By Brady Henderson
The Seahawks and Rams appear to be trending in opposite directions as they head into their meeting on “Monday Night Football”.
Seattle is surging, having won its last two games following its only loss of the season. The Seahawks are 6-1 despite a string of injuries that might sink less talented teams, and wide receiver Percy Harvin is among the key players who are close to returning.
St. Louis is reeling, having just lost quarterback Sam Bradford to a knee injury that will end his season and could cripple that of his team. The Rams recently signed Seahawks castoff Brady Quinn and reportedly had interest in 44-year-old Brett Favre, but all indications are that Kellen Clemens will make his first start since 2011.
The Seahawks are double-digit road favorites in a game that seems significantly easier than it did when the season began.
The Rams were viewed as a team on the rise – one that beat the Seahawks in St. Louis in Week 4 of last year and lost by a touchdown in the regular-season finale at CenturyLink Field. That last meeting ended a string of blowouts by the Seahawks and provided more evidence that the Rams had a chance to make some noise in the NFC West in 2013.
Bradford’s injury has changed the outlook – both for St. Louis’ season and this game.
For a closer look at the Rams, I reached out to St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Jeff Gordon, who was nice enough to take part it the latest edition of “Double Coverage”.
Henderson: Greetings, Jeff. Let’s start with the biggest storyline surrounding this game. I see that 44-year-old Brett Favre reportedly turned down the Rams’ overtures after losing Sam Bradford, who was putting together a nice season. Is the Rams’ quarterback situation really that dire? And assuming they hand the reins to Kellen Clemens, how much of a dropoff do you think there will be in terms of what they run and how well he can run it?
Kellen Clemens has a 62.2 quarterback rating, a 51.8 percent completion rate and 12 starts over his eight-year career. (AP)
Gordon: Bradford was actually playing very well for the Rams. He threw 14 touchdown passes against just four interceptions – and a couple of those picks caromed off his own receivers. He lost touchdown passes to assorted drops and penalties. He could have 20 touchdowns right now. Clemens has a career 62.2 passer rating and struggled in the preseason. Austin Davis, last year’s No. 3 quarterback, recently re-signed this week. He had a terrible camp and got cut this summer. And Brady Quinn is Brady Quinn.
Henderson: Hey now – that’s my namesake you’re talking about. I’m intrigued by Tavon Austin, who is the type of smaller and quicker receiver that has given Seattle’s oversized cornerbacks trouble from time to time. I know it takes a while for receivers to come into their own, but it doesn’t seem like he’s having the impact as a rookie that a lot of people thought he would. What have you seen from him?
Gordon: Austin lost a 63-yard touchdown pass last week when Jake Long was called for a tripping penalty. That would have been his first big pass catch over the top of the defense. Austin has lost numerous long punt returns to blocking penalties called on his hapless teammates. He had a costly fumble in the loss at Carolina and he has dropped several easy passes. His talent is obvious, but he has been caught up in the team’s poor execution.
Henderson: Let’s switch sides of the ball and talk about St. Louis’ defense, which was the only one the Seahawks didn’t steamroll over the final four games of last year. Seattle needed a game-winning drive to beat the Rams 20-13 in Week 17, and a big reason why that game was so close was because of St. Louis’ six sacks. That’s one area of concern for the Seahawks as they continue to play without both starting offensive tackles. Is this Rams front seven as good as it was last year when St. Louis finished with the league lead in sacks?
Gordon: The Rams’ front seven can create pressure. Robert Quinn is an excellent speed rusher at right defensive end. Michael Brockers has stayed healthy this season and become a disruptive defensive tackle. Chris Long is an effort guy at left defensive end, getting his sacks and tackles on second effort. The big difference in the front seven is rookie outside linebacker Alec Ogletree, an athletic playmaker who is also prone to some big mistakes. He can be a liability in run defense, but he can be a big pass-rushing weapon.
Henderson: Before we get to your final prediction I want to get your take on an interesting subplot to this game. Not only are the Cardinals scheduled to play Game 5 of the World Series on Monday, but they’re playing down the road at Busch Stadium and first pitch is about 30 minutes before kickoff. What do you expect the atmosphere to be like at the Edward Jones Dome on Monday night?
Gordon: “Ghost town” is the phrase that comes to mind. The Bradford injury already chilled fan enthusiasm about this season. If the Cardinals are still alive in the World Series, there won’t be much of a crowd. All those transplated Seahawk fans in the Midwest will get to buy discounted tickets to see the game.
Henderson: That sounds like another factor that could be working in the Seahawks’ favor. They haven’t been flawless by any means, but they’ve looked awfully good despite some key injuries on their offensive line and elsewhere. Because of that, this is a game I think they’d win even if the Rams had Bradford and a full stadium. I’m a little wary of that Rams defensive line given what happened last season and last week, when Russell Wilson was sacked five times against Arizona. But I’m picking the Seahawks to win this game going away, 34-13. What say you, Jeff?
Gordon: The Rams’ defense has had some success against running quarterbacks, so I will say Seattle wins, 27-9.
Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.