Sunday, October 27, 2013
Rams-Seahawks: Matchup breakdown
By Nick Wagoner
EARTH CITY, Mo. – A look at three matchups to keep an eye on when the St. Louis Rams host the Seattle Seahawks at 8:30 p.m. ET Monday.
The Rams' defense vs. Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch
The temptation here was to match someone like Rams middle linebacker James Laurinaitis against Lynch, but let’s face it, to slow down the Seahawks’ stud back, it takes a village.
Lynch has posted three consecutive 100-yard games against the Rams, including two last year in which he averaged 5.74 yards per carry on 38 attempts.
When asked what problems Lynch presents to his defense, Rams coach Jeff Fisher couldn’t narrow it down.
“All kinds of problems,” Fisher said. “He’s an outstanding back. He plays good without the ball. He’s a good blocker. I saw a game where there’s a turnover and he comes and strips [the] defensive lineman from behind, knocks the ball out, those kinds of things. He’s just an outstanding running back, and they’ve got depth as well.”
To slow Lynch, the Rams must start by being better at lining up in the correct position and staying in their assignments from the beginning of the play to the end. After the play, the key to containment is rallying to the ball and everyone getting close.
Lynch’s physical strength and style allows him to break tackles and turn short or no gains into long ones. The Rams haven’t exactly excelled in that area. They must be on point against Lynch.
Rams defensive end Chris Long vs. Seattle offensive tackle Michael Bowie
The Seahawks are banged up on the offensive line, working without the services of starting tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini. Their duties have fallen to Paul McQuistan on the left side and Bowie on the right.
Rams defensive end Robert Quinn has emerged as the team’s best player, a consistent force rushing the passer and a much-improved run defender. Teams have begun to throw more attention his way, and it stands to reason the Seahawks will do the same.
That puts the onus on Long to take advantage of what appears to be a favorable matchup in the unproven Bowie. While Bowie has played fairly well, all things considered, Long should provide a tall order.
After struggling to get sacks in his first nine games against the Seahawks, Long exploded with a hat trick in last year's regular-season finale. And, after dealing with some injury issues early this season, Long appears to be rounding into form.
Long has at least half a sack in three of his past four games and has 12 quarterback pressures and eight hits through the first seven weeks.
If Seattle focuses on trying to slow Quinn, Long will have a chance to have another big day.
Rams receiver Chris Givens vs. Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman
Through seven weeks, Givens has been unable to put together the type of breakout season many expected of him. He’s been held to 18 catches for 295 yards, a solid average of 16.39 yards but he has missed on a couple of deep ball opportunities and has yet to reach the end zone.
Sherman is widely regarded as one of the league’s best cover corners, and with good reason. At 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, he’s physical at the line of scrimmage and unafraid to back it up with his mouth.
On the flip side, Sherman is well aware of how good he is and does have a tendency to gamble a bit. In the first meeting between these two last season, Givens beat Sherman off the line and raced past safety Earl Thomas for a 52-yard gain on the way to a Rams’ win.
The second time the two met, Givens was limited to 54 yards on two catches.
While beating Sherman regularly is something that rarely happens, the Rams could use a big play like the one they had last year in a game where points figure to be hard to come by.