Saturday, December 28, 2013
Matchup Breakdown: Rams-Seahawks
By Nick Wagoner
ST. LOUIS – A look at three individual matchups worth watching in Sunday’s game between the St. Louis Rams and Seattle Seahawks.
Rams receiver Stedman Bailey vs. Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman
With each passing week, Bailey has found himself in a more prominent role in the team’s offense, a role that didn’t percolate until after the Rams’ first game against Seattle.
Bailey has seen plenty of good corners since his role expanded but there aren’t many to be found better than Sherman. Sherman is hoping to make a strong closing argument for Defensive Player of the Year honors. He has eight interceptions on the season and four in the past two weeks.
Bailey still has plenty of growing to do and Sherman’s length and ability to jam at the line will present a tough test for a receiver of Bailey’s smallish stature.
“It’s a major challenge,” Bailey said. “He is one of those guys that is considered to be one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL and so with me having the opportunity to go up against him is a huge challenge. I’m going to take advantage of my opportunity and go play him like I would any other player out there.”
The Rams aren’t relying on Bailey or their pass game as a whole to beat Seattle, but they’ll likely need a big play or two in the air to find their way to a win. Bailey and Sherman may not see much of each other but when they do, if Bailey can somehow find a way to win, it would be a boon to the Rams’ chances.
Rams defensive end Robert Quinn vs. Seahawks offensive tackle Russell Okung
By this point in the season, Quinn’s name has basically become a fixture in the weekly matchup spotlight. It’s worth noting that Chris Long has been a nuisance to the Seahawks in recent meetings as well but let’s face it, it’s awfully difficult to take your eyes off Quinn when he’s doing his thing.
Like Sherman, Quinn is also looking to put the finishing touches on a compelling case for the Defensive Player of the Year award. He has 18 sacks for the season and had three in the first meetings against Seattle.
Of course, the Seahawks were without starting tackles Okung and Breno Giacomini in that game and that figures to make the task for Quinn and Long more difficult in getting after quarterback Russell Wilson.
“Makes it a little more difficult to get to Russell, but again we have to rely on our speed,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. “We just can’t rely on Robert. We’ve got to rely on everybody to help with the pass rush and the pressure.”
Quinn’s speed is a headache for any player and while Okung is one of the league’s best, he’s also been dealing with a persistent toe injury. Quinn should have the advantage again, but Okung presents a much stiffer test this time.
Rams running back Zac Stacy vs. Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor
There are plenty of Seahawks defenders licking their chops to atone for the way Stacy ran all over them in the first meeting. In a breakout performance on Monday Night Football, Stacy rushed for 134 yards and the Rams as a team approached 200 rushing yards.
The onus falls on plenty of Seahawks aside from Chancellor to slow down the Rams’ rushing attack in this one, but the way Seattle uses him makes Chancellor integral to the effort.
The oversized safety spends most of his time in the box and will almost certainly be asked to keep an eye on Stacy for much of this one.
From the Rams’ side, the offensive line has taken a number of hits since that first meeting and will miss Jake Long’s presence on the left side, particularly in the run game. It would be unwise to expect a repeat of that rushing performance.
“It just doesn’t happen to this defense,” offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. “Certainly they’ll adjust. We felt good about our ability to do it, but certainly we didn’t win the game. They found a way to win the game and that’s the objective. It doesn’t matter how many yards we have running, throwing, anything. We want to get the win, but again it’ll be tough sledding this week. They’re a real good group up there. They’re really talented. They move a lot. They’ve got a lot of depth and that makes it hard.”