The Los Angeles Rams return to the Memorial Coliseum to face off against division rival Seattle Seahawks in a rematch of the 33-31 game played at the Link. What will be most remembered by Rams fans about that game was the fourth down, seal the win, gutsy call by head coach Sean McVay.
I’ve mentioned this before, the players on both teams dislike each other intensely. The Rams can virtually wrap up the Western Division with a win, even though there will be five games left to play.
Its much easier for the Seahawks to prepare for the Rams, having lost the first time and much harder for the Rams to make necessary adjustments, who came out with the win.
The 2018 Seattle Seahawks established their identity against the Rams: they’re a run first, pass second team.
The Rams weren’t prepared for the physicality demonstrated by the Seahawks offensive line the last time. As a result, and as a sign of things to come, Seattle ran roughshod over the Rams and then, utilizing play action, torched the Rams’s secondary with the deep ball.
The result, was much closer then either the oddsmakers or Rams anticipated.
However, the Rams are coming off a brutal loss to the New Orleans Saints, which many observers believe the team should have won despite being down by 17 points at halftime. As a result, acknowledging that the Saints game was winnable - due to incredible comeback to tie the Saints game in the fourth quarter - the Rams are predictably anxious to get back on the field and to prove the loss was a fluke.
Angry, frustrated, and critical of themselves, the Rams are using the New Orleans game as further motivation to beat the Seahawks, although further motivation is unnecessary when these two teams get together,
What the Rams’ offense needs to do:
The Rams need to follow up their 35-point performance output last week with another one.
In this game, the Rams must take advantage of any turnovers committed by Seattle by turning them into points — unlike what they did against the Saints.
They must also avoid three-and-outs. Make the Seahawks’ run-first offense, schemed by former Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, work for every score the Seahawks can get. Put the pressure on the Seahawks to respond with their own score every time the Rams score. The Seahawks just aren’t as talented as the Rams on the passing side of the offense to be successful.
What the Rams’ defense needs to do:
The Rams defense needs to start playing up to expectations.
The first thing on the list is stop the run, and there’s no better team to start that with than the Seahawks. If the Rams can shut down Seattle’s run game, it will be up to QB Russell Wilson to make the plays with his arm to keep them in the game.
This leads to the next area the Rams must improve on: the edge rush.
OLB Dante Fowler Jr. is going to get an education on what it takes to defend against Wilson, known for his uncanny ability to scramble and extend plays with his legs. Pressure must come from the edge either from Fowler, John Franklin-Myers or Matt Longacre to force Wilson up in the pocket. And if DT Aaron Donald is being doubled-teamed and neutralized, then DTs Michael Brockers and Ndamukong Suh have to a better job of pressuring the quarterback than they did against the Saints.
I doubt that OLB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, just activated from the PUP list, will see action. But if he does, it will be interesting to see how he fares when paired with Fowler.
This then leads to the final item the Rams must improve on: the secondary.
The Rams must blanket the Seahawks’ receivers. CB Marcus Peters cannot make the same mistakes getting burned as he did the first time these teams played each other, and certainly not like what happened last week. It’s time to put his words - that he’s better corner than what Rams have seen thus far - into action.
As to the defense in general, they must do a better job tackling than what Rams saw last Sunday.
All things considered, I like the Rams’ defense to rebound from the terrible performance they had against the Saints and use this game to propel them into the stretch drive ahead, thereby living up to expectations, not down to them.
What the Rams’ need to do on special teams:
PK Greg Zuerlein has to make the field goals when called upon, no matter where he attempts them from.
KR Blake Countess and PR JoJo Natson must give the Rams good field position. JoJo didn’t have a lot chances to do that against the Saints, but he should get plenty of opportunities this week if the Rams’ defense is doing their job.
P Johnny Hekker needs to remain on the sidelines so he can practice his passing or on the bicycle just in case the Rams need his legs. If I don’t see him on the field for the whole game, he’s having a great day.
But here’s the biggest issue going into the game...
This week I am hosting fellow TST staff writer, Eli.
As a diehard, I have rituals I go through based on superstition. For example, after last week’s loss, the Rams shirt I wore has been relieved of its duties, and placed into the retirement trash bin I call the losing closet, never to be worn again.
For those friends of mine that have attended home games with me at my expense, know that two things happen to you if the Rams lose. First you never get invited back again and second, it’s a long walk home.
Although Eli is grateful for the opportunity to sit with me, he’s also expressed concern to my fellow TST staff writers, asking what’s it really like to be at a Rams game with the Professor. Is he really that crazy?
I too have expressed my concerns about Eli to my fellow TST brothers, considering he’s the one who pegged the Rams - after improving on both the offense and defense in the off season - to go 10-6 this season. And all of that despite the Rams going 11-5 last year, winning the NFC West, and making the playoffs.
As a result, my X-factor is not knowing whether having Eli attend the game is good luck or a jinx.
So it’s not only the Rams who must bring their A-game; it’s up to Eli as well...or he’ll face the consequences of a completely distraught Rams’ fan, should our team manage to blow a game for the second week in a row. Especially against the Seahawks.
It’s a long walk home Eli, and I have no intention of loaning you the money for the bus.
So to my fellow diehards, let’s get ready to rumble with a Rams win. And only then will my X-factor concerns be answered.