The Seahawks head to Los Angeles this weekend to face the Rams for the second time this season, and will try to show that they're a considerably better team now than the one that lost to the Rams in Week 1. And while the Rams currently sit at 3-6, the Seahawks know they are facing a very tough challenge against a team that is coming off its bye and is as healthy as it has been since the start of the season.
"The Rams are coming off of a break, and it sounds like they're getting healthier and they're getting star players back, which is a real boost to those guys," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "Over the years, we've developed a great respect for (Rams coach) Sean (McVay) and what they do and how they operate; the decisions that they make, the style of play and all of that. We've been right up close and personal with it all and hold them in high regard. We have to have a great week and we have to make sure that we can play all phases and not fall off in any area of our ball and see if we can go down there and play a heck of a football game."
Here are five things to watch when the Seahawks face the Rams at SoFi Stadium:
1. Can the Seahawks continue to finish games strong?
Pete Carroll has been preaching the importance of finishing for as long as he has been in Seattle, so it comes as no surprise that he was particularly disappointed in the Seahawks' season-opening loss to the Rams because of how that game played out. The Seahawks built a six-point halftime lead and went into the locker room feeling like they were in good shape, but in the second half nothing went right for Seattle, with the Rams scoring 23 unanswered points to take control of the game.
Since then, the Seahawks have played well in late-game situations, winning three games with scoring drives at the end of regulation or in overtime, and playing really well on defense to set up a potential winning drive in a loss at Cincinnati. There's nothing the Seahawks can do to change how they played in the opener, but winning a game with a strong finish would certainly be a good sign for the team heading into the second half of the season.
2. Does a Seahawks rookie who missed the opener help slow down a Rams rookie who was sensational in Week 1?
One of the big surprises in the first game between these teams was the emergence of rookie receiver Puka Nacua, a fifth-round pick who had 10 catches for 119 yards, and who currently leads all rookies with 64 catches for 827 yards.
The Seahawks feel like they've made a lot of improvement on defense overall since that game, but one particular reason they could fare better against Nacua and the entire Rams passing game is the presence of Devon Witherspoon, who missed the opener due to a hamstring injury, and who since returning to action, has been one of the league's best cornerbacks and a leading candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. In addition to his two sacks, an interception returned for a touchdown and one forced fumble, Witherspoon also has 12 passes defense, the most among NFL rookies and tied for fourth most in the league, so the Seahawks will hope Witherspoon can get his hands on the ball on Sunday to make life a little more difficult for Nacua, Cooper Kupp and the rest of Matthew Stafford's weapons.
3. Will the Seahawks build off the progress they showed in the running game?
Two weeks ago in Baltimore, the Seahawks found themselves playing from behind, and facing a Ravens defense that is stingy against the run, and as a result Seattle managed a season-low 28 rushing yards on 15 carries. While that was an outlier in terms of yardage, the Seahawks have not run the ball as frequently or as well as they would have liked for much of this season, but there have been encouraging performances, including last week's game that saw the Seahawks gain 120 yards on 26 carries, with Kenneth Walker III adding 64 more yards on a long touchdown reception that came off a short checkdown pass.
"We're looking to the run ball well," Carroll said. "That's important to us. We were effective running the football, we ran it 26 times. I think when you get in the 30s it's a good mix, whatever happens with the throwing game from there, you're in good shape."
4. Can the Seahawks win more often on third down?
The Seahawks started their season by losing the third down battle, with the Rams converting on 11 of 17 third downs and the Seahawks going just 2 for 9, and while the discrepancy hasn't been that drastic all season long, the Seahawks have continued to struggle to win as often as they'd like on third down, on both sides of the ball. There have been encouraging stretches on both sides of the ball, but the overall numbers have not been good, with the Seahawks ranking 30th in the NFL converting third downs on offense (31.5 percent), and 31st in the league at stopping opponents on third down (45.5 percent).
The Rams, meanwhile, rank 10th in third-down offense (41.5 percent) and 21st on defense (41 percent).
"We can do better," Carroll said. "We need a couple more wins a day, just like we need it on offense. We're not asking for a wholesale change of stuff; we just have to make sure we finish our opportunities and cash in on them and don't screw them up by giving up a penalty and give stuff away. I'm not satisfied with where we are now. We're kind of moving in the right direction. Kind of a nudge in the right direction. You can feel it. I can feel it on both sides."
5. Can Bobby Wagner and Tyler Lockett both hit significant milestones?
Over the course of their long careers with the Seahawks, linebacker Bobby Wagner and receiver Tyler Lockett have both established themselves as two of the best and most beloved players in franchise history, and on Sunday both have a chance to further cement their status as Seahawks greats by hitting some significant milestones.
Wagner, who is in his 11th season with the Seahawks and 12th in the NFL, needs just five tackles to reach 100 this season, and when he hits that mark, he will become just the third player in NFL history to record 100 tackles in 12 straight seasons since tackles first became a statistic, joining London Fletcher (14 straight) and Derrick Brooks (12).
"He's doing great," Carroll said. "The way we play him and the demands of the position really suit him well. The best we've ever done for him. We're trying to maximize everything that he brings. He's tackling well, really solid tackler, his pass coverage stuff and his own stuff has really been nice. He's doing great. Not to even mention all of the other things that he brings, it's the leadership, the direction, the toughness and all of that stuff."
Lockett, meanwhile, needs just three catches and 27 yards to pass Brian Blades for second place in franchise history in receptions and receiving yards behind only Steve Largent. Lockett, who already moved into second place in receiving touchdowns last season, is also one touchdown away from passing Curt Warner for fourth place in franchise history in total touchdowns behind Shaun Alexander, Largent and Marshawn Lynch.
"What a fun guy to talk about," Carroll said. "He's an amazing championship player at the top of his game with all that he brings, all of the background experience, the playmaking, the style, he's just got a way about him that has just separated him. I think we always kind of say that he doesn't get recognized on the larger scale of things, but we've seen this guy and he's an incredible competitor. Stability, durability, everything. Such a good guy, and he's a really good relator. He's just been so impressive. When the play opportunity arises, he almost always finds a way to make the play in the most unusual positions and makes it look easy. He has this gracefulness about him that is just unique and special. He is really one of the all-timers."
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.