Five things to watch: Rams-Seahawks

December, 10, 2011
12/10/11
3:08
PM ET
There was almost no way, it seemed, for the St. Louis Rams to be this bad.

The schedule suggested they might struggle early in the season. No one could have known that they would have only 11 offensive touchdowns and two victories through 12 games, or that they would allow more rushing yards than any team in the NFL.

These were the preseason NFC West favorites.

The postmortem on this lost Rams season can wait a little longer. There's football to play in the interim, beginning with the Rams and 5-7 Seattle Seahawks coming to "Monday Night Football" in Week 14.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Lloyd
Scott Rovak/US PresswireLook for Rams WR Brandon Lloyd to come away with at least one big catch at Seattle on Monday night.
Five things I'll be watching for from CenturyLink Field in Seattle:

  • 'Beast Mode' times two. Seattle's Marshawn Lynch has popularized the term by smashing through defenses like a wrecking ball. His two most memorable runs -- against New Orleans in the playoffs last season, followed by his disappearing act against Philadelphia last week -- played out before national audiences. Expect more of the same from Lynch against the Rams, but don't forget about that other 'Beast Mode' runner. Steven Jackson can still put the hurt on opponents. Buckle up when Jackson and Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor collide. Chancellor goes 6-foot-3 and 230-plus pounds, and he's one reason Jackson will have a hard time reaching 100 yards against Seattle for the first time in his career.
  • At least one spectacular catch. Just about every week, the Rams' Brandon Lloyd makes a reception sensational enough to stir the Rams' sideline into spontaneous celebration, no matter the score. The one catch Lloyd made against the San Francisco 49ers last week went like this: Lloyd runs up the left sideline. Cornerback Tarell Brown covers him closely enough to draw a flag for interference. Lloyd leaps over Brown and somehow reaches around the cornerback's extended arm to snatch the ball with both hands for a 34-yard gain. Penalty declined. The man is a magician.
  • The indomitable Chris Long. The Rams' fourth-year defensive end has nine of his career-high 12 sacks over his last six games. Long wears down opponents. He has five sacks in fourth quarters this season. Long holds a talent edge over Seahawks right tackle Breno Giacomini, but Giacomini has a mean streak. He'll compete.
  • Replacement parts up front. Both teams' starting offensive tackles -- all four of them -- are on injured reserve. The Seahawks have done a better job than the Rams in acquiring, developing and coaching up replacements. Still, they never expected to line up with Paul McQuistan at left tackle. Both teams have every reason to lean on their running games. Which leads into the final item...
  • The Josh McDaniels factor. The Rams have one of the NFL's most physical running backs. Guard Harvey Dahl was one of their top acquisitions. But with McDaniels as coordinator, the Rams have all but given up on a conventional ground game. The reasoning could be defensible. The Rams' offensive line hasn't shown it can push defenses off the ball. Still, something seems wrong with this picture. The Rams have run the ball only 29.3 percent of the time in the red zone, the second-lowest figure in the NFL. They have run it only 32 percent of the time from the 10-yard line or closer, also the second-lowest figure. Jackson did say he expects a more run-oriented plan this week. But with injured quarterback Sam Bradford possibly returning for this game, will McDaniels continue leaning on the pass? Jackson said he expected a more run-oriented plan this week.

For more, check out audio from ESPN's Mike Tirico's conversation with Brock Huard and Mike Salk on 710ESPN Seattle. Tirico said he's impressed with the moves Seattle has made, particularly on defense, and he thinks the Seahawks' season would be a success if they could get to 7-9. But one defeat this season could haunt them.

Tirico: "Do I root for teams in the NFL? Yes. I root for teams about a month ahead of Monday Night Football. And so I was one of the 18 people not involved in the game, whether in Seattle or D.C., who was rooting for the Seahawks to beat the Redskins. And that is one you start to look at now and you go, 'You know what, at 6-6, with Chicago all messed up, you could have gone on a run here at the end of the season' -- and (Seattle) still could get to 8-8 or 9-7, so the building blocks are there going forward."

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