Rams Face Seattle in Key Game After Bye Week
November 12, 2020
The bye Week was a charm for the Los Angeles Rams. One week ago they were suffering after having lost to a Miami Dolphins team that had no business being in the game, yet managed to beat the Rams, 28-17, while generating only 145 total yards of offense. Los Angeles (5-3) was two games down in the lost column to the NFC West-leading Seattle Seahawks (6-1) and one game behind the second-place Arizona Cardinals (5-2).
Suddenly, as the Rams prepare to host the Seahawks at SoFi Stadium this Sunday at 1:25 p.m., the NFC West is up for grabs. Seattle's defense got worked by the Buffalo Bills, 44-34, in Week 9 and the Arizona lost at home as the Dolphins rallied for 10 points in the fourth quarter to eke out a 34-31 victory. The Division that was touted as the NFL's best in the early season is coming back to the fold... and the Rams are the beneficiaries with their fate back in their hands.
"It's about showing up, winning these games," said Rams head coach Sean McVay reiterating the point. "Really, it's simple, but it really is the approach we're taking... I certainly wasn't upset to see those teams not come away with wins. I'll say this, if we handle our business, you don't have to get into the business of watching other teams."
The Rams' once-tough schedule for the final eight games of the 2020 regular season was also lightened when the San Francisco 49ers announced last week that starting quarterback Jimmy Garappolo (ankle) and tight end George Kittle (foot) are out with injuries. Back to reality: Following the Seahawks contest, the Rams visit Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for Monday Night Football on November 23. The weakened Niners visit SoFi on November 29.
The Arizona Cardinals and quarterback Kyler Murray host the Rams for their first season encounter on December 6. Next, the Rams play two winnable games at SoFi Stadium for consecutive weeks, both are must wins for the Rams to take advantage of the situation. The challenged New England Patriots and head coach Bill Belichick arrive in town for a Thursday Night clash on December 10, followed by the worst NFL team in quite some time, the New York Jets on December 20.
The Rams wrap up the regular season schedule at Seattle on December 17 and Arizona at SoFi for the closer on January 3. The minimum of a 5-3 record for the remainder of the season will put the Rams into the Playoffs. But if the Rams want to increase their odds in the postseason, they are going to have to win the NFC West to get home-field advantage early in the Playoffs.
The team has settled into SoFi Stadium in a very comfortable way... meaning on the scoreboard while displaying a defensive posture that has locked down all three wins at their new home. On the road, the usually reliable McVay Ram teams over the past three seasons suddenly have a losing record. They are 2-3 away from L.A., although two of the losses could easily have had different results. They lost on a late penalty flag at Buffalo and offensively they could not put the ball in the end zone against Miami despite racking up 471 total offensive yards.
"From the Dolphin's game, we talked about it a lot, being able to just handle the pressure and that's exclusively what it was," said McVay. "We've got to just be more efficient. We've got to come away with points when we get our drives and then especially when we get in the red area, we've got to make sure we're coming away with points. You can't turn the football over. You've got to finish as many drives as possible with touchdowns."
The pressure is on quarterback Jared Goff and the offense to put up the points against Seattle on Sunday. The Seahawk defense has been notable in their deficiency during the first half of this season. Among many lasts in the league, they have yielded an incredible 455.8 yards per game. 362.1 yards have come through the passing game against their secondary. They are third worse in points allowed with 30.4 per game.
In contrast, the Rams are sixth overall in offensive yards with 396.4 per game. They are seventh in rushing with 137.8 yards gained per game and 13th in passing per game with 258.6 yards. But on the scoreboard, Goff has failed to generate the kind of points Rams fans grew accustomed to during McVay's first two years at the helm. They are currently tied for 23rd in points per game. The offense is clearly failing in efficiency and execution based on their elevated yardage numbers. The bottom line: can Goff handle the pressure in the pocket?
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson is always a factor in trying to defeat the Seahawks regardless of the venue. He's ranked second behind Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in NFL QB rating at 117.1 this season but is at the top of the list when it comes to leadership. He is having his best season ever for pass completions with a 71.04 percentage. He has 28 touchdown passes and only eight interceptions. Yet, he is fourth in being sacked 24 times, something the Rams defense hopes to exploit.
"He can make you pay in so many different ways, whether it's with his mind, with his legs, with his arm. He's playing the position at such a high level right now and he's progressing through things," said McVay. "I think he's getting more opportunities to make you pay where they're throwing it a little bit more than they have in previous years on the early downs, I think that's reflected in the offensive success that they've had."