The Rams will be back home at the Coliseum in Week 5 to face their second divisional opponent of the season in the Seahawks. After two consecutive road victories, a win on Sunday afternoon would put Los Angeles in command of the NFC West.
On Sunday the Rams will be looking for their fourth consecutive victory over the Seahawks at home. Recently in the series between the two teams, the Rams have commanded their home turf — including a 9-3 victory over Seattle in Los Angeles’ home opener last season. In all, Seattle has won 22 of the 35 games between the two teams, though the Rams have taken the last four of six contests.
But, this season’s matchup will feature the Rams’ revamped offense led by first-year head coach Sean McVay and a new defensive scheme under coordinator Wade Phillips.
“He’s off to a great start,” Seahawk’s head coach Pete Carroll said of McVay. “They’ve totally turned around their style. The scoring and offense and the ability just to control the football and it’s just really a clear distinction from what it was a year ago. [And] Wade is always going to put together a good defense, so they’ve got a really good thing going.”
But a victory this week will not be easy.
Despite the Seahawks’ early road losses to the Packers and Titans, this weekend’s West Coast matchup will present the Rams with perhaps their toughest challenge yet.
“It’s a great task,” McVay said. “This is an excellent defense. I think you look at the history of what they’ve done over the handful of years — they’ve got All-Pro players really on all three levels: up front, at the linebacker spot and on the back end. They play hard, they’re fundamentally sound, and they’re very well coached.”
“We know these guys and we know what type of game this is,” middle linebacker Alec Ogletree said. “We have to bring a great defense against this team. They have a very talented offense and we have an opportunity on our hands to go out and put up a good show.”
Defensively, the Rams’ main priority will be to contain three-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl Champion Russell Wilson. Wilson is widely known for his mobility outside of the pocket, as well as his ability to extend plays by evading defenders.
“He can throw the ball, he can run and really do whatever,” Ogletree said of Wilson. “He’s definitely an elusive guy that can get outside the pocket. It’s going to take everybody sticking with their man and upfront just keeping him contained in the pocket.”
Fortunately for Los Angeles, its defense boasts a loaded front seven led by linemen Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers — who recently made the switch to a 3-4 defensive end in Week 4’s contest against the Cowboys.
Expect outside linebacker Robert Quinn to match up well against left tackle Rees Odhiambo who will play on Sunday despite suffering from a bruised sternum this past week. Quinn has had some of his best games of his career against Seattle and has recorded 11 sacks on the Seahawks throughout six seasons in the league.
Seattle’s leading rusher, Chris Carson will not participate in Sunday’s contest after being placed on injured reserve, but the Seahawks still have a lot of depth at the position. Running backs Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy should split the load on the ground this week.
Overall, the Rams defense will need to carry the same performance it showcased in Week 4’s second half against Dallas — where the team held the Cowboys to just six points — into this week’s matchup against the Seahawks.
“We’re going to try to play the second half defense that we played last weekend from now on,” Phillips said with a chuckle this week. “I was pleased with the way we played in the second half. We did learn something about a scrambling quarterback and I think hopefully that will carry over.”
“I thought our team, defensively, has really played well under pressure in those situations — two-point plays that won games and things like that,” he continued. “So, I think things are coming together that way, but like I said, this is one of the top offenses in the league with an elite quarterback, so it’ll be a big challenge.”
Offensively, the Rams enter Week 5 as the league’s No. 1 scoring offense. Quarterback Jared Goff has completed 66.7 percent of his passes, for 1,072 yards and seven touchdowns in 2017. The Seahawks’ defense, however, will challenge the young quarterback.
“I think you look at when they get into those known passing situations, they can come with four-man rushes, they play great coverage on the back end, and they’ve got elite players all over the place,” McVay said of the Seattle defense. “It’s an excellent challenge and I’ve got a whole lot of respect for this defense. We certainly have to be at our best if we’re going to give ourselves a chance to compete.”
On the ground, running back Todd Gurley is coming off of two consecutive 100-yard performances and currently leads the NFL with seven total touchdowns. But this week, running lanes at the second level should be a bit more challenging for Gurley as he goes head-to-head with middle linebacker Bobby Wagner.
In order for the Rams to be successful, the team will need to present Seattle with a balanced ground and passing attack, beginning with the offensive line. Though the O-line has been impressive through four games, it will be tested against a strong Seahawks’ front seven.
“They’re a bunch of really good players,” right tackle Rob Havenstein said. “I think any time you get a bunch of really good football players on one team, it’s going to be a great challenge. They’re a very stingy defense, so we want to go ahead and be as good as we can in all phases run, pass, and whatever else we got. We want to be consistent.”
Sunday will also present a challenge for the Rams’ receiving corps as they face off against Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” led by cornerback Richard Sherman. But Los Angeles will benefit from their versatile group of receivers, including Robert Woods, Sammy Watkins, and Cooper Kupp — who is coming off a solid performance last week against the Cowboys.
“Once again, it’s another challenge,” Kupp said. “We’re really taking a look at Seattle and they have a great, great defense. If we’re going to be able to score points, then we’re going to have to be effective with everybody on field and minimize mistakes with no penalties — just all of the basic things that you’re supposed to do as an offense.”
If the Rams can be efficient in all three phases, they should fare well against the Seahawks on Sunday.