Rams-Seahawks rivalry resumes with new venue, higher stakes – Press Enterprise
The Seattle Seahawks are not the Rams’ most natural, historic or storied rivals. Candidates for that honor begin with the San Francisco 49ers.
But the Seahawks might be the best rivals for the current Rams and their fans. It has familiar characters, led by pass rusher Aaron Donald and quarterback Russell Wilson. It has new adversaries, like cornerback Jalen Ramsey and wide receiver DK Metcalf.
And Sunday, when the teams bring their twice-a-year series to SoFi Stadium for the first time, they could have more at stake than in any game since Pete Carroll left USC to become the Seahawks’ coach in 2010.
If the Rams (5-3) have their way against the Seahawks (6-2), there will be a change at the top of the NFC West standings, resetting the plot for the playoff drive as the second half of the season gets underway.
That’s one reason there was a palpable change in energy level at the Rams’ training facility in Thousand Oaks this week, along with the fact players and coaches just enjoyed a week off.
“To be able to come out of this bye week against a division opponent that’s currently first in the division is an incredible opportunity for us,” said Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp, a Washington state native who grew up a Seahawks fan. “Guys are champing at the bit, ready to get back in here and get after it.”
The Rams have won four of six games against Seattle since Sean McVay, 34, became the Rams’ coach and began a generational rivalry with Carroll, 69.
With the exception of a 42-7 Rams road win that protected first place in Week 15 in 2017, every game has been dramatic. There were late defensive stands by Seattle earlier in 2017 and the Rams in 2018. There was quarterback Jared Goff’s fourth-down sneak to secure a Rams win in 2018, and Todd Gurley’s stiff-arm touchdown to put away the win in December. There was Greg Zuerlein’s agonizing, last-minute field-goal miss in the first meeting in 2019, a turning point in the Rams’ season.
“It’s always a good game and always exciting,” Goff said this week.
Sunday’s game will be the 13th featuring Donald and Wilson. Donald has sacked Wilson 12 times, more than any other quarterback, eight times in their past five meetings. It’s a friendly, respectful personal rivalry.
What’s different this time is the newly intense confrontation between the Rams’ defense, the NFC’s best in the season’s first half, and the Seahawks’ offense, the league’s highest-scoring unit.
It gets down to individuals: The Seahawks will bring the strongest offense yet faced by first-year Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley. Metcalf, Seattle’s second-year wide receiver and total offense leader, will be a 6-foot-4, 219-pound handful for Ramsey, the Rams’ star cornerback, and the secondary.
The combination of the mobile Wilson and receivers Metcalf and Tyler Lockett puts extra pressure on the defensive backs.
“We have to cover guys for longer than you normally would, because when he (Wilson) scrambles, his receivers are on the same page as him and can go into another realm, kind of make up routes and make it like backyard football,” said Ramsey, who has one interception in two games against Wilson.
On offense, the Rams have to bounce back from the Week 8 loss at Miami in which Goff was pressured into two interceptions and two fumbles in the first half.
Seattle’s defense has been as bad as its offense is good, but it might be stabilized by the addition of two-time Pro Bowl edge rusher Carlos Dunlap by trade and the activation of All-Pro safety Jamal Adams from the injured list.
The Rams start an eight-game stretch with five against division opponents Seattle, Arizona (5-3) and San Francisco (4-5), plus next week’s Monday night game at Tampa Bay (6-3). Right now they’re tied with Arizona for the last two NFC playoff spots.
If they beat Seattle, the Rams will match the Seahawks’ record at 6-3 and move ahead of them on the head-to-head tiebreaker. Or, if Arizona beats Buffalo, the Cardinals could vault into first place by virtue of a better record in games within the division.
Is it too early to talk about the playoff race? Yes and no.
“Everything we want from the season is in front of us,” Rams tight end Tyler Higbee said this week. “We’ve got our division games coming up, most of them still to play. It’s going to be a dog fight.”
What they want is right in front of them, Donald said. A game for which the Rams are rested, with a lot at stake. Against an opponent that needs no extra hype.
“It starts this week,” Donald said. “We’re worried about this week right now. We’re prepared, we’re ready, we’re fresh, everybody’s healthy. So it’s going to be a good day for us.”