John Clayton’s keys: Seahawks need to hold down Rams’ Todd Gurley

Sep 16, 2016, 10:38 AM | Updated: 10:39 am

Todd Gurley was shut down by the 49ers in Week 1, and the Seahawks will hope to do the same Sunday....

Todd Gurley was shut down by the 49ers in Week 1, and the Seahawks will hope to do the same Sunday. (AP)


With Russell Wilson playing on a sprained ankle, the Seahawks can’t afford a bad game on defense.

Wilson will play against the Rams on Sunday, but he might have to adjust his game because of his injury. He will be able to scramble but he might have to limit the number of times he uses his feet.

That puts so much of the pressure on the Seahawks’ defense, which plays to their strength. Seattle’s defense came up big in the season-opening 12-10 win over Miami. The Seahawks limited the Dolphins to 214 yards on only 54 plays. Three of those plays accounted for 107 yards of offense, meaning the Seahawks held Miami to 107 yards on the remaining 51.

Figuring this NFC West rivalry usually ends up in close games because of Jeff Fisher’s coaching ability and the fact that the Rams have a decent defense, this should be another low-scoring game.

The first key is for the Seahawks to stuff halfback Todd Gurley. The 49ers bottled up Gurley on Monday for 47 yards on 17 carries, giving up only 2.8 yards per attempt. With the Seahawks coming off a good start stuffing the run and leading the league in rushing defense last year, the strategy is pretty simple – stop Gurley.

“You have to put a lot of hats on him,”’ defensive coordinator Kris Richard said. “It’s going to be all 11 men out there playing run defense. That is really what it comes down to, especially considering they condense the formations.”

Richard is even asking the Seahawks’ cornerbacks to be involved in stopping the run, but one of the main keys will be the linebackers and strong safety Kam Chancellor. He’ll be playing near the line of scrimmage a lot as the eighth man in the box to stop the run.

The 49ers successfully took Gurley out of the game as a threat and put the pressure on quarterback Case Keenum to win the game. He wasn’t up to it. He completed 17 of 35 for 130 yards.

Here are three other things to look for Sunday.

Expect a good game from Earl Thomas. The Seahawks’ free safety wasn’t himself against the Dolphins. He rushed past tackling opportunities and was caught out of position. Thomas, one of the proudest players on the team, took the game hard. “I didn’t take a shower after the game.” Thomas said. “I just put my tights on and my shorts and slippers and got out of there, jumped in my Rolls and went home.”

Thomas Rawls, Jimmy Graham should be more involved in the offense. It took Rawls only one game to reclaim his starting halfback job. Christine Michael started the opener and did well, rushing for 66 yards on 15 carries. Rawls, coming off a bad ankle injury, ran hard with his 12 carries and returned to his punishing style of running. Many wondered if he was going to be ready for the start of the regular season. He said he had torn ligaments and he had surgery to insert metal screws and a metal plate. Rawls showed he’s still quick and able to make quick cuts and bounce runs for gains. Graham was on the field for 17 plays and is expected to not only increase that number but be more involved in the offense.

Mark Glowinski, J’Marcus Webb will be two keys to the game. Assistant head coach Tom Cable praised the play of Glowinski at left guard in the opener, but Webb struggled at right guard. Webb was credited with giving up one of the three sacks on Wilson. Everyone knew the first two games would be tough with the Seahawks facing defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh of the Dolphins and then Aaron Donald of the Rams. “I thought he did fine,’’ offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said of Webb. “To be able to step in there with a big job to block Suh, he held his own and did a nice job. I know that he’ll be better this week. Just having that many more reps underneath him, working next to Justin Britt and Garry Gilliam, the communication will help and only grow.’’ Regardless, the Rams game will be a challenge.

Want more John Clayton? Listen on-demand to his weekday and Saturday shows as well as his “Cold Hard Facts” and “Clayton’s Morning Drive” segments on 710 ESPN Seattle. Also, check out his all-new “Schooled” podcast and look for his columns twice a week on

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