Man, I love Thanksgiving.
Seriously. Although, in the interest of full disclosure, I should probably mention that the wife and I have no shorties and small families, so TG doesn't carry any of the Advil popping stimga for us that it does for others trying to prepare and serve and digest a meal with 20 other people in the house. Yep, through high school, Christmas was the holiday, but now that I'm older and the only gifts I really want are time off from work and more time off from work, a holiday about being thankful for whatever bounty you have and eating a table full of food makes for a pleasant redoubt from the day in day out routines. Hope everyone else had a good holiday as well...20 people or 2.
No doubt about it, the Rams have their work cut out for them this week. The Seahawks, while hardly among the league's elite (not even in the NFC), present a significantly greater challenge for this team than the suddenly off-again Saints or the sinking fast 49ers. Naturally, the Rams gameplan ought to look significantly different this week.
Focus on the running game. If the Seahawks have one glaring weakness it's their rushing defense. With a DVOA of -1.4%, they rank 21st in the league and sit below the Rams rushing defense in terms of statistical measurment.
Per some fine analysis over at Field Gulls, a major source of the Seahawks rushing defense woes stem from a backfield poorly equipped to deal with the run. Football Outsiders breakdown of rushing defenses correlates this with the success rate of opposing running plays that go for 10 or more yards. 22% of rushing yards racked up against the Screaming Chickens of the Sea have gone for 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, ranking them 27th in the league in that department. (The Rams defense by comparison has allowed just 15% of rushing yards to come in lumps of 10 or more.)
That means Linehan et al ought to be mapping out a game a plan that features lots of plays where Steven Jackson breaks open a long run. To do that, of course, means he'll have to get past the Seattle defensive line, which means the Rams O-line has some work to do. That's also the likely reason Linehan and Olson have made the decision to use a returning Todd Steussie at right guard, to open up runs in the middle of the field, where Steven Jackson had so much success last season. Steussie's been a good blocker, and performed quite well since coming to Rams.
Doing some damage with SJ on the ground serves another purpose in keeping the Seattle pass rushers honest and save Bulger's ribs. When the Rams were humiliated by in Seattle in week seven, Bulger got sacked seven times, helping fuel a 5 turnover (3 INT) performance and a 33-6 loss. Needless to say, if that happens this week, the end result will be similar and the field under the Dome will be littered with tiny bits and pieces of Bulger's ribs - not to mention Scott Linehan's career.
This team's played much better football these last two weeks, with the one black mark being the o-line's performance last week. The coaching staff acknowledged that and has seemingly made appropriate moves to address it. Will it work?