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RamView: Week 12 Preview

RamView, November 22, 2009
From Row HH
(Report and opinions on and from the game.)
Game #10: Arizona 21, Rams 13

* Who’s next?: When we last left the Seattle Seahawks, they had just crushed the Rams 35-0 for their NINTH straight win in that series. They looked like they were back on their way to the top of the NFC West after that resounding Opening Day victory. Well, that didn’t last long. They’ve only won twice since, and one of those was pretty much handed to them by the Lions. Seattle’s Exhibit A against judging a football team based on one week.

The injury bug’s more contagious in Seattle this year than H1N1. The offensive line has struggled all year  with injuries and consistency, especially at left tackle, which has been manned by four different players, now by Sean Locklear, just back from a week 2 ankle injury. So Matt Hasselbeck’s been taking a real beating. He’s played this year with broken ribs and played against Minnesota today despite a dirty shot to the throat from Darnell Dockett last week. Hasselbeck deserves tribute for putting up decent numbers despite that, but he was also a big part of Seattle’s red zone problems in their loss to Arizona. Seattle’s running game has been mostly terrible. Julius Jones only averages 3.7 a carry because he got to play the Rams once. Really. He’s averaged just 3.1 since week 1. The problem for the Rams next week is more likely to be Justin Forsett, a Maurice Jones-Drew-lite averaging 7 yards a touch, hard to find as a rusher and dangerous on screen passes. Seattle’s veteran receivers have kept Hasselbeck’s season from looking a lot more like Marc Bulger’s. T.J. Houshmandzadeh has had big games recently after a slow start. And the Rams know firsthand the damage Nate Burleson and TE John Carlson can do. Seattle is one of just three teams that throws over 40 times a game, and with their ragtag o-line, Hasselbeck should see plenty of pressure if any Ram up front wants to step up and provide some. The ultimate difference-maker, though, may be the Rams keeping coverage breakdowns to an acceptable minimum, which Seattle’s deep receiving squad will make difficult.

Injuries haven’t left Seattle’s defense alone, either. MLB Lofa Tatupu’s season ended very early. Both starting corners suffered concussions in Arizona. Marcus Trufant got his concussion in just his third week back from a back injury inflicted in July. Without their shutdown corner, Seattle’s defensive stats bear the hallmark of a team playing to take away the deep ball. Their 66.1% completion rate against is one of the worst in the league. But before today, they’d allowed only one completion over 40 yards and were tied for 6th in the league for completions allowed over 20 yards. They can leave their safeties back because, unlike the Rams, they’re good up front against the run: 10th in the league at 105 yards per game. Brandon Mebane is a solid anchor at DT. David Hawthorne has filled in capably for Tatupu and is flanked by a lot of LB talent in rookie Aaron Curry (42 tkl) and Ram-killer Leroy Hill. The good news for whoever’s QBing next week is that Seattle hasn’t been creating much pass pressure with their 4-man rush lately, either. Another Ram-killer, Darryl Tapp, has just one sack this season. If the Rams control the edge rush, they’ll force Seattle to blitz, and big plays may result, as long as they execute and pick those blitzes up.

On October 10, 1999, the Ram franchise got a huge monkey off its back with a victory over the 49ers, their first win over San Francisco in nine years, ending a colossal, demoralizing losing streak. With the great weight lifted, the Rams charged ahead to the greatest season in team history. The Rams aren’t going to the Super Bowl if they beat Seattle Sunday. But Seahawks are the albatross around the Rams’ necks now. They can kill three birds with one stone with a win: the Seattle losing streak, the NFC West losing streak, the home stadium losing streak. Birds, albatrosses, or seahawks, Steve Spagnuolo better be sure his team knows next week is hunting season.

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