greatness by their consistency throughout their career, and I think his consistency has been remarkable. He puts the work in and does a great job of it. That consistency at such a high level, you can't argue that he's probably the best I've played. I've played against some amazing players along the way, but he's definitely one of those guys I'll tell my kids about when I'm old and in a rocking chair. He's one of those guys for sure."

The Seahawks and Rams face off for the first game of the regular season on Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023. Kickoff is set for 1:25 p.m. PT. Take a look back through history at the Seahawks' matchups against the Rams.

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