Business is about to pick up for the "Thursday Night Football" television package as the Los Angeles Rams (3-1) will head up north to Lumen Field to take on the Seattle Seahawks (2-2) for a crucial NFC West showdown. This will be their first meeting since the Rams' 30-20 victory over the Seahawks in the NFC Wild Card Round of last season's playoffs.
It was an eventful trip down to Santa Clara last weekend as Seattle struggled mightily on offense until the end of the first half but never gave up and eventually defeated San Francisco 28-21. With the win, Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll avoided their first three-game losing streak during their time together. The Seahawks went three-and-out on their first five possessions before finding the end zone just before halftime to tie the game 7-7. Russell Wilson connected with DK Metcalf for a 12-yard touchdown strike and that gave Seattle enough momentum to carry into the second half.
Defensively, the Seahawks started to put together some things as far as playing as a team, generating pressure, and causing turnovers. Seattle had two takeaways while not giving the ball away, which is huge when you play a divisional opponent. The defense also seemed to gain a bit of confidence as the game went along, even though the unit had to adjust to facing a mobile quarterback in Trey Lance during the second half after Jimmy Garoppolo left the game with a calf injury.
Los Angeles, meanwhile, suffered its first loss of the 2021 season last season, getting dominated at home by Arizona 37-20. The Rams actually led 10-7 after the first quarter before the Kyler Murray-led Cardinals went on a scoring blitz and the defense frustrated Matthew Stafford and LA's offense. Stafford finished with 280 passing yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. Losing the turnover battle (-2) certainly didn't help the Rams' cause, especially since the defense gave up 465 yards to Murray and the Arizona offense. It seemed like the Cardinals could do whatever they wanted when they had the ball, as they not only ran for 216 yards, but produced 27 first downs, were 8-for-13 on third down, and had the ball for more than 35 minutes.
Thursday Night Football: Los Angeles (3-1) at Seattle (2-2)
Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 3 at 8:20 p.m. ET
TV: FOX/NFL Network/Amazon Prime
Spread: Rams -1.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Seahawks' offense
The schedule-makers may have done Seattle a favor by giving the Seahawks a game against the 49ers and their defensive front in advance of playing Aaron Donald and the Rams. This allowed the offensive line to deal with a ton of physicality, which they will see even more of on Thursday night. Left tackle Duane Brown did a nice job of containing Nick Bosa, who had one sack and three quarterback hits. Wilson is certainly capable of moving around in the pocket or making something happen with his legs, which is exactly what we did on a 16-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to put Seattle ahead for good.
Wilson will need to keep his head on a swivel and get rid of the football quickly on Thursday night, as Donald and Co. are no doubt frustrated after what transpired last Sunday against Murray. Los Angeles was credited with three sacks, but for the most part, Murray consistently evaded the Rams' pass rushers, which in turn helped wear the defense down. Los Angeles enters this game 27th in the NFL in total defense (396.8 ypg) and 25th against the pass (273.3 ypg), which almost seem like typos considering the Rams were first in both categories last season. But it's only been four games, and you know they will want to put forth a better effort after getting thoroughly outclassed at home last week. Wilson and the Seahawks will no doubt look to take their shots downfield, so this game could come down to which version of the Rams' defense shows up on Thursday night.
2. Rams' patience on offense
One underrated thing that Los Angeles has done well over the years in its matchups in Seattle is showing patience on offense. Rams head coach Sean McVay never seems to panic when he brings his team to the Pacific Northwest, and now he has his hand-picked quarterback with him. Stafford will pose a big challenge for the Seahawks' secondary as wide receivers Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Van Jefferson, and DeSean Jackson are all capable of breaking a game open at any moment.
The running game will be another key for LA, with Seattle giving up 152 rushing yards per game, the most in the league. Darrell Henderson Jr. returned from missing the Week 3 game because of a rib injury to run for 89 yards and average a robust 6.4 per carry against Arizona. If the Rams can run the ball effectively early, that will only make things easier for Stafford, who has already shown what he's capable of doing in this offense. The line also will need to do its part by staying disciplined and avoid unnecessary penalties while dealing with all of the crowd noise provided by the 12s.
3. Seahawks' defense
These guys are what they are four games into the 2021 season, as the lack of a dominant shutdown corner is a problem that won’t magically disappear anytime soon. Thus, the margin for error is very thin for this group to have success on a given day. And the numbers back this up, as Seattle has the worst total defense in the league (444.5 ypg) in addition to having the worst run defense. The matchup with Los Angeles is not ideal because the Rams are fourth in the league in passing (298.3 ypg) and sixth in scoring (28.8 ppg) offense. The Seahawks will have to play disciplined, assignment-sound football and probably come up with a few turnovers to have a real shot at limiting Los Angeles' attack. The Rams' scheme shouldn't be much of a mystery since Seattle runs a similar version under new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, who previously served on McVay's staff.
The Seahawks also must limit the number of explosive plays they give up. Last week, Deebo Samuel's 76-yard touchdown catch late in the third quarter helped put San Francisco back in the game. As has already been mentioned, Los Angeles doesn't lack for guys with big-play ability. Putting pressure on Stafford would certainly help Seattle's cause, but that will be easier said than done. Stafford has been sacked just 2.2 percent on his pass attempts, the lowest rate in the league. Bottom line, if the Seahawks allow Stafford to have a clean pocket, they will be in trouble all night long.
Seattle did the best job between these two teams last week in terms of their overall competitive mindset, as Los Angeles just couldn't keep up with Arizona at home and looked out of it. The short week always makes things interesting as far as how a team responds to that situation. Look for the Seahawks to come out with plenty of energy early on to keep this game close into the second half. However, the Rams seem to have Seattle’s number and, until proven otherwise, are going to find a way to grind out a close win on Thursday night.