Los Angeles quarterback Jared Goff had three turnovers against Seattle — two interceptions and a fumble. A key was constant pressure by a Seattle defensive front that played one of its better games. Can they do it again?
Get after Goff
Seattle won the first game in Los Angeles largely due to forcing five turnovers, including Earl Thomas’ chop of Todd Gurley at the goal line that forced a fumble and touchback and at the moment remains the Seahawks’ biggest play of the year. The Rams haven’t had more than two turnovers in any other game this season. Los Angeles quarterback Jared Goff had three turnovers against Seattle — two interceptions and a fumble. That is the only time all season he has thrown two picks. He has just four interceptions in his other 12 games.
A key was constant pressure by a Seattle defensive front that played one of its better games with both Michael Bennett and Frank Clark getting sacks. Seattle needs to get that same kind of pressure on Goff, who while having a breakout season is still in his second year and hasn’t played in a game of this magnitude (though it’s worth noting that the Rams are 5-1 on the road, including victories at Dallas and Jacksonville).
The Seahawks, though, are coming off one of their worst pass-rushing games of the season with no sacks and just one quarterback hit last Sunday against the Jaguars. Bennett, who turned 32 last month and is playing with some nagging foot and knee issues, has just one sack in the past five games.
“We just need to make sure we are doing a better job of rushing on the edges,’’ Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard said this week. “That is the whole point. … We need to make sure we are being consistent and taking edges and utilizing good technique.”
The other key to the victory over the Ram was holding down Los Angeles standout running back Todd Gurley, who averages 125 yards from scrimmage per game but had just 50 (43 rushing and 7 receiving) against Seattle. Bobby Wagner was a key part of that effort, and if he is out or not 100 percent Sunday, then the equation changes greatly. Regardless, Seattle knows that containing Gurley and putting more of the game on the arm of Goff is the key.
Gurley, a third-year vet out of Georgia who was the top player on the Seahawks’ draft board in 2015, has 1,035 rushing yards and 602 receiving yards, the latter already more than he had in his first two seasons combined.
“(He) is truly the centerpiece of this offense and really the football team, as you look at them,’’ Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “He is just such a great player, so dynamic and so consistent and he can do everything. That is the focal point — can’t help it. It isn’t that he overshadows anybody else, he is just that good and I’ve really marveled at his consistency because he carries the ball all the time and catches the ball all the time and just keeps coming back and plays tough throughout. It’s a big chore, and we are going to have to tackle really well. We are going to have to make plays in coverage on him, and he is going to get the football a bunch. I know (Rams coach) Sean (McVay) has talked about that too. He wants to get him the football more, so I can see why.”
Find an edge on special teams
The Rams year after year field some of the best special teams in the NFL, and this year is no exception despite the change in head coaches (first-year coach McVay kept longtime special -teams coach John Fassel aboard after taking over). The Rams have blocked three punts this season — two more than anyone else in the NFL — and also rank among the leaders in basically every other special-teams category, be it punting, field-goal kicking, returning or coverage.
Punter Johnny Hekker, a Bothell High grad, remains among the best in the NFL as the Rams are second in the NFL with a net punting average of 46.3 yards, while kicker Greg Zuerlein is second in the NFL in field-goal percentage at 94.7 having made 36 of 38 (though one of his misses was a 36-yarder in the game against Seattle that proved pivotal).
And returner Pharoh Cooper is as good as any in the NFL, leading the league in kickoff-return average at 28.3 yards and standing fourth in punt-return average at 11.9. Seattle, meanwhile, gave up a game-breaking 72-yard punt return to former Husky Jaydon Mickens against Jacksonville last Sunday.
“It’s just a well-oiled group, and they really challenge us,’’ Carroll said.