Well, it's go time. The first divisional game of the year, and a statement game to be made if one exists in our first 4 games. With Buffalo coming to St. Louis in week 4 and the bye week after, this game is of monumental importance to this season. A loss drops the Rams to 0-3, and reminds us of the 0-8 run we had to open the 2007 season. A win, and the Seahawks drop to 0-3, 0-2 in the division after last weekend's loss to the 49ers.
Is it possible for a week 3 game to be a must win? Is it possible that the fates of Coach Linehan (and President of Football Operations/GM Jay Zygmunt) rest on the outcome of this game? Is it possible for Steven Jackson to get at least 15 carries in a single game?! One can only hope.
It's the battle to avoid the bottom of the NFC West. Breakdown after the fold.
For Seahawks news leading up the game, check out Field Gulls, our SBN brother here)
St. Louis Rams, 0-2, t3rd - NFC West ; Seattle Seahawks, 0-2, t3rd - NFC West
No wasting time this week.
STL pass - 34/58, 131.5 yds/gm, 1 TD, 1 int, 10 sacks, 73.6 rat -
SEA pass D - 40/63, 252 yds/gm, 3 TD, 0 int, 9 sacks, 107.6 rat -
This could be an interesting matchup. Seattle's pass defense has been pretty porous, thanks in large part to the horrible play of S Brian Russell. It's strange to see the 'Hawks being thrown at so often because they do have Pro Bowl CB Marcus Trufant (will likely play with a fractured hand) leading a nice group of CB's (Kelly Jennings also questionable due to a rib injury). With Russell at the back, however, Seattle has given up numerous big plays. Hopefully the Rams can take advantage of that. Of course with Drew Bennett hurt (thanks) and Keenan Burton hurt (damn), McMichael, Looker, and some combination of Donnie Avery, Eddie Kennison and Dante Hall will have to step up to take some of the coverage off of Holt.
STL run - 31 rsh, 52 yds/gm, 3.4 yds/carry, 0 TD, 1 fum, longest run 15 yds -
SEA run D - 52 rsh, 99.5 yds/gm, 3.8 yds/carry, 2 TD, 1 fum rec, long. run 23 yds -
The Rams have to get Steven Jackson going in this game. His big play ability can change a game in a single play, and he's got to get it done against the Seahawks. Jackson had a shot at such a play last week and he stumbled, which some pundits suggested was due to rust from the holdout. I don't care what it was. He's got to make that play this week. It won't be easy with Julian Peterson and Lofa Tatupu (still nursing injuries from week 1) anchoring the Seattle defense. Leroy Hill is no slouch either. Nevertheless, this is the game where Jackson has to make things happen or he's going to start getting called out.
STL O-line vs. SEA D-line
With Jacob Bell returning this week, the Rams O-line has a lot to improve on and not a lot of time. After having given up 4 sacks to the Eagles and 6 to the Giants, the Rams face a Seattle defense that racked up 8 sacks in the loss to San Fran. If nothing else, maybe Bulger can take a page out of J.T. O'Sullivan's book; O'Sullivan was able to deal with constant pressure all game and still go 20/32 for 321 yds and a TD. While it would be nice to prevent that pressure from getting to Bulger, my expectations are tempered by the lines performances so gar this season. Keep an eye on rookie DE Lawrence Jackson. Seattle's first round pick from this year's draft started slowly against Buffalo with two tackles and no sacks, but the USC grad showed up against the 49'ers with 5 tackles and two sacks. Orlando Pace will have his hands full with this youngster.
SEA pass - 35/77, 174.5 yds/gm, 1 TD, 3 int, 6 sacks, 48.6 rat (!) -
STL pass D - 46/68, 327.5 yds/gm, 6 TD, 0 int, 2 sacks, 129.2 rat -
What a matchup. Matt Hasselbeck has been unable to get anything going with his receivers, mainly due to the fact that the guys he's throwing to one week are in the hospital the next. Nate Burleson, Bobby Engram, Logan Payne, and Ben Obomanu are all out while Deion Branch will likely miss with a knee injury. With all the injuries, the 'Hawks were forced to sign Koren Robinson and Keary Colbert; how quickly they can come in and help out this passing attack will be interesting to watch. This really will be a great matchup for these two units. If Tye Hill struggles against this group of WR's, he's going to find it hard to cover just about anybody.
SEA run - 55 rsh, 127 yds/gm, 4.6 yds/carry, 2 TD, 2 fum, longest run 27 yds -
STL run D - 63 rsh, 154 yds/gm, 4.9 yds/carry, 3 TD, 2 fum rec, long. run 31 yds -
A lot is riding on this matchup. Julius Jones has been a pleasant surprise for the Seahawks after leaving a Cowboys system where he didn't fit in. T.J. Duckett can still plow as well as any power running back in the NFL; last week he got a third down carry (which he converted) and a goalline carry (one which he scored). FB Leonard Weaver isn't much of a threat, but you never know with the Rams defense. This will be a tough game for the LB corps because they are going to have to rely on agility, not power. Hopefully Quinton Culberson can make a noticeable impact; this is the kind of matchup that favors his skills.
SEA O-line vs. STL D-line
This is a battle that the Rams can certainly win. Walter Jones and Mike Wahle form an effective pair on the left side of Seattle's line, but the right side certainly gives Carriker and Little (assuming he receives his regular spot back) a chance to shine especially if Sean Locklear (RT, knee) doesn't play. Julius Jones has started his Seahawks campaign with success, but the Rams have the pieces to limit that success. With such a banged up receiver corps, the Rams should have a chance to apply some pressure on Hasselbeck when he does pass. They'll have to capitalize on that chance if the Rams are going to win.
This week's top 3 storylines brought to you by the great Vince Lombardi:
1.) "Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.": The first two games have forced many pundits to opine the Rams' standing as the worst team in the NFL. Even in a VanRam story from Tuesday (here), a poll with 82 votes saw 64 of those votes for the Rams as the league worst. Our 0-8 start to the 2007 campaign can attest to Lombardi's genius. This train is going in the wrong direction. If we can't get this turned around soon (with the Cowboys and Patriots back-to-back games a month from tomorrow), we could be in trouble... if we're not already.
2.) "If you aren't fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm.": Scott Linehan, you might want to keep this in mind.
3.) "Show me a good loser and I will show you a loser.": There's a reason we've been getting a bit more emotional. It's because fans hate to lose. You can accept it if you have committed to losing to win. In other words, if you have committed to rebuilding and are willing to lose games now to win a bunch in the future, a fan can accept that. But to lose with the expectation of competition, to open a season by losing 38-3, to instill confidence in a fan base only to erase so much of that confidence in just two games is painful. We were shown glimpses of football last week. We need to see more. I need to see more. And I need to see it this week.
Divisional football starts now.