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Rams a specifically stiff challenge for Russell Wilson, Seahawks

Since 2012, the Rams have gone 4-4 against Seattle with an average of 4.4 sacks per game. (AP)

Achilles had a heel.

Shaquille O’Neal had free throws.

And the Seahawks? They’ve got the Rams. At least that’s how it has seemed since 2012 because even as Seattle has pole-vaulted into the realm of perennial playoff contention, the Rams have remained a specifically troublesome opponent.

“The Rams, they play good football against us,” defensive lineman Michael Bennett said. “They just don’t play good football against everybody else. It’s just when we play them, they play their hardest.”

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Bennett said that last December after the Rams’ 23-17 victory in Seattle. It was the Rams’ second win over the Seahawks last season and their fourth over the past four years, most of any opponent in that time.

“We have not played them well the last few times out,” coach Pete Carroll said.

No kidding. The reasons for that aren’t all that tough to decode, either.

The Seahawks haven’t found any room on the ground against the Rams, averaging 121.6 rushing yards per game and 4.2 yards per carry against the Rams. Compare that to the averages of 156.8 rushing yards per game and 5.5 yards per carry against all other teams.

Russell Wilson hasn’t had much room, either. He has been sacked 35 times in those eight games against the Rams, an average of 4.4 per game. He has been sacked an average of 2.3 times against all other opponents in the regular season.

That’s a really long and numerically specific way of stating that the Rams’ defensive line has pretty much had its way with the Seahawks up front.

There’s a reason for that. In the 12 years since the Rams last made the playoffs, they’ve used high-end draft picks on their frontline. And while Chris Long was released in the offseason, the cupboard is hardly empty as Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers and Robert Quinn are all former first-round draft picks who are poised to chase Wilson all over the Los Angeles Coliseum on Sunday.

“Their personnel is really, really talented,” Wilson said. “You’ve got to give them credit.”

Wilson has actually completed a higher percentage of his pass attempts against the Rams compared to other opponents. He has averaged more passing yards against them, too, and while Wilson has nine touchdown passes counterbalanced by six interceptions against the Rams, that ratio is skewed by the fact that three of those interceptions occurred in Week 4 of his rookie year.

Pressure has been the story, though. Wilson has been sacked five or more times in a game only eight times in the regular season. The Rams were responsible for three of those games, and that was when he was healthy.

On Sunday, the Rams will be chasing a quarterback who is less than 100 percent. Wilson suffered an ankle injury in the third quarter of last week’s win over Miami, and as impressive as his recovery has been, he may not be as elusive as usual.

Even when the Seahawks are at their best, the Rams have been able to bring out Seattle’s worst. It has been true in Seattle victories like the one in October 2013 when the Seahawks won a Monday night game despite only 130 yards of total offense. It has been true in defeats, too, like that game last December when the Seahawks were held to 59 yards rushing, their lowest total in any game in more than two years.

“They’re well-coached and they’re tough,” Carroll said of the Rams. “They make things happen. They’ve got a lot of talent. They’ve taken advantage of their draft opportunities and they’ve got a lot of people on this team that can play ball.

“So I think they’re as talented as anybody we play.”

With four regular-season victories over Seattle in the past four seasons, the Rams are as tough a matchup as the Seahawks have had, and that was without their quarterback limping.