Another chapter of the Seattle Seahawks vs. Los Angeles Rams rivalry will be written on Thursday Night Football. Last time these two met the Rams knocked the Seahawks out of the playoffs at Lumen Field, a mere two weeks after the Seahawks won the NFC West title against the Rams. Two years ago, the Seahawks memorably beat the Rams on Thursday Night Football in a 30-29 thriller, with Greg Zuerlein missing the game-winning field goal.
Seattle enters this game 2-2 with an absolutely vital road win over the San Francisco 49ers just four days ago. Meanwhile the Rams suffered a surprisingly lopsided home defeat to the Arizona Cardinals to drop to 3-1. To preview this highly anticipated matchup, 5 Qs and 5 As is back! Some guy named Kenneth Arthur is answering these questions on behalf of Turf Show Times. You should check it out!
1.) What in the world happened against Arizona? It looked like they got beat every which way possible.
As is sometimes the case when two good teams meet and one good team gets blown out, there were opportunities early in the game for the Rams to not get blown out, but they didn’t take advantage of them and the Cardinals did. The Rams led 10-7 at the end of the first quarter but Kyler Murray is an exceptionally difficult quarterback to stop right now. He has the arm to convert third downs, but also the legs. LA’s defense was not prepared to stop Murray and holes at linebacker, cornerback, safety, and edge were exposed which sure does sound like a lot of holes given that the Rams had a top-ranked defense in 2020. The losses of safety John Johnson III and CB Troy Hill may have been more damaging than Sean McVay would’ve liked to admit. The linebacker issues have been going on for some time and there may be a lack of speed and know-how capable of containing Murray and Arizona’s receiving talent.
However, the Rams have enough offensive firepower to keep up and the reason that wasn’t the case in Week 4 is twofold: After the Cardinals took a 14-10 lead, running back Sony Michel fumbled on the very next play, and it was only a couple minutes later that Arizona had a 21-10 advantage. That was a 14-point swing in three minutes. Stafford seemed to get worse as the day went on and his connection with Cooper Kupp (the NFC Offensive Player of the Month in September) was too inconsistent to allow for a comeback. Stafford also threw a costly interception.
But I am not worried about Stafford. He was still clearly much better than Jared Goff and sometimes it’s just three or four plays that turn your perceived “good game” into a “bad game” and bad plays could just be random. I think Arizona did a good job of rattling Stafford at the line of scrimmage and the secondary was on top of LA’s receivers all day. News: the Cardinals are dangerous.
2.) The Rams lost defensive coordinator Brandon Staley to the Chargers, as well as Troy Hill, John Johnson III, and Morgan Fox in free agency. How much of a dropoff has this defense seen in overall performance compared to last season?
How much of a drop-off, you say?
It’s too early to say how bad the Rams defense is — facing Tom Brady, Kyler Murray, and now Russell Wilson in back-to-back-to-back games will be more of a challenge — but it’s not as good as the 2020 iteration that ranked first in points and yards allowed. As I noted in Q1, and as you say, there were a number of key departures. I’ve no idea how wide the gap is between Staley and Raheem Morris. I think any secondary needs time to gel and replacing your two most-utilized players in 2020 (JJIII and Hill led the Rams in snaps played) is going to cause setbacks, but former UW safety Taylor Rapp often draws the ire of Rams fans, as does linebacker Kenny Young and cornerback David Long. Those are maybe some more obvious issues, but cornerback Darious Williams, linebacker Troy Reeder, and defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson probably do less than on the field than was previously hoped. You forgot about Michael Brockers, who was traded to the Lions after nine years with the Rams, and frankly nobody on this defense gets good enough pressure other than Aaron Donald, and maybe nobody on the defense plays good enough against the run, period.
It’s possible the Rams could go from a top-three to a bottom-third defense, but playing against some easier opponents will help too.
3.) It’s early but Matthew Stafford looks as good as advertised in the Rams offense. What has been the biggest change in the way the passing attack looks beyond just “no more Jared Goff”?
There’s a lot more deep passing and you don’t have to cringe or close your eyes when the quarterback lets go of the throw anymore.
4.) The Seahawks defense has been poor for much of the season (25th in DVOA), whereas the Rams offense ranks 2nd in DVOA. What is the one potential weakness the Seahawks defense can exploit?
The Seahawks are going to get gashed and murdered by LA’s offense. Sorry, Mook! Seattle’s defense doesn’t have answers for Kupp, Robert Woods, DeSean Jackson, Van Jefferson, Tyler Higbee, and Darrell Henderson. The Rams have a solid offensive line, which I think is actually led by right guard Austin Corbett, a guy who I believe might make Pro Bowl (or all-pro) honors soon. Stafford is capable of making all the throws and while we saw some of his errant attempts and poor decisions on Sunday, it’s going a lot better than the Goff years. I am fully invested into the idea that the Seahawks have failed to reload key positions on defense and for that reason, it might just be: First team to 35 points wins the game.
Thursday Night Football means that some unfortunate “9-6 OT” score type shit happens but I’ll lean more towards the obvious: neither of these defenses are capable of keeping up with the other team’s offense. Something like 37-34 seems more likely to me.
5.) Who are some under the radar Rams players whom Seahawks fans should be aware of ahead of Thursday’s matchup?
- OLB Terrell Lewis. He’s hardly done anything to make the news yet, but the 2020 third round pick out of Alabama has more pass rushing potential than anybody on the defense, other than Donald. Leonard Floyd doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, I’m not sure what LA’s enamored with there, but Lewis might be the guy who at the end of the night is making everyone say, “Damn, who was that kid with two sacks and 3.5 TFL?” He hasn’t done that before, but it’s coming.
- WR Van Jefferson. Low-key sleeper to finish second on the Rams in receiving yards in 2021.
- NT Sebastian Joseph-Day. The second-best player in the Rams’ front-seven.
- G Austin Corbett. The Browns picked him 33rd overall, then one year later traded him to the Rams. One of the biggest steals of recent memory and the rest of the NFC West will regret not stepping in if they could have.
Thanks to Kenneth for answering my questions! Check my answers over at TST and then enjoy the game tonight!