Wrapping up Week 8 of the NFL 2013, the Seattle Seahawks (6-1) are in St. Louis to face the Rams (3-4) on Monday Night Football. The Seahawks are arguably the best team in the league at this point, with a +7 turnover ratio and 20 touchdowns on the season. The Rams have had to make adjustments at the quarterback position after Sam Bradford went out last week with a torn ACL. They have 17 touchdowns and a +3 turnover ratio.
Seahawks are first in the NFC West after defeating the Cardinals (34-22) in Arizona. Rams are tied for third in the same division with the Cardinals after their loss to the Panthers last week (30-15).
The Rams have been excellent on ball protection with Bradford throwing only four interceptions in seven weeks. Backup Clemens will get his first start since 2011, and he is known for protecting the ball. He has only two interceptions. Ball control will be one of the keys to winning against the Seahawks.
Another key point will be the Rams run defense against ‘Hawks’ running back Marshawn Lynch. Lynch is second in the NFL on yards with 578 yards on the ground. He is also second in scoring with six touchdowns. The Rams have dealt with talented rushers before, but Lynch seems to do rather well against them. In two games last season, Lynch had a total 38 carries for 218 yards and a touchdown.
This year, Lynch has three consecutive 100+ yard rushing games and keeping him under control will take more than one-on-one coverage. Rams’ middle linebacker James Laurinaitis says, ”He’s the toughest guy to tackle.”
Seahawks special teams will be on their toes against the Rams as well. They were fooled by a fake field goal that became a touchdown pass from two yards out from punter Johnny Hekker to Danny Amendola, the ‘Hawks plan to be ready for whatever Coach Jeff Fisher decides to throw at them this time. Besides the trick play, kicker Greg Zuerlein nailed field goals from 48, 58, and 60 yards to help the Rams win 19-13.
With Sam Bradford out for the season, the Rams are among several teams who have had to turn to a backup quarterback to continue. In this case, Kellen Clemens is the go-to guy. Clemens has been in the league since 2006 when he was picked in the second round of the draft by the New York Jets. He joined the Rams in 2011 and has 198 of 382 passes.
The Seahawks know Bradford inside and out, as they have played him six times in the last three years. The D-line is very familiar with his quirks, as they have intercepted him in each of those six games, sacked him 17 times and held him to -200 passing yards in half of those games. In last years’ loss, Bradford had no passing touchdowns.
So how do they prepare for Clemens? ‘Hawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn filled the same role with the Jets from 2007-2008. Clemens had seven of his starts there while Quinn was on staff. “He’s tough, competitive and smart,” Quinn says of Clemens. He adds that Clemens is also “a little bit of a gunslinger” when it comes to his style of play. So the Seahawks have some insight into what to expect from Clemens that does not come from tape or paper.
Quinn also worked with Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who also relocated to the rams from the Jets, and Clemens has spent seven years under his tutelage. Familiarity aside, understanding the mind of Fisher and his unique approach will be crucial for a Seahawks’ victory.
On paper, they have very little to worry about. The Seahawks are ranked second in defensive interceptions (11), yards allowed (190.6) and opponents’ QBR (66.1) so all they have to do is what they have been doing: play damn good football.
The Rams have speed on their side in their receiving unit. Tavon Austin, in his rookie year, has 29 receptions for 198 yards and two touchdowns. Behind him is Austin Pettis with 25 catches for 251 yards, averaging 10 yards per carry with four touchdowns. To round out the core, Chris Givens has 18 receptions for 295 yards and he averages 16.4 yards per carry.
The Seahawks defensive line and secondary will have to keep tabs on these three because Clemens is known for his deep passes. With these receivers at his disposal, he could pick and choose his way through the ‘Hawks’ with devastating effect.
When the Rams go into the second half ahead or tied, they have a 3-0 record. They have to score fast and keep scoring. Against the Seahawks 2nd -ranked defense, Clemens will be pressed hard for the entire game. If the offensive line cannot hold, Clemens will become a victim of the ‘Hawks’ Legion of Boom. The Legion is also ranked third in scoring and allowed only five first half touchdowns over seven games.
Clemens himself stated he is not the quarterback Bradford is, but he is not a player who quits for any reason. Both teams pose challenges to the other but with the Seahawks riding a wave of success and the Rams’ quarterback setback, we have to give this one to the ‘Hawks.
By: Brandi Tasby