John Clayton: A lot has changed with Seahawks-Rams matchup in 2 months
What a difference two months makes.
When the Seahawks hosted the Los Angeles Rams on Oct. 3, they weren’t sure if they were ready to challenge for the NFC West title. The Rams came to the game as a two-time division winner and the defending NFC champions. But though the Rams were 3-1 at that time, they were coming off a 55-40 loss to the Tampa Bay Bucs.
Two months later, the Rams will fall to 7-6 and be eliminated from the NFC West division race if they lose to the Seahawks. If the Seahawks win, they will be 11-2. Amazing.
Let’s look at what’s happened in the past two months.
• Say what you want about the Seahawks, but they have become one of the most exciting teams in the league. They are 9-1 in games decided by eight points or less.
Russell Wilson and the Seahawks may fall behind by 10 points early, but he keeps finding ways to come from behind and lead Seattle to wins. Wilson talks about the winning genes that this team has. It’s very noticeable.
• Since the 30-29 Seahawks win on Oct. 3, the Rams have basically lost their offensive line. Guard Joe Noteboom and center Brian Allen were lost for the season with knee injuries. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth is starting to show his age and having trouble blocking. Right tackle Rob Haverstein hasn’t had a good season and has been out the last few weeks with a knee injury.
With the Rams not bringing back guard Rodger Saffold and center John Sullivan, they were inexperienced at the interior line positions. Now, they just struggle.
• The Seahawks’ defense has started to come together in the past three weeks. Quandre Diggs has solidified the secondary since getting the starting free safety job in the past three weeks. Diggs makes big hits and quality plays. Mistakes in the middle of the field are minimal.
Also over the past three weeks, the defensive line has been able to rush and get to quarterbacks along with stopping the run. What should be able to help Sunday night is that while Jadeveon Clowney and Ziggy Ansah are questionable, both have a decent chance of playing. Ansah suffered a stinger last Sunday but he was able practice late in the week.
• Rams head coach Sean McVay’s offense works best when it can run the ball. That hasn’t happened much this year. The Rams are averaging 94.2 yards per game and only 3.83 yards per carry. The big question has been running back Todd Gurley.
In 11 games, Gurley only has 154 carries and 642 yards. He’s not had a 100-yard game. McVay took the blame by saying the change resulting in Gurley getting a little more action of late was “Me not being an idiot.” Gurley had 97 yards on 25 carries in Week 11 against the Chicago Bears and 19 carries for 95 yards in a 34-7 win over Arizona last Sunday. Even so, it’s pretty clear he’s not the same back he was in years prior because of an arthritic knee.
• The Seahawks’ running game continues to gain momentum. Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny are now a formidable one-two punch as either back can produce a 100-yard game. The hidden success, though, has been the blocking of center Joey Hunt.
Hunt has filled for Justin Britt, who suffered a season-ending ACL injury in late October, and done a great job. Surprisingly this week Hunt ended up with the 10th-highest number of votes by fans at the center position for the Pro Bowl.
• Rams quarterback Jared Goff ranks toward the bottom of the league in play-action passing. The formula defenses have been using against the Rams is to take away the run and put everything in Goff’s hands. Goff’s completion percentage has dropped from 64.9 to 62.5 and his yards per attempt has dropped from 8.4 to 7.5. After throwing 32 touchdown passes last year, he has only 13 touchdown passes in 11 games while also making 12 interceptions.
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