The Seahawks host the Rams Thursday in a prime-time matchups between the NFC West's two playoff representatives from a year ago. Like every divisional game in a loaded NFC West, this one is big for both teams as they try to keep pace in the NFL's toughest division, and to learn more about this week's opponent, Seahawks.com reached out to TheRams.com staff writer Stu Jackson with five questions about the 3-1 Rams, who are looking to bounce back from last week's loss to Arizona.
Q: What went wrong in Sunday's loss to the Cardinals, and what will the Rams be looking to do to get back on track?
Jackson: Really just a lot of uncharacteristic errors and mistakes. The Matthew Stafford-Cooper Kupp connection that helped produce two NFC Offensive of the Week honors for Stafford and NFC Offensive Player of the Month honors for Kupp was out of sync (Kupp was held to five catches for 64 yards). Kicker Matt Gay, who had been a perfect 6 for 6 on field goal attempts through the Rams' first three games, had his first miss of the season. Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray made plays with both his arm and his legs that kept the Rams' defense on the field for extended periods of time. Running back Sony Michel lost only his fourth fumble in 569 career rushing attempts.
Getting back on track will just be a matter of correcting those fixable mistakes and proving last week's performance in all three phases was an outlier.
Q: The Matthew Stafford trade was one of the biggest moves of the NFL offseason. What has he brought to Sean McVay's offense/what has changed with him taking over at QB?
Jackson: The biggest thing he has brought to McVay's offense is the ability to attack all levels of the field (short, medium and deep) and create explosive plays.
McVay mentioned the latter being a priority during the offseason, and Stafford's arm strength has made that possible – see the 75-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson against the Bucs as an example. Stafford also excels at using his eyes to manipulate opposing defenses, which is part of what makes those short, medium and deep passes possible, especially on tight-window throws.
Stafford can also extend plays with his legs and create off-schedule, which helps whenever the original structure of a play breaks down.
Q: The Rams had the NFL's best defense in 2020, but gave up a lot of points and big plays to the Cardinals. The Cardinals and Kyler Murray are off to a great start, but how big of concern was that performance?
Jackson: It doesn't seem to be a big concern at the moment. Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris said yesterday that it boiled down to tackling and execution, plus the inability to make the Cardinals one-dimensional – as in pass-heavy, since Morris believes his unit's best attribute is its ability to rush the passer.
That being said, given the similarities between Murray and Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson's skillset, it will be important to get those things fixed for Thursday night.
Q: The running game has always been an important part of McVay's offense, how big of a toll have the injuries at running back taken early this season?
Jackson: There's no question losing Cam Akers was a tough blow, but Darrell Henderson Jr. has been a capable lead running back when healthy, and Sony Michel also had a strong performance when asked to step up in place of an injured Henderson in Week 3.
Akers would be a difference-maker for this offseason if he was healthy, but so far they've been able to manage that attrition well.
Q: What are a couple of the matchups you're looking forward to seeing on Thursday?
Jackson: The Rams defense vs. Wilson is probably the one I'm most looking forward to watching, just to see how the defense adjusts and responds to their Week 4 performance. I'm also looking forward to the expected Jalen Ramsey-DK Metcalf matchups, and more broadly, the Rams secondary vs. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, knowing what Lockett is capable of as well.