Keys to the Game Revisited: Seattle

Posted Oct 29, 2013

The Key: Protecting the Football

With QB Sam Bradford at the helm of the offense through the season’s first seven weeks, the Rams were among the league’s best in limiting turnovers. Bradford threw just four interceptions this year, and the Rams played consecutive games without a turnover in Weeks 5 and 6.  Despite their three turnovers last week in Carolina, the Rams are tied for the eighth-fewest giveaways this year.

QB Kellen Clemens will now be tasked with providing a spark against the league’s second-ranked defense, as well as continuing the Rams’ steady turnover ratio. This week will be Clemens’ first start since 2011, though he has gained a penchant for his ability to protect the football. In 17 games, including four starts, since 2010, Clemens has thrown just two interceptions.

The Answer: Despite grabbing an early 3-0 lead with a 33-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein in the Rams’ second possession of the game, two costly interceptions limited what could have been a sizeable early advantage. Positioned within the Zuerlein’s range in their next possession, Clemens was picked off by LB Bruce Irvin to halt the drive. Seattle CB Richard Sherman later ended another promising Rams possession in the second quarter.

By contrast, despite being held to just 135 yards off offense, which include an 80-yard touchdown strike to Golden Tate in the third quarter, Seattle did not commit a turnover. Head Coach Jeff Fisher addressed the turnover disparity and its impact at his Tuesday news conference.

“We were minus two in takeaways, and that was the difference in the game, the two turnovers.” Fisher said. During that little stretch where we were plus seven, we were winning ballgames, but we turned it over a couple of times and didn’t get any.”

The Key: Rams’ Run Defense vs. Marshawn Lynch:

Seattle employs perhaps the most run-heavy offensive attack the Rams will see this year, led by RB Marshawn Lynch. Entering this week, Lynch ranks second among all NFL backs with 578 yards on the ground. He has also rushed for six touchdowns, which ranks second in the league.

The Rams have faced their share of talented backs through seven weeks, including San Francisco’s Frank Gore and Houston’s Arian Foster. While those backs gained success at times against the Rams’ defensive front, Lynch may be the best back of the lot. In two games against the Rams last season, Lynch carried 38 times for 218 yards and a touchdown.

“He’s the toughest guy to tackle in the NFL,” LB James Laurinaitis said. “Every year, he has some highlights that kind of defy football and what should happen. I have a lot of respect for Marshawn and it’s going to be a huge challenge.”

The Answer:  Facing one of their stiffest challenges of the season, the Rams came up with their best performance against the run on the season against the Lynch, who was held to 23 yards rushing on eight carries, his lowest rushing total since 2011. The Seahawks finished with 36 yards rushing as a team, marking the second time this year that the Rams held their opponents to fewer than 50 yards on the ground.

The Key: Starting Quickly

Through the season’s first seven games, few factors have been more indicative of the game’s outcome than the halftime score. When the Rams begin the second half either tied or in the lead, the Rams are 3-0.  Meanwhile, the Rams have trailed entering the second half in each of their four losses.

Getting off to a quick start offensively could prove to be a significant challenge this week, as Seattle boasts the league’s third-ranked scoring defense and has allowed just five first-half touchdowns through seven games.

The Answer: Despite outgaining Seattle 75 yards to -1 during the first quarter, early turnovers stunted a pair of promising first-half drives. The Seahawks’ only scoring drive of the first half came after an interception provided them with a short field, though it was enough to give Seattle a 7-3 halftime lead. RB Zac Stacy led the offensive surge with 76 rushing yards on 13 carries in the first half, but the Rams were held without a rushing touchdown for the eighth straight game.