The Seahawks host the Rams on Sunday in a game with big playoff implications for both teams. The Seahawks, who have already secured a trip to the postseason, can clinch the NFC West with a win, while the Rams are looking to clinch a playoff berth and regain the division lead heading into Week 17. To get ready for the game and learn more about this week's opponent, we reached out to therams.com staff writer Stu Jackson with five questions about the Rams:
What went wrong for the Rams in what Sean McVay called "a very humbling" loss to the Jets, and what needs to happen for them to bounce back with the NFC West on the line?
A: Lots of uncharacteristic, self-inflicted mistakes. Most notably, running back Cam Akers had what would've been the go-ahead touchdown – an 18-yard run – nullified by a holding penalty; the Rams had to settle for a 42-yard field goal by kicker Matt Gay instead. On what ended up being their final offensive series of the game, Akers also had a 22-yard run – which would've set the Rams up at the Jets 17 – negated by an illegal block in the back penalty; the Rams ended up having to go for it on 4thdown and 4 and didn't convert.
The Rams defense also didn't create any takeaways, which in games past has helped set up scoring opportunities or directly led to points. Entering Week 15, they had returned one takeaway for a touchdown in three straight games.
For Los Angeles to bounce back this weekend, it needs to eliminate those mistakes and get back to forcing turnovers, at a minimum.
Cam Akers has become a big part of L.A.'s offense since these teams last met, how big of a blow is it that he won't be able to play this week, and who steps up to fill the void?
A: No question, it's a big loss. The Rams have the depth and production at running back to withstand it, but his emergence and production has been huge for their offense. In L.A.'s wins over New England and Arizona, he tallied a combined 50 carries for 243 yards (4.9 yards per carry) and one touchdown.
It will likely be a combination of second-year running back Darrell Henderson Jr. and fifth-year running back Malcolm Brown. Both were productive in the first half of the season and are capable receivers and pass-blockers, but Rams head coach Sean McVay said Monday it's too early to know exactly what their roles will look like on Sunday.
First-year defensive coordinator Brandon Staley has become hot head-coach candidate; what has he brought to the Rams defense to help that unit become one of the league's best?
A: It sounds simplistic and cliché, but it's the truth: He puts his players in position to succeed. Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey said last week "we're able to go out there and play free" because Staley doesn't overthink things for himself or the players. An example: Ramsey not only plays cornerback, but also Star – a hybrid position in Staley's scheme that is a mix of cornerback, safety and linebacker – in the Rams' defense to take advantage of his frame and skillset.
The unit's emphasis on takeaways (21 entering Week 16) is not new for any team at any level of football, but that's also played a part in their success this season too.
Jalen Ramsey and DK Metcalf will be the matchups a lot of folks are watching when Seattle has the ball, but Darious Williams looks like he's had a big impact on that defense as well, including two interceptions the last time these teams met. What has he brought to the defense since taking on a bigger role late last season?
A: Williams has given the Rams another shutdown corner to line up opposite Ramsey, which makes the strategy of throwing away from Ramsey to move the ball downfield much more difficult for opposing offenses. Even before Staley got a chance to get on the field prior to the start of the regular season with his new team, he said he knew early on that Williams had the cover skills that could translate at this level, pointing back to those opportunities late last season.
What are a few of the matchups you're most looking forward to seeing on Sunday?
A: Like you mentioned, Ramsey vs. Metcalf will be one to watch. It will be interesting to see what adjustments both teams make, especially Seattle after Metcalf finished with two catches for 28 yards in the first meeting. Seahawks running backs Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde missed the first game due to injury, so having both healthy this time around will present a different challenge for the Rams defense.
Defensive end Carlos Dunlap has provided a pass-rushing boost to Seattle's defense, and with safety Jamal Adams (9.5 sacks) also finding ways to get to the quarterback, I'm curious to see how that will impact the way the Rams offensive line will try to protect Jared Goff.