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Week 5 Preview: L.A. turns the page to Seattle for Rams vs. Seahawks Thursday Night Football showdown

Following a loss, the next opportunity to make it right always feels much further than seven days away. 

Thank goodness it's a short week.

Thursday Night Football will never win a popularity contest in NFL locker rooms. However, in 2021, it's well-placed for the Rams.

Not only do they have their assignment early in the schedule, but it's also against a division foe they've faced three times in the trailing 12 months. And Seattle was on the road last week, potentially saving its season with a win over San Francisco. 

The Rams have said all the right things since stumbling versus the Cardinals. Those words only had to carry the burden of about 72 hours. Now their play can do the talking again.

What a Win Might Mean 

As sour as the past few days have been, the upcoming mini-bye can be almost as sweet with a Thursday Night victory.

For one, that would leave Seattle with three losses, including two on their home field.

Then, while you enjoy the open weekend, either San Francisco falls to 2-3 in a three-game tailspin or Arizona takes its first loss.

Point being, the Rams have a chance to be 4-1 at their first schedule break, no worse than sole-second in the West, followed by this remaining October schedule: 

at NYG (1-3)

vs DET (0-4)

at HOU (1-3) 

I know life doesn't feel as euphoric as it did at 3-0, but the pile of teams that would love to trade places with the Rams is taller than the Space Needle. 

Lumen-aries

The rivalry with the Seahawks runs much, much deeper than just the past handful of seasons.

However, in my first-hand experience with Lumen Field (the facility formerly known as CenturyLink Stadium), every trip to the Pacific Northwest becomes saturated with significance.

Briefly, in reverse chronology… 

January 2021: Rams earn a Wild Card win with a dominant defensive performance. 

December 2020: A painful and fateful loss for Jared Goff, in what would prove to be his final regular season start with the Rams. Seattle recaptures the West crown.

October 2019: Greg Zuerlein misses a potential game-winning 44-yard field goal, also a Week Five TNF affair. Though that kick was unfairly identified as the reason, the Rams did eventually miss the playoffs at 9-7. 

October 2018: Also a Week Five showdown. Goff's fourth down sneak behind a surging Rams offensive line paves the way to an 8-0 start in what would eventually become an NFC Championship season. 

December 2017: Todd Gurley runs amok, drawing the Legion of Boom era to a close and all-but-taking the NFC West torch from the Seahawks in the process.

The New Normal 

It does feel as if the Rams awake to a different reality this week – one in which Kyler Murray has matured into Arizona's franchise quarterback.

In this modern NFC West universe, all the opposing signal-callers are nightmarishly mobile. 

Murray's Week Four form exceeded even that of peak Russell Wilson for me.

 And as far as the Rams are concerned, they may never see Jimmy Garoppolo again. While the 49ers await more details on his calf injury, the Trey Lance era may be upon us – or certainly could be a month from now when the first meeting with San Francisco is scheduled.

That would mean that six of the Rams guaranteed 17 games each season are against a dual-threat trio. 

"Those players are going to create unscheduled moments," Rams general manager Les Snead said on the Coach McVay Show this week. "You want to contain them… keep those moments to as few as possible, and then overcome those moments when they do happen."

No Picks in Pacific Northwest

Here's the list of quarterbacks who've started every game this season but have yet to throw an interception: Teddy Bridgewater (111 attempts) and Russell Wilson (109 attempts).

What's more? The Seattle defense has only registered one interception, last week against Garoppolo. Only the Falcons and Jets have fewer across the NFL.

Williams On His Way

I mention that only to tee up Darious Williams, who made a name for himself against the Seahawks in 2020.

He had ginormous interceptions at Philadelphia and versus New York earlier in the season, but Williams "arrived" with two picks of Wilson in Week 10 at SoFi Stadium, and may have had the most consequential play of the entire season, scoring in a postseason game off a 42-yard interception return in the Wild Card triumph.

We haven't heard much from the fourth-year corner yet this fall. Perhaps Thursday is the night he makes his presence felt against the Seahawks again.

Kicking streaks snapped for both PKs

All good things must come to an end, and in the case of this kicking matchup, a couple of wonderful streaks have been snapped in recent weeks.

Two weeks ago, Jason Myers of the Seahawks – who connected from 61 yards at SoFi Stadium last year – saw his streak of 37 made field goals in a row broken at Minnesota.

On Sunday in Inglewood, Matt Gay of the Rams had drilled 21 field goals in a row before pushing one wide right from 46 yards versus Arizona.

The Money Down

As it pertains to this game, third down might be the one to watch, because it's been the anomaly of the Seahawks season.

Despite what you may have heard, Seattle's offense is terrific. They are top-10 in EPA, and top-five in DVOA.

However, on third down they’re a disaster, and Pete Carroll hasn't quite put his finger on why that is. Meantime, you know the Rams defense just allowed Kyler Murray to sling-and-scamper his way to 8-of-13 on third down against them – so this is all extremely pertinent.

Conversely, on defense, the Seahawks held San Francisco to 2-of-14 on third down in Week Four, with third safety Ryan Neal featuring prominently in those sub-packages. His impact against the Rams three-receiver formations will be interesting to monitor on the money downs, especially given that Seattle remains unsettled at corner with Sidney Jones supplanting Tre Flowers, only to surrender a couple 49er touchdowns.

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