Seahawks vs. Rams: What's the Game Plan for St. Louis?

Steven Gerwel@Steve_GerFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 12, 2015

Seattle Seahawks running back Robert Turbin (22) rushes as St. Louis Rams' Chris Long (91) and Janoris Jenkins (21) pursue, in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

The St. Louis Rams will take on the Seattle Seahawks this Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome. The game kicks off at 1 p.m. ET. 

During the Jeff Fisher era, the Rams have had decent success against the Seahawks in St. Louis, with an admirable 2-1 home record against Seattle over the past three years. Still, those contests were not easily won. 

When the Rams won in 2012, it was just the fourth career start for Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. It took three interceptions by the rookie quarterback for the Rams to secure a minor six-point victory. In 2014, the Rams stunned Seattle with two remarkable special teams trick plays, including a Stedman Bailey punt-return touchdown, yet St. Louis managed just a two-point win. 

That's not to say those wins don't deserve credit. Both were hard-fought quality wins against a fierce opponent. But given the narrow margin of victory in both games, it's clear the Rams will need a solid game plan to overcome Seattle in 2015. 

Here's what the Rams should focus on in all three phases: 

A Bold Aerial Attack Will Fire Up the Offense

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For the St. Louis offense to have success, it will have to expose the weaknesses of the Seattle defense. Unfortunately, the Seahawks have few soft spots. 

The front seven of the Seattle defense will be stingy, as usual. The Seahawks finished with the No. 3 run defense last season and allowed just 81.5 rushing yards per game. The Rams are leaning toward a run-first offense, but it'll be tough to establish that new look right out of the gate, especially with Todd Gurley on the sidelines and three first-year starters on the offensive line. 

According to the ESPN.com injury report, running back Tre Mason is also questionable for the game with a hamstring injury, which will further hinder the run game.

The Rams will have to lean on the veterans of the offense—Nick Foles, Brian Quick, Kenny Britt, Jared Cook, Lance Kendricks—who all happen to be part of the passing game. 

The Seattle pass defense has Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and a pass rush that finished with 37 sacks last year—just three fewer than St. Louis' total of 40—but the absence of no-show safety Kam Chancellor will create opportunities for the Rams offense. 

Chancellor is the leader of the defense and perhaps the most intimidating force among the defensive backs. Without him, the "Legion of Boom" simply ceases to exist.

That's not to say his absence automatically sets Foles up for a Peyton Manning-like stat line, but it could result in one or two extra big plays through the air. In a game that's destined to be a defensive battle, that could make all the difference.  

After Foles completes a few passes and finds a rhythm, the Rams need to test the Seattle secondary with a few bombs. 

Chris Givens had an excellent preseason and secured touchdown receptions of 44 and 80 yards. He seems to be in good form, so expect St. Louis to send him deep several times throughout the game. 

If Givens can outmaneuver Seattle safety Dion Bailey, and if Foles can connect, it could give the Rams the points they'll desperately need in this game.

Defense Can Dominate by Sacking Wilson and Stuffing the Run

Scott Eklund/Associated Press

The only real game plan for the St. Louis defense is to do what it was built to do—sack the quarterback and shut down the run. 

The former will be slightly more challenging with a mobile Wilson under center. The Rams were able to sack Wilson six times in two games last season, but he made up for it by scrambling for 113 rushing yards, including 106 yards in Week 7.

That's why the linebackers will be especially important in this game. The defensive line proved last season that it's capable of sacking Wilson, but the linebackers will have to contain him and make sure he doesn't slip free. Alec Ogletree and Akeem Ayers need to be disciplined by staying home and resisting the urge to pursue. 

If the front seven can overcome Wilson with containment and excellent pressure, the next step is shutting down Marshawn Lynch. To do that, the defense will have to withstand his physicality. 

The Rams brought in Ayers in free agency because he's a bulky 255-pound backer who can stuff the run better than Jo-Lonn Dunbar. Facing Lynch in Week 1 will be an early opportunity for him to prove his worth. 

Additionally, T.J. McDonald will play a major role in stopping Lynch. Since last season, he has been a heat-seeking missile in run support. The front seven should have no problem slowing Lynch down, but the Rams need McDonald flying toward the line of scrimmage on every play to finish the job. 

If the Rams rattle Wilson all day and withstand Lynch's bruising style of play, the Seattle offense will be helpless. 

Special Teams Play Must Shine Without the Trickery

Last season, Stedman Bailey's 86-yard punt-return touchdown on a trick play made every single highlight reel. Seattle's special teams unit looked absolutely foolish in that game. 

Needless to say, Pete Carroll will not allow a similar debacle. His team will be on full alert for Fisher's usual trickery, and the Seahawks won't be fooled twice. 

Still, the Rams can obtain the special teams advantage without trickery and flashy plays. If the Rams play good, fundamental football on every special teams play, that should be enough to gain an edge. 

Avoiding fumbles and penalties on returns is absolutely vital. Additionally, kicker Greg Zuerlein has to be on the money. It will presumably be a low-scoring affair, so any given field goal could ultimately be the difference. The Rams cannot afford any Zuerlein misses. 

On top of that, St. Louis needs Johnny Hekker to maintain his Pro Bowl-caliber play with excellent punts. Field position will mean everything in this game, so Hekker will play a huge role. 

Disciplined play and reliable kicking is not as exciting as trick plays, but it's what the Rams need to win this game. 

Key Players and Matchups

Chris Givens vs. Dion Bailey

As mentioned, Givens was on fire during the preseason. Bailey, a first-year starter filling in for Chancellor, will have his hands full. 

Givens really broke out as a deep-ball threat during his rookie year in 2012. That year, he had a reception of 50 or more yards in five straight games. He was phased out of the offense last season and finished with just 159 total yards—likely due to his inability to excel with short and intermediate routes. 

However, after his excellent preseason, it's hard to imagine the Rams—a team starving for offensive playmakers—won't find a bigger role for him. 

Drew Nowak vs. Aaron Donald

With Pro Bowler Max Unger gone as Seattle's center, former practice-squad member Drew Nowak will step up and attempt to fill his shoes. 

Unfortunately for Nowak, who began his career as a defensive lineman and failed to make the 53-man roster last year, his first challenge will be quite overwhelming. He'll be facing Aaron Donald, who is undoubtedly one of the most ferocious defensive tackles in football. 

If Nowak doesn't settle in quickly, it's going to be a long day for Wilson.

Rob Havenstein vs. Michael Bennett

The Rams used a second-round draft pick on Wisconsin tackle Rob Havenstein. Havenstein was drafted to beef up St. Louis' run blocking, but he'll have a tough time making a difference in Week 1. 

Havenstein will line up directly across from Seattle's Michael Bennett, who is easily the Seahawks' most versatile and disruptive defensive lineman. 

Bennett provided excellent run support for Seattle last season, but he also got it done as a pass-rusher with 8.5 sacks. If Havenstein can't overcome his rookie jitters, the St. Louis run game will be in big trouble. 

Steven Gerwel is the longest-tenured Rams Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report and serves as the Rams' 2015 game-day correspondent. You can find more of Gerwel's work by visiting his writer profile or following him on Twitter.

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