The Rams and Seahawks are two teams that have played a number of close games over the last few years, particularly when the Rams are at home. The Rams have won their last three home matchups with Seattle, and will look to make it four in a row on Sunday.
Those wins have taken some creative special teams plays and solid offensive performances. But in each victory, the Rams have been able to contain Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
Through the first quarter of the season, Seattle is No. 10 in total yards per game and No. 12 in points per game. The club has been balanced offensively, ranking No. 11 in yards rushing per game, and No. 13 in yards passing per game. The Seahawks are 2-2, but in the last two weeks have scored a combined 56 points in the second half — including 22 in the third quarter last week against Indianapolis.
"We're just trying to get along," Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said of his team's offense. "We're just trying to get a little bit better each week and see if we can make a little move and find some consistency."
"You say, 'Well, their offensive line has not played well.' But the last two games, they're [reaching] almost 500 yards, so it's hard to say they didn't play well," Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said this week.
Seattle's offense has been predicated on the run game since Carroll arrived in 2010, but one position that may be a bit unsettled on Seattle's offense this year is running back. Rookie running back Chris Carson led the team in rushing through the first four weeks, but suffered a left leg fracture against the Colts and has been placed on injured reserve.
Carroll said third year running back Thomas Rawls and former Packer Eddie Lacy should receive the bulk of the carries on Sunday.
"Thomas has been a very productive guy for us in the past," Carroll said. "It's been hard and we haven't tried to get everybody the ball — you can't do that. But, we're fortunate that we have the depth that we have and really looking forward to seeing Thomas play a bigger role."
Still, Wilson is the primary catalyst for Seattle's offense. While he's known as a dual-threat quarterback, Wilson's durability is an underrated aspect to his play. He hasn't missed a game since entering the league in 2012, and Sunday will mark his 85th consecutive regular-season start.
That streak does come at some cost, though. When the Seahawks faced the Rams in Los Angeles' home opener last year, Wilson was visibly hobbled by an ankle injury.
"Well, yeah he was damaged that time," Carroll said. "All the way through the first half of the season he was hurt and he had legitimate injuries that he was dealing with, so it was just hard. It didn't matter who we were playing or where we were playing, he was just struggling to get out each week. He did a great job of hanging tough and making it through it and giving us a chance at the end of the year."
"But, he's in much better shape now," Carroll continued. "He had a great offseason, he's had a great preseason. We've had some kind of inconsistent starts to our games, but all in all he's been playing really good football and I'm really glad we're coming in with him at full speed."
So far in 2017, Wilson has completed 61.7 percent of his passes for 1,024 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions, good for a passer rating of 94.4. He's also already rushed for over half of his 2016 total, with 138 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
While this will be the first matchup against Seattle for Los Angeles' new coaching staff, Phillips and head coach Sean McVay clearly have a lot of respect for Wilson's skillset.
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"He's got a rare ability to create off-schedule," McVay said. "I think he can push the ball down the field, he's accurate in intermediate and short and you can see, he's comfortable staying in the pocket and making accurate throws and they've got some really good skill players. But, there's nothing that Russell can't do. I think he's rare and special as a leader and really as just a football player."
"The quarterback is the key," Phillips said. "He throws well from the pocket, but if anything breaks down, or if he just decides to run around and make a — instead of a three-and-a-half second pass, he makes it to six seconds, sometimes he just does that. He doesn't see what he wants, he just starts scrambling around. He's not pressured, he just starts moving around to give him more time and he's able to do that, so it causes a lot of problems defensively."
Many of the Rams' players, however, have faced Wilson a number of times and know what to expect from him.
"He can throw the ball, he can run and really do whatever," middle linebacker Alec Ogletree said. "He's definitely an elusive guy that can get outside the pocket and you would think he just likes to run the ball, but he looks to throw the ball down the field when he gets outside the pocket. It's going to take everybody sticking with their man and upfront just keeping him contained in the pocket."
"Obviously it's Russell Wilson, man — he'll beat you with his feet and get outside the pocket and make some things happen," defensive lineman Michael Brockers said. "So as long as we can contain him, make him a throwing quarterback and make him one dimensional, I think we'll be fine."
Having allowed only six points in the second half against the Cowboys, the Rams' defense is looking to continue its strong play into this week's game.
"I thought our team, defensively, has really played well under pressure in those situations — two-point plays that won games and things like that," Phillips said. "Stopping the Niners at the end of the game and then coming out the second half and playing as well as we did against Dallas. So, I think things are coming together that way, but like I say, this is one of the top offenses in the league with an elite quarterback, so it'll be a big challenge."
"We know these guys and we know what type of game this is," Ogletree said. "We have to play, we have to bring a great defense against this team. They have a very talented offense and we have an opportunity on our hands to go out and put up a good show. I think with a great week of preparation we'll definitely do that."