The Seattle Seahawks and St. Louis Rams have both change quite a bit since they faced off in the season opener, a 34-31 Rams victory. To learn more about the Rams and what has gone on since these teams last met, we reached out to stlouisrams.com's Myles Simmons, who answered five questions about Seattle's Week 16 opponent.
Q: Case Keenum put up some big numbers in last week's win. How are the Rams better/different on offense with Keenum than they were earlier this season when these two teams last faced off?
Simmons: It's interesting, when the Rams and Seahawks had their first meeting back in September, Nick Foles had a nice game en route to St. Louis' overtime victory. But aside from that matchup and the game the Rams played in Arizona, Foles just didn't perform up to the level the Rams needed to be successful. That came through in the couple games Foles started in relief of Keenum after the Houston product suffered a concussion in the game against Baltimore.
But in the last two games, it's been clear that Keenum has taken command of the offense and has done a nice job to put the Rams in position to win. Head coach Jeff Fisher has complimented not only his throwing ability, but also the way he's managed the run game. Keenum's ability to read the field and get the ball out quickly has been a key to the Rams' success in the last two games since he's been the starter.
Plus, the team has a new playcaller in Rob Boras, who assumed the duties of offensive coordinator after the Rams parted ways with Frank Cignetti a few weeks ago. So far, the results have been good.
Q: Speaking of players the Seahawks didn't face in the opener, just how good has Todd Gurley been during his rookie season and how bright is his future? We can all see the numbers, but give us a perspective of what it's like to watch him run every week.
Simmons: It's been really fun to watch Gurley progress throughout the season. I think part of what's made him so impressive is that he can take a play that for maybe 90 percent of running backs would be a loss, and turn it into a two-yard gain -- if not more. His body type and his physicality when he runs are two factors that make him special. Plus, he can also catch the ball out of the backfield. He's gained 1,000 yards rushing and will head to the Pro Bowl - - two things that we'll probably be able to say about Gurley for years to come.
Q: Another seemingly promising season will end without a playoff berth. What's the mood around the team? And given the history of tough games between these two teams, I'm guessing it's safe to presume we'll see great effort out of the Rams Sunday even without any postseason implications?
Simmons: There's no question the club is disappointed to not be in the playoff race, but that hasn't diminished the effort. Linebacker James Laurinaitis said this week the Rams set a goal to go 4-0 in their last four games, and so far that's been accomplished. Plus, the linebacker said even though the club isn't going to the postseason, this week should provide a playoff-type atmosphere with the way the 12s come out and support their team. The Rams know it's going to be a hostile environment, and they're fired up to play a divisional opponent.
Q: The Rams have allowed some pretty big passing numbers in recent weeks, are they expecting to see a different passing attack out of Seattle than the one they faced in Week 1 considering the numbers Russell Wilson and company have been putting up, and how well equipped is a defense that has historically given Wilson trouble to slow him down this time?
Simmons: In those wins against Detroit and Tampa Bay, St. Louis largely contained quarterbacks Matthew Stafford and Jameis Winston through the first half, allowing the offense to build a lead. It's hard to keep talented quarterbacks down for too long, though, and in the second half both Stafford and Winston made a number of passes to get their teams back into the game.
One of the positive factors for the Rams heading into this game is that they'll have both Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson on the outside at corner, and considering the way Wilson and Doug Baldwin have been connecting lately, that's going to be really important. However, slot corner Lamarcus Joyner did not practice on Thursday, so we'll have to see how that affects things.
Q: Along those lines, the Rams pass rush has been a huge problem for the Seahawks in the past, but how much does the loss of Robert Quinn change things?
Simmons: Yes, I do think Quinn not being around definitely has an effect. That could be a factor for why teams have been able to claw their way back in during the second half -- if Quinn's there, it's another really strong pass rusher that can get things going on the outside.
Still, even without Quinn, Aaron Donald is playing at a very high level this year. He's not just playing as a three-technique defensive tackle anymore, either. He's lined up as a nose tackle, an even as a defensive end. And when he lines up on the outside, he still wins those one-on-one matchups. With 11.0 sacks and 21 tackles for loss, I think he's definitely put himself into the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year.