The St. Louis Rams have lost two of the first three games in 2012, but they have been much more competitive than they were a season ago, in which they opened the year with six straight defeats, finishing the year 2-14.
Two of those 14 losses came to division rival Seattle, the same team that comes into the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday. With the 49ers and the surprising Cardinals also in the division, the Rams find themselves in must-win mode in Week 4.
On Nov. 20, 2011, the Seahawks came into St. Louis and handed the Rams a 24-7 defeat. In that game, the Rams scored first and the Seahawks turned the ball over twice and had 13 penalties for 100 yards, yet still won by 17 points.
In the game, the key was the Seahawks slowing down the rushing attack of the Rams, holding Steven Jackson to 42 yards rushing on 15 carries. That forced Sam Bradford to try and get something going through the air, but the offensive line just couldn't protect him. The Seahawks had five sacks in the game, three of them going to defensive end Chris Clemons, who is becoming a huge force for Seattle.
Monday night against Green Bay, he brought Packers QB Aaron Rodgers down four times. The Rams will have to make sure he's kept in check, maybe by using an extra tight end or a running back to chip on him.
The teams met again just a few weeks later on Dec. 12, this time a Monday night affair from CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks were trying to make a late playoff push and the Rams really gave them no competition as the 'Hawks blocked a first quarter punt and returned it for a touchdown, never looking back.
Marshawn Lynch took over from there, rushing for 115 yards. In his two games against the Rams last season, Lynch ran for 203 yards and two touchdowns. The Rams will have to slow Lynch down this Sunday and force rookie quarterback Russell Wilson into several third and long situations.
When on offense, the Rams have to get something going on the ground themselves, either with Jackson or Daryl Richardson. Jackson was a limited participant in practice and is still listed as questionable to play with his hampered groin.
If they drop this game and go to 1-3, the Rams could start a free fall in the NFC West as both the Cardinals and 49ers have favorable matchups against the Dolphins and Jets, respectively.
This will be one of the most important games for the team all season and a home win over a division rival, who has won 13 of the last 14 meetings between the teams after a 2008 NFC Wild Card game, could turn the Rams' entire season around.