As daunting as a task as the Seattle Seahawks pose for the St. Louis Rams, the assignment becomes increasingly more troublesome with the Rams offensive leader and arguably best offensive player out for the year. Can the Rams rise to this difficult challenge and secure a second divisional win, or will they log their second prime-time meltdown of the season?
Now, to even consider a Rams upset you almost have to dawn some rose colored-glasses, right? However, this is Rams team that has proven that they are capable rising to the to challenge against divisional foes. To upset a team like the Seahawks, a team is going to have to play some of their best football. So what are the three key steps to a Rams upset?
1.) Play opportunistic football
The Seahawks have shown a propensity to cough up the ball on offense at times, which has produced problems within games. Marshawn Lynch himself has fumbled twice this year - a side-effect of his violent running style. If the Rams want to stay in this prime-time affair they will have to take advantage of all turnover opportunities and chances to score. This means capitalizing on Seattle's penalties, blown coverages, and special teams miscues.
The Rams were able to play an opportunistic game against Houston, and it smothered the Texans chances in that ballgame. The exact opposite was present against the 49ers earlier this year. To be effective against the Seahawks the Rams will not be able to afford any missed Seahawks mistakes.
2.) Play with patience on offense and aggression on defense
Being opportunistic also means playing with patience on offense. The Seahawks are a good team because they play a physical, effective, and overwhelming style of football. Get too aggressive and they will make you pay. The Rams will have to avoid crippling penalties and capitalize on good field position when they get it. It's OK to struggle offensively against a good defense, but what the Rams can't afford to do is fail to come up with points when they secure the ball on the Seattle side of the field.
The Rams cannot afford to allow the Seattle offense to move the ball with out contesting every yard. This is not a game to play from behind. This means that a "bend-don't-break" style of defense could prove extremely risky. Once in the red zone the Seattle Seahawks merely have to make the Rams pay once to make this game plan inept. By getting down by 2-3 scores the Rams will be at a significant disadvantage. To prevent this scenario from occurring the Rams will have to vary coverages and keep from conceding short throws. The defense will also have to improve significantly against the run this week. Seattle boasts a top NFL rushing offense, and would love nothing more than to keep the Rams defense on the field for 75 percent of the game. The Rams defense will have to force 3 and outs and stay fresh in a game where it has to be assumed the offense will struggle.
3.) Talent must triumph over inexperience
We all know the Rams are the youngest team in the NFL, but did you know that Seattle is the 4th youngest? Not really much of an excuse is it. In this game, every young Rams player must be accountable to their role on this ascending football team.
At this point, most would agree that the talent exists for the Rams defense and offense both to excel. However, blown coverages, dropped balls, missed checks, and mental errors have resulted in a below-average product on the field. Every individual will have to remain responsible to their unique job on this football team -running the right route, fulfilling duties on defense, and playing penalty-free on special teams. These are all vital towards elevating the talent on this young team beyond it's own inexperience.
By taking advantage of opportunities, playing with the right balance of patience and aggressiveness, and keeping with individual accountability, the Rams will be able to keep the game close. By staying in this game until the end, the Rams could be poised to pull off the upset. The Rams will not have the luxury of playing with errors and missteps this week, or Seattle could make them look silly on national television. If the Rams can truly upset the Seahawks this week it would paint the rest of this season in an interesting light.