Improved Rams Face A Tall Order In Trying To Stop Seahawks
By Chris Cluff
The Seahawks have been flying in a stratosphere all their own the last three weeks. Sure, the Denver Broncos have won 10 straight and the Washington Redskins have claimed six in a row, but the Hawks have their own four-game win streak, which includes a nearly unprecedented 150 points over the last three.
So, St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher knows what his team is up against. This is not the Seattle club his Rams beat 19-13 back in Week 4.
“First of all, I can’t remember a team that’s averaging 50 points a game over three consecutive weeks, so that’s impressive,” Fisher told reporters this week. “And you’re talking about a team that’s won six out of their last seven. They’re younger players are getting better and better. It starts with the quarterback.”
In the first game, the Rams picked off three of Russell Wilson’s passes, but the rookie has thrown 21 touchdown passes and just six interceptions since then.
Marshawn Lynch ran for 118 yards and a TD on 20 carries in the first meeting. He has hit 100 yards seven times since then, including the last three weeks, and the Hawks are cruising on offense.
Fisher knows Pete Carroll won’t let up and play backups, since the Hawks have an outside shot at winning the division and even claiming the No. 2 seed in the playoffs.
But the Hawks certainly cannot overlook Fisher’s squad.
Fisher — who has long been one of the top five coaches in the league and might be second only to Bill Belichick these days — has the Rams on the rise in his first season.
Fisher and his staff completely outcoached Carroll and his guys in the first meeting. And the Rams have won four of their last five and can finish with an undefeated record in the NFC West if they knock off the favored Seahawks.
The Rams (7-7-1) have taken the 49ers to overtime twice, tying them and beating them. And they are aiming for their first winning season since 2003.
“That’s what we have left to play for,” Fisher said. “And so, certainly that’s going to be the topic of conversation. That’s easier said than done, clearly with the way the Seahawks are playing. But from our team standpoint and our season standpoint, I think we’ve done enough to be able to move into the offseason optimistically and continue to improve this football team.
“They have learned some difficult lessons – how to win on the road, how to manage a game, how to stay ahead, and how to get a lead in the fourth quarter on the road and win. So there’s a lot to learn, and there’s a lot ahead of us. And obviously this is our final challenge of the year.”
The Rams won the first game on special teams as rookie Greg Zuerlein kicked four field goals, including a 60-yarder, and pulled off a fake field goal for a touchdown. The Seattle special teams is much improved since then and has been a big part of the blowouts over the last three games.
So, it comes down to the Rams moving the ball and scoring. But can they do it with their patchwork line?
Quarterback Sam Bradford had been sacked in 30 straight games until last week, when he somehow escaped unscathed despite not having right guard Harvey Dahl (torn biceps).
If the Rams can get Steven Jackson going, it would help. The league’s most senior starting running back is 11 yards short of hitting 1,000 for the eighth straight year.
Although Fisher told reporters he would like the 29-year-old to finish his career in St. Louis, the fact is this could be his final game with the Rams.
The Rams will need to get some points out of their offense if they are going to have a chance. But can they do that against the league’s No. 1 scoring defense, which fortuitously retains the services of star cornerback Richard Sherman?
Fisher’s Rams have their hands full this time, and not even a fake field goal is likely to save them.
“They’re healthy. They’re playing hard. And they’re making plays in all three phases,” Fisher said. “It’s an improved team that’s playing with a great deal of confidence and emotion and that’s on a mission.”
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Chris Cluff worked as a sports editor and writer for The Seattle Times for 11 years and has written two books on the Seattle Seahawks. Since leaving the Times, he has written about the Seahawks and Seattle sports for Bleacher Report and the blog he shares with a fellow sportswriter, outsidethepressbox.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com.