Wins haven't come at a rapid pace for either the St. Louis Rams or Seattle Seahawks this season, but a meeting between the two NFC West afterthoughts will net one club consecutive victories for the first time in 2011.
Seattle aims for its second road victory of the season while St. Louis tries to win for the third time in four weeks since a disastrous start when the teams square off this Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.
After enduring a 1-15 campaign just two years ago, the Rams got off to another tough start this season by opening with six straight losses. They finally found the win column on Oct. 30 versus New Orleans before a road loss to Arizona seven days later. St. Louis rebounded this past weekend, however. winning a field-goal battle with Cleveland by a 13-12 margin.
The Rams posted the lone touchdown of the game with Sam Bradford's seven-yard pass to Brandon Lloyd in the second quarter and Josh Brown hit his second field goal of the afternoon with 7:42 left in regulation, a 34-yarder.
Cleveland kicker Phil Dawson, who had already hit on four field goals, had a chance to put the Browns ahead with 2:10 to play, but missed a 22-yard attempt. The Rams then ran out the clock, picking up a poetic victory after a blocked field goal try cost them a chance at victory in Arizona the previous week.
"I'm happy for our football team, wins are hard to get in this league," Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "Somewhere along the way I think things even themselves out."
St. Louis, which plays the first of two straight at home, hasn't won back-to- back games since Nov. 28-Dec. 5 of last year. At 2-7, the Rams are one game behind both the Cardinals and Seahawks for second place in the NFC West, which is led by 8-1 San Francisco.
Seattle snapped a three-game slide and won for the first time since Oct. 9 at the New York Giants with a 22-17 upset of Baltimore last Sunday. The Ravens pulled within five points with a touchdown with just under six minutes to go, but the Seahawks were able to run off the final 5:52 of the game.
Running back Marshawn Lynch ran for 109 yards with a touchdown for Seattle, picking up three critical first downs to finish out the contest.
"What a nice day to celebrate Veterans Day," Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said. "What a good day to play physical, tough and exciting football.
Seattle also got a franchise high-tying five field goals from kicker Steven Hauschka and led at halftime for the first time this season.
The Seahawks haven't won back-to-back games in the regular season since Oct. 17-24, 2010, but did beat the Rams in Week 17 of last year before picking up a playoff win over New Orleans.
The Seahawks own a 15-10 advantage in their overall regular-season series with St. Louis and has bested the Rams in 11 of the last 12 meetings between the teams, including a 16-6 home triumph in last year's finale that clinched Seattle's 2010 NFC West title. The Seahawks also came out on top in five straight visits to the Edward Jones Dome prior to a 20-3 loss to St. Louis during Week 4 of last season. Before that breakthrough win, the Rams hadn't defeated Seattle since beating their division rivals three times during the 2004 campaign, highlighted by a 27-20 victory at Century Link Field in a 2004 NFC First-Round Playoff.
That 2004 NFC Playoff clash is the only postseason encounter between the Seahawks and Rams to date.
Carroll is 1-2 lifetime against the Rams, with the first loss coming while at the helm of the New England Patriots in 1998. Spagnuolo has a 1-3 record versus the Seahawks and has split two head-to-head bouts with Carroll, both of which occurred last season.
WHEN THE SEAHAWKS HAVE THE BALL
Seattle outgained Baltimore by a 327-323 margin in total yards a week ago, just above its season average of 299.6 yards per game that ranks 29th in the league. However, 119 of those yards came on the ground against the Ravens' second- ranked run defense heading into the game. With fullback Michael Robinson paving the way, Lynch (507 rushing yards, 5 TD) went over 100 yards rushing for the second straight week and averaged 3.4 yards per carry. He also had team highs with five receptions and 58 yards. Seattle now ranks 28th in the league in rushing at 91.7 yards per game. Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson (1773 passing yards, 6 TD, 9 INT) threw for 217 yards on 17-of-27 passing against the Ravens but did not throw a touchdown pass, though he wasn't intercepted either. Wide receivers Sidney Rice (29 receptions, 1 TD) and Doug Baldwin (29 receptions, 2 TD) both suffered concussions in the game and are questionable this week. Fellow wideout Golden Tate (14 receptions, 1 TD) stepped up in their absence and had three catches for 46 yards, while tight end Zach Miller (14 receptions) added three grabs for 24 yards. Baldwin had a 50-yard catch in the win and is second among NFC rookies with 484 receiving yards. He needs 288 more to pass James Jett (771 in 1993) for the most by an undrafted rookie since 1970.
The Rams rank dead last in the NFL with an average of 150.6 rushing yards allowed per game and stand 12th against the pass, yielding 220.8 yards per game through the air, but lost cornerback Al Harris to a season-ending knee injury last weekend. He is the fourth cornerback to end up on the Rams' injured reserve list, joining Ron Bartell, Jerome Murphy and Bradley Fletcher. St. Louis bested Cleveland last week despite getting outgained 335-281, with linebacker James Laurinaitis (71 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT) leading the way with 10 tackles while cornerback Justin King (43 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT) had eight and a pass defensed. King also suffered a head injury in the contest, but could play this weekend. Safety Darian Stewart (46 tackles, 1 INT), who five tackles against the Browns, is also questionable with a neck ailment. Laurinaitis had a sack as well, as did defensive end Chris Long (19 tackles, 8 sacks). Long has five sacks in his last three games and is a half-sack shy of his career high. Rookie defensive end Robert Quinn, meanwhile, is tied for third in the conference among first-year players with three sacks. The Rams have totaled six interceptions on the season, all by different players. Safety Quintin Mikell (50 tackles, 1 sack) has one of them and is also second on the club in tackles.
WHEN THE RAMS HAVE THE BALL
St. Louis' offense is led by its run game and back Steven Jackson (707 rushing yards, 20 receptions, 5 total TD), who has helped his club rank 16th in the league with an average of 113.8 yards per game on the ground. Jackson notched his third straight 100-yard outing versus the Browns, posting 128 yards on 27 carries, and has 707 scrimmage yards in his past six games at home versus the Seahawks. St. Louis hoped to give its 26th-ranked pass offense a shot in the arm with the midseason acquisition of Lloyd (40 receptions, 2 TD), who has 21 receptions, 255 yards and two touchdowns in four games with the Rams since coming over in a trade with Denver. He was targeted nine times by Bradford (1587 passing yards, 4 TD, 4 INT) last weekend, hauling in four passes for 48 yards to lead the team. Bradford only threw for 155 yards against the Browns and was picked off once in addition to his touchdown pass. Rookie Austin Pettis (14 receptions) and Jackson both had three receptions, while tight end Michael Hoomanawanui made two catches before suffering a season-ending knee injury. Wideout Brandon Gibson (24 receptions, 1 TD), meanwhile, was targeted three times but did not have a catch. Greg Salas (27 receptions) leads the Rams in catches, but was placed on injured reserve prior to the Cleveland game after breaking his leg the week prior.
The Seahawks yielded 10 second-half points to the Ravens last week and have given up just 60 after the second quarter all year. They are also tied for third in the NFL in fewest touchdowns allowed during the second half, having surrendered just five in nine games. Seattle's special teams set up two scores by the offense with two forced fumbles against Baltimore, while linebacker David Hawthorne (61 tackles, 1 sack, 2 INT) had an interception that also set up a score in addition to seven tackles. Safety Earl Thomas (63 tackles, 1 INT) and linebacker Leroy Hill (58 tackles, 1 sack) led the way with eight tackles each in the win, while linebacker Malcolm Smith had the team's lone sack. Seattle is tied for 15th in the league in total defense (394.4 ypg) and is 12th against the run. Defensive end Chris Clemons (23 tackles, 5 sacks) has five sacks in his last eight games and got to the quarterback twice the last time he faced the Rams, while fellow end Raheem Brock (17 tackles, 1 sack) added a career-high 2 1/2 sacks in Seattle's Week 17 victory over St. Louis last season. The Seahawks start two rookies on defense in linebacker K.J. Wright (28 tackles) and cornerback Richard Sherman (23 tackles, 1 INT), while second-year safety Kam Chancellor (55 tackles, 1 sack, 3 INT) leads the club in interceptions.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Lynch is the first Seahawk to score a touchdown in five straight games since Shaun Alexander in 2005, but will be without two of his starting offensive linemen this weekend. Guard John Moffitt suffered a season-ending knee injury and will be replaced on the right side by Paul McQuistan, while fellow rookie and tackle James Carpenter was also placed on injured reserve after tearing his ACL in practice on Wednesday.
Bradford isn't lighting up the stat sheet like he did last season, but he should have time to make some plays in this game. While the Rams have allowed 32 sacks this year, the Seahawks have posted just 14 on the season.
Special teams could play a factor in this game, and a big play could come from Seahawks returner Leon Washington. He is averaging 23 yards per kickoff return and has taken 21 punts for an average of 12.5 yards. Seattle has also allowed three return touchdowns on the season, though.
The season hasn't gone according to plan for either the Seahawks and Rams, so it is simply pride that will be on the line for these two rivals. However, both teams have been able to find the win column as of late and will try to keep the momentum going this Sunday. The two clubs figure to put the ball in the hands of their running backs a lot in this game, but the injuries to Seattle's offensive line could tilt the advantage into the favor of the Rams.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Rams 16, Seahawks 13