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Clayton: How Seahawks’ surging defense can get the better of Rams’ struggling offense

The Seahawks' pass defense has been much better since a Week 10 loss to the Rams. (Getty)

The Seahawks’ defense was struggling mightily when Seattle last faced the Los Angeles Rams on Nov. 15.

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Statistically the Seahawks were on pace to be the worst in NFL history, as at one point they were giving up more than 362 yards a game.

In the Rams game, cornerback Shaquill Griffin was sidelined with a hamstring injury, and defensive end Benson Mayowa was also out. Quarterback Jared Goff started off hot, throwing for 221 yards in a dominant first half for the Rams, who built a 17-7 lead.

Something changed at halftime, however. The Seahawks’ defense started to play better. The Rams gained only 114 yards in the second half. Goff threw for only 81 yards.

This Sunday, the matchup of Goff vs. the Seahawks’ defense is the key to which team will win the NFC West.

In early November, the Seahawks started getting a pass rush for the first time in two years. After just 10 sacks in the first seven games of 2020, the Seahawks have gotten 30 in the past seven. They’ve have had more sacks during that stretch than any team in football.

The pass defense also improved once Griffin, Jamal Adams and D.J. Reed started getting on the field together along with Quandre Diggs, who joined Adams this week in making the Pro Bowl at safety. Opposing quarterbacks are averaging only 201 passing yards in the Seahawks’ past six games, with opponents being held to just 16 points per game.

For the Seahawks to win the NFC West and be a factor in the playoffs, the defense has to play at a quality level. That’s why Sunday will be the best test to see where the Seahawks are as a team. If they play well, they can be a Super Bowl contender. If they don’t, it could be a short trip to the playoffs.

On the flip side, Goff is the big story for the Rams. He’s been up and down since the last game against the Seahawks, with eight touchdowns and eight interceptions in his past seven games after throwing 12 in the first four.

The Rams scored at least 30 points in each of their first five games, but the offense of late has been scoring in the low 20s.

Hall of Famer Kurt Warner was on the NFL Network this week discussing Goff. He expressed concern for the Rams’ offense. He noted the scouting report that they are at their best when they run the ball, which gives Goff the chance to make play-action passes. That is when Goff is at his best. Warner noted when Goff hasn’t been able to drop back, read defenses and get the play-action passes, he has struggled. That was especially the case last Sunday in an embarrassing loss to the New York Jets.

For the Seahawks, the key is stopping the run, getting pressure on Goff and preventing him from going to play-action.

It doesn’t help the Rams that they won’t have talented rookie running back Cam Akers, taking their three-man rotation in the backfield down to two. They also won’t have left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who suffered a knee injury in the second half of the last meeting with the Seahawks that might sideline him until the playoffs.

Which team will trend up or trend down? We’ll find out Sunday.

Follow John Clayton on Twitter.

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