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Game 4 - vs. Seattle (Oct. 3)

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What a pair of angry logos. I never realized how grumpy Seattle's logo looks. And the Ram looks like someone just insulted his mama. The Grumpy Seahawks versus the Thin-Skinned Rams, this Sunday, on Fox!

I'm just saying, why so grumpy?

Gran-torino-clint-eastwood_medium (via)

Holy crap, alright, alright. I'm sorry. Breakdown after the jump. Jeez.

For game-related info, check out the SBN page for the game. For Seahawks news leading up the game, head over to Field Gulls.
Conventional stats are taken from Yahoo! Sports and NFL.com; advanced stats from Football Outsiders. Feel free to suggest other statistics you would like to see included.

Other previews: Sports Network (SBN), Rams Gab, Yahoo! Sports, stlouisrams.com (video), ESPN

St. Louis Rams, 1-2: 3rd, NFC West

Seattle Seahawks, 2-1: t-1st, NFC West

STL pass - 69/117, 58.97 cmp% (25th), 607 yds, 4 TD, 5 INT

5.19 yds/att, 202.33 yds/gm (20th), -6.1% passing offense DVOA (22nd)

SEA pass D - 80/133, 60.15 cmp% (15th), 947 yds, 4 TD, 4 INT

7.12 yds/att, 315.66 yds/gm (30th), 17.4% passing defense DVOA (22nd)

Simply put, the Rams have to win this battle. Seattle has shown how vulnerable they are in the passing game as they just don't seem to have anyone that can stop a pass besides Marcus Trufant, and even he has looked susceptible at times. Still, with a talent like Earl Thomas, who picked off two passes against the Chargers last weekend, it's not something the Rams can take for granted. Van looked at this matchup Friday afternoon.

To win this game, Sam Bradford is going to have to show the same kind of awareness he did against the Redskins, picking up on blitzes, tracking man or zone coverages, exploiting the holes - and all this has to be done regardless of the receiver. We saw Fendi Onobun worked in early. Exploiting the defense by using the most unlikely receiver on the field opens up a lot for Bradford. Whether that means larger avenues for Danny Amendola, helping Brandon Gibson get on track, or maintaining the timing he and Mark Clayton have developed in so short a time frame will depend not only on those aforementioned skills, but also the playcalling from OC Pat Shurmur. I don't think any Rams fan would be too disappointed to see some 4 WR sets worked in again this week. They can be that much more dangerous if Sam can get WR screens worked in as we saw against the Skins..

STL run - 82 att, 293 yds, 3.57 yds/att (23rd), 97.67 yds/gm (20th), 2 TD, 0 fumb

-15.3% rushing offense DVOA (25th)

SEA run D - 78 att, 203 yds, 2.60 yds/att (3rd), 67.67 yds/gm (5th), 2 TD, 2 fumb

-42.0% rushing defense DVOA (2nd)

This is going to be a battle, whether Steven Jackson plays or not. As I'm writing this, he's a game time decision after a limited practice session. As a Rams fan, it certainly makes the morning pre-game shows more watchable this Sunday. But either way, this is a serious rushing defense that the Rams will see on Sunday as evidenced by the statistical wizardry of Van "Is there a Fields Medal for football math" Ram on Thursday.

I've said before that I thought Seattle's LB corps was overrated (though, check the next section on the D-line...); that hasn't changed. Aaron Curry is a physical specimen, but that's not translating to the field yet from what I've seen and what I've read from Field Gulls' ridiculously meticulous John Morgan. Lofa Tatupu is quickly fading after a brilliant first three years in the league. Maybe the USC grad needs Pete Carroll's loving Trojan Touch, but it hasn't shown in the Seahawks' first three games this year.

STL O-line - 6 sacks allowed (t-16th), 14 QB hits allowed (t-14th), 48 yards lost to sacks

3.43 Adj. Line Yds (27th), ranked 14th in pass protection

SEA D-line - 7 sacks (t-6th), 40 yards lost to sacks

3.47 Adj. Line Yds (6th) allowed, ranked 15th in pass protection allowed

I really think the Seahawks' D-line is pretty underrated nationally. They've got a solid pair of tackles in Brandon Mebane and Colin Cole, and Red Bryant is turning into a deceptively skilled DE. It's a serious test for a Rams offensive line that played their best game last Sunday against Washington. Of course, the re-re(?)-emergence of John Greco is worthing paying attention to.

"Del" Greco, some might forget, was the second pick in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft, the unofficial first draft of the Devaney era. This is a big opportunity for Greco and the Rams. In the two years following the Greco pick, the Rams selected CBs Bradley Fletcher and Jerome Murphy with their early 3rd round picks. Knowing that the Rams could have taken RB Jamaal Charles, who was taken eight spots after Greco, makes the growing pains hurt even more.

But as always, keep a trained eye on tackles Jason Smith and Rodger Saffold. This is a legitimate test for the bookend pair as well. Bradford may get the headlines, but his fate rests in the four hands of those two large, large men pretty directly.

SEA pass - 57/90, 63.33% (12th), 598 yds, 4 TD, 5 INT

6.64 yds/att, 199.33 yds/gm (21st), 2.7% passing offense DVOA (20th)

STL pass D - 60/110, 54.54% (4th), 730 yds, 3 TD, 3 INT

6.63 yds/att, 243.43 yds/gm (24th), -1.7% passing defense DVOA (12th)

I'll keep this one short - the Rams have to win this matchup. Have to. Absolutely, must contain this. The key is John Carlson. He's a very effective receiving tight end, and his receptions are one of the few reliable components in the Seattle offense. It's a tall order, but if the Rams can limit the Seahawks' leader in catches and yards, it gives us a huge advantage that I'm not sure Seattle can overcome.

For St. Louis, it's essentially "more of the same, please." An interception here, blanket deep coverage there - the pass defense is the reason we're limiting opponents to 16 1/3 points per fome. More, please. And Bradley Fletcher is quickly becoming one of the most unfairly unheralded NFL sophomores.

SEA run - 64 att, 254 yds, 3.97 yds/rush (16th), 84.66 yds/gm (24th), 2 TD, 0 fumb

-4.5% rushing offense DVOA (15th)

STL run D - 78 att, 401 yds, 5.14 yds/rush (32nd), 133.66 yds/gm (25th), 1 TD, 3 fumb

-9.9% rushing defense DVOA (15th)

Unlike the Seahawks, teams have run well against the Rams. As good as James Laurinaitis is, he can't go it alone. And the Rams' defensive line just isn't very talented. Still, the Rams have to improve on this, especially against teams that struggle to pass the ball. Extending the average length of third down conversions their opponents have to deal with leads to mistakes, and mistakes from offenses on third down, well, we know what happens. It should be interesting to see how David Vobora is rotated in as the Rams try to improve their run defense in this one.

SEA O-line - 5 sacks allowed (t-9th), 8 QB hits allowed, 25 yards lost to sacks

3.28 Adj. Line Yds (30th), ranked 16th in pass protection

STL D-line - 5 sacks (t-18th), 52 yards lost to sacks

4.27 Adj. Line Yds (22nd) allowed, ranked 17th in pass protection allowed

If there's one unit that I think Seattle has a definitive advantage on the Rams in, it's this one, but that's nothing new to TSTers. Everyone knows I'm pretty down on our O-line. So how do we cover down on that? The coverage of the secondary, and even linebackers, has given more time to the D-line in the last two games. And masking some blitz schemes as we work them in, if we do at all, always helps. I wouldn't be surprised if this falls closer to the Arizona game than the previous two in terms of how often, and tactically how, we blitz. Sure, Fred Robbins has been a notable member of the line, but I'm looking at George Selvie and C.J. Ah You in this one, personally.

This week's top 3 storylines brought to you by three things my daughter can't say yet:

1.) "Who is our running back this weekend?"

Good question, young lady. The truth is I don't know, and honestly, that doesn't matter to me a tremendous amount. Last week proved that if the offensive line does its' job, Ken Darby can make a 6-yard run out of a 6-yard run. Sure, AxJax can turn it into a 15-yarder from time to time, but he's a Pro Bowler and Darby's a backup RB. Besides, 2nd & 4 is a hell of a situation to be in. And even more besideseryishly, Bradford means more to this offense than any running back does. The second half against the Redskins proved that. The real issue is who will give us first downs from the running game, and between Darby, Keith Toston, and new man Chauncey Washington, it's a question that needs an answer. I doubt we'll get a definitive one on Sunday.

2.) "Do the Rams even need Laurent Robinson?"

It's a fair question. Having missed the Skins game, which you could argue was not entirely coincidental, Robinson has just 4 catches for 22 yards. Mark Clayton, who is confusingly listed behind Danny Amendola at the WR2 position, has 17 catches for 228 yards with 2 TDs. Where does Laurent Robinson fit in this offense? Sure, there's plenty of football left in the 2010 season. But with Donnie Avery coming back in 2011, Clayton outplaying everyone, Amendola the only surefire long-term receiving answer, and a host of tight end possibilities, one, and by one I mean I, would think this is Laurent Robinson's "last chance" to stick around. If this is his last audition, it's not blowing me away. Anyone care to argue?

3.) "When can I stop wearing diapers?"

When you stop dumping Mackninac Fudgies in them, little shitbucket. No, there is a corollary here. The Rams have lived in the NFL's diaper for years. And now, with one win and a marketable face of the future, the growing hype, and thus pressure, is palpable, much like the pressure my daughter's butt-bombs puts on her Pampers. Even if we win this game, and make no mistake that would ratchet the national spotlight up, the Rams are still in the bottom third of the league looking to get into the middle. Before we put on a diamond-encrusted thong (douchiedude, I'm looking at you...), let's just enjoy the fact that we'll be able to take of the diaper soon. I'm a big kid now...

Go Rams.