Clayton: Keys heading into Seahawks’ Week 10 matchup vs Rams
It’s hard to believe the bye week was only two weeks ago.
The Seahawks came out of the bye week healthy. Pete Carroll was thrilled when he first looked at the team after the bye week and saw almost a full complement of offensive linemen. Cornerback Neiko Thorpe, guard Jordan Simmons and defensive end Rasheem Green were the only Seahawks who had to sit out the Detroit game because of injury.
This week’s injury report had to be scary, though. On Wednesday, 12 players were listed as a non-participant or limited participant in practice. Linebacker Shaquem Griffin and defensive back Akeem King came off the list Thursday, but defensive tackle Nazair Jones was added (Carroll later clarified that was for illness). On Friday, Carroll had to scratch Thorpe. Listed as questionable now are Jones, safety Bradley McDougald, defensive tackle Shamar Stephen, linebacker K.J. Wright, running back Chris Carson, right guard D.J. Fluker and guard Jordan Simmons.
The Los Angeles Rams are nine-and-half point favorites — and they are completely healthy.
Let’s look at Sunday’s game at the LA Coliseum:
The three biggest difference makers in the first half of the season are questionable, and that’s a concern.
McDougald is the most important. He’s been the leader and a teacher in the secondary. Not having him against the Rams offense would make life tough. The young corners and fellow safety Tedric Thompson depend on his communications. Plus, he’s brought a physical presence to the secondary and has had a Pro Bowl start to the season.
Fluker is the second-most important of the questionable Seahawks. His brawling type of blocking style has led to the Seahawks’ ability to become one of the best running teams in the league almost overnight. In the first two games, the Seahawks didn’t run. Fluker also missed those games. Once Fluker and J.R. Sweezy moved into the starting lineup, the Seahawks proved they could run the ball for 160 yards a game or more.
Carson’s the biggest difference maker among the running backs. His ability to fight for yards after contact has put him on the path for a 1,000-yard season. At least the Seahawks have good options behind him. Mike Davis has been a great backup, and Carroll wants to get rookie Rashaad Penny more carry in order for him to gain confidence. They also still have C.J. Prosise.
This is an interesting game for former Washington cornerback Marcus Peters.
Peters hasn’t been the same in the past month because of an ankle injury. He was beaten for two touchdowns in the Seahawks’ 33-30 loss to the Rams. Things were so bad last week, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton said he sent Thomas at Peters and Thomas caught 12 passes for 221 yards.
For the season, Peters has been beaten for six touchdown and 30 completions for 521 yards.
Brock Huard said first-down success is going to be the key to the game. He’s right, and that could be a problem.
The Rams are the best first down team in football. They’ve gained at least 4 yards on first down on 57.4 percent of their plays (163 of 284). The Seahawks rank 21st at 46.3 (101 of 218). What the Seahawks can’t afford to do is make the mistakes (offensive penalties and sacks) that forced them to operate after third-and-8 or longer seven times last week against the Chargers.
Michael Dickson and Johnny Hekker are two of the best punters in the league, but the numbers are different.
The Rams, surprisingly, rank 27th in gross punting yards (42.7), but that’s no big deal. The Rams offense is so good, the Rams have needed only 23 punts in nine game and normally don’t need long punts. Eleven of his 23 have gone inside the 20.
Dickson has the third-best gross average at 47.5 and the second-best net at 43.6. He’s put 18 kicks inside the 20.