The Seahawks head to Los Angeles to face the Rams at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for one last time before the Rams move into their new stadium in 2020, and they do so looking to improve to 7-0 on the road, which would represent the most road wins by a Seahawks team in franchise history.
To learn more about this week's opponent, we reached out to therams.com staff writer Stu Jackson with five questions about the 7-5 Rams:
Q: Was the big performance by the Rams' offense in last weekend's win over the Cardinals a sign that the offense has turned a corner, or more a case of getting right against a defense that ranks last in total offense and 31st in points allowed? In other words, are Jared Goff and the offense the unit we saw in the previous three weeks when they were held under 20 points in all three games, the group that put up monster number against Arizona, or something in between?
Jackson: I think it was a combination of both.
As much respect as the Rams had for the Cardinals, it's hard to ignore where Arizona's pass defense ranked statistically heading into that matchup. It would've been concerning if Los Angeles had not been able to take advantage of what, on paper at least, was setting up to be a chance for its offense to regain some confidence.
So far they've played five of the NFL's top 11 teams in total defense: The 49ers (No. 1), the Steelers (No. 5), the Ravens (No. 7), the Saints (No. 8) and the Bears (No. 11). That same group ranks second, sixth, fifth, 12th, and fourth in scoring defense when it comes to points allowed per game. The Rams' offensive outputs specific to those contests: Seven points and 157 total yards of offense against the 49ers, 12 and 306 against the Steelers, six and 221 against the Ravens, 27 and 380 against the Saints, and 17 and 283 against the Bears.
Based on that, this group seems to be something in between what you described. Part of it has been getting a new offensive line impacted by injuries this season to gel, and also facing defenses that seem to be doing that to every offense they face. However, there's been inconsistency as the numbers show, and head coach Sean McVay even said so Monday, so it's hard to tell whether this was a sign that they've turned the corner or simply a boost from playing one of the NFL's worst pass defenses statistically.
Q: What has Jalen Ramsey brought to the defense since arriving in a trade?
Jackson: He's really opened things up for the rest of the Rams defense.
Since Ramsey can shadow an opponent's No. 1 receiver, it's allowed chances for cornerbacks Troy Hill and Nickell Robey-Coleman to show what they're capable of. There have also been instances where the pass rush has benefited as a result of his coverage, allowing them more time to get to the quarterback since the quarterback did not want to throw Ramsey's way.
He's still seeking his first interception as a Ram, but his presence in the secondary alone has benefitted the entire unit.
Q: The Seahawks rushed for 167 in the win earlier this year, and had two big rushing performances against the Rams last year. How big of a priority is slowing down Seattle's running game for the Rams defense?
Jackson: I'd say it's a big priority, but much of the discussion this week has actually been around Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and his ability to move around in the pocket and extend plays.
However, given Seattle's backfield is getting contributions from both Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny, it's still something that should have the Rams' attention nonetheless. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said Thursday it will be a big challenge for the defense and that it has to do better against the run.
Q: The Rams have historically done well pressuring Russell Wilson, but they sacked him only once in the previous outing. How important is it for the defense to get a better pass rush after having Wilson throw for 268 and four touchdowns against the Rams in that game?
Jackson: It's very important. Phillips even brought up the touchdown pass Wilson had to wide receiver Tyler Lockett in the first game as an example, a throw which he also called "one of the great throws I've seen against us." He said the defense talks about "plaster" when it comes to defending Wilson, meaning that once Wilson escapes the pocket, you've got to find the nearest guy and cover him quickly or else Wilson will complete the pass.
Even if Wilson didn't perform as well as he did in the first game, the Rams would still be mindful of making sure they generate a strong pass rush to disrupt his timing and rhythm.
Q: Outside of the obvious big names, who are a player or two that could be an x-factor for the Rams in Sunday's game?
Jackson: Robey-Coleman and Hill are the first ones that come to mind.
Lockett, Josh Gordon and David Moore all seem capable of making plays from the slot, which is what Robey primarily defends in the Rams' secondary. Hill has started at the other outside cornerback spot opposite Ramsey, so he'll have just as important of a role. Given how well Seahawks receivers help Wilson execute off-schedule plays, Robey-Coleman and Hill will need to help out Ramsey.
Rookie safety Taylor Rapp has started in every game since Week 7 after John Johnson III went down with a shoulder injury with the 49ers and has progressed well, too, coming off making his first career interception. He's someone who has been effective in coverage and as one of the Rams' most reliable tacklers.
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