The St. Louis Rams have shown both flashes of brilliance and disappointing underachievement on both sides of the ball in their three games this season.
The somewhat surprisingly good Seattle Seahawks bring with them to St. Louis a set of formidable challenges for which the Rams will have to find answers if they want to win their first division game and push their overall record to 2-2.
I count five key things the Rams need to do to beat the Seahawks on Sunday. Let's start with the money man...
The Rams offensive line (no pun intended) was run over repeatedly and seemingly at will last week by the Chicago Bears' front four. As a result, quarterback Sam Bradford was sacked six times. Things will only get more difficult in Week 4 as the Seattle Seahawks bring with them a defense that has sacked each of their last two opposing quarterbacks eight times.
When asked how he planned to protect Sam Bradford, Rams head coach Jeff Fisher quipped, "I thought about starting (QB) Kellen Clemens, honestly.” Many Rams fans feel that same sense of impending doom.
With starting left tackle Rodger Saffold looking likely to sit out Sunday's game, all one can do is cross their fingers and hope the backups show a little—well, a lot—more cohesion than they did a week ago and that the Rams tight ends spent a lot of time on blocking in practice this week.
The Rams only ran the ball 17 times for 59 yards against the Bears in Week 3. If the Seahawks begin to suspect the Rams have abandoned the run, they will come after Sam Bradford hard and the result will not be pretty.
So please, Brian Schottenheimer, no matter how ineffective it may appear to be, for the sake of Sam Bradford's life and any hope of an ability to effectively pass the ball, continue to use the running game.
It's the first thing every NFL defense tries to do but when you're facing a team whose passing offense ranks dead last among the NFL's 32 teams—and that's including the...touchdown...that ended the Monday night game against the Packers and got us the real referees back—it becomes all the more important.
Marshawn Lynch is a beast, not the kind of RB who will be brought down by an arm tackle. If the Rams defensive tackles can keep the Seahawks off of their linebackers and those linebackers can execute sound, fundamental tackling, it will go a long way toward forcing Seattle to throw the ball.
This is exactly what Cortland Finnegan, Janoris Jenkins and the rest of the Rams defense wants.
Defensive tackle and the No. 14 overall pick in this year's draft, Michael Brockers, returned to practice today for the first time since suffering an ankle injury in the preseason. The Rams drafted him as a run-stuffer and if he can log a significant amount of minutes on Sunday, they will be in a much better position to shut down Lynch.
If they are successful at stopping or at least significantly slowing Marshawn Lynch, the Rams are going to need more of a pass rush from their defensive tackles.
The Rams defense has only four sacks on the season, all four of which have come from their starting defensive ends: Chris Long and Robert Quinn.
Kendall Langford and Jermelle Cudjo need to step it up. The boys on the ends can't do it all. Again, though he is known for his run defense, the return of Michael Brockers could work wonders here.
The Rams have yet to recover a fumble on defense. Cortland Finnegan has his share of interceptions, but aside from his three pics, the Rams defense has only two other turnovers to its credit, both interceptions (one by linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar and the other by cornerback Janoris Jenkins).
The Rams are currently +0 in turnovers, and while not terrible, it's not good enough for a playoff team, which they hope to be.