The Los Angeles Rams will be looking to bounce back from their first loss of the 2019 NFL season with a crucial NFC West matchup with the Seattle Seahawks in Week 5 on Thursday Night Football.
Rams Offense vs. Seahawks Defense
The Rams underwhelming start to the season finally resulted in a loss as they continue to struggle with establishing an identity on offense. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took an early lead in Week 4 and essentially forced them to abandon the run early while they played catch-up with quarterback Jared Goff’s arm.
Despite a career day from Goff, it was hardly a performance to hang his hat on after throwing three interceptions. Regardless, they can at least take solace in the fact that they are completely healthy on this side of the ball heading to Seattle.
The Seahawks were able to welcome back the other half of their new edge rush duo in Ziggy Ansah last week against the Arizona Cardinals and he managed to contribute to the four total sacks on quarterback Kyler Murray. Given the lackluster protection the Rams have given Goff in recent weeks, it is safe to say Ansah and Jadeveon Clowney are more than capable of generating pressure.
Rams Defense vs. Seahawks Offense
The defense had largely been the strength of this team up until they were exposed by the volatile Bucs offense in Week 4. Although the 55 points they put up can be somewhat attributed to the turnovers on offense, it was evident that they were struggling to defend both the run and the pass.
To make matters worse, the Rams had three defensive starters on the injury report this week. Linebacker Bryce Hager and safety Taylor Rapp have not been able to log in any practice time while dealing with shoulder and ankle injuries, respectively. Fortunately, cornerback Marcus Peters has been a full participant after taking that devastating hit to the helmet during his pick-six against Tampa Bay.
The Seahawks offense is coming off a promising showing against the Cardinals and quarterback Russell Wilson is optimistic that this group is finally starting to hit its stride. Despite their run-heavy approach, Wilson still serves as the central force behind their approach. It is safe to assume they will be hoping to take an early lead that way they can chew up the clock behind running back Chris Carson while keeping the Rams offense off the field.
Three Keys To Victory
1. Feed Todd Gurley
Gurley’s limited role in the offense has been one of the biggest stories of the 2019 campaign thus far, however, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll interestingly pointed out earlier this week that the All-Pro back is still garnering two-thirds of the touches out of the backfield. This means that his lack of involvement is largely due to the pass-heavy approach of the offense as opposed to the unknown nature of his mysterious knee issue.
Regardless, Carroll’s comments indicate that the Rams could be poised to establish a strong run game starting this week against the Seahawks. Unlike in year’s past, they have struggled to get any rhythm going on offense and the only notable factor that has changed is their hesitance to feed Gurley the ball.
There is no question that Los Angeles may very well be taking a cautious approach with his workload this season. Regardless, they will still need to prove that he is more than capable of serving as the focal point of the offense when they need him to. Otherwise, they could risk failing to find the balance that made them such a high-scoring offense under the McVay era.
2. Contain Russell Wilson
Wilson’s numbers may not be as flashy as some of the other elite quarterbacks in the league but his play under center more than makes up for it. As the ringleader of this offense, he is responsible for keeping the defense on their toes while the Seahawks try to dominate the line of scrimmage for their run game.
Wilson is at his best when he is forced to extend the play and he is capable of making the defense pay either with his legs or by finding an open receiver downfield. Despite being undersized, his elusiveness makes him difficult to bring down, especially in the open field.
The Rams’ pass rush allowed quarterback Jameis Winston to feel relatively comfortable in the pocket and he took full advantage with his best game of the year. Wilson will find a way to do the same thing if they allow him to find his rhythm.
3. Avoid Costly Mistakes in Seattle
Playing in Seattle obviously comes with its fair share of challenges considering it is one of the loudest stadiums in the league. Although Los Angeles had the benefit of being able to bounce back from their mistakes to a stunned home crowd at in Week 4, they will not be granted this same luxury in Week 5.
The Rams will need to do whatever they can to ensure that the Seahawks fans are not given too much to cheer about early on. They have been notoriously slow starters this season and are now facing one of the few teams that can put them away early on if they are not up to the task.
It is no secret that the offense is currently a far cry from what it was last year. Unfortunately, this leaves a smaller room for error when it comes to defense and special teams. A divisional matchup such as this could very well come down to which team is able to make less costly mistakes.