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After more than a week of sorting through COVID-19 tests and dealing with absences of several key players during practice, the Rams are finally set to face the Seahawks on Tuesday night – a game that was originally scheduled for Sunday afternoon.
The Rams are just a half-game out of first place in the NFC West after the Cardinals lost to the Lions, giving them a chance to tie Arizona with a win over the Seahawks. Every game down the stretch is pivotal for the Rams, but this one is especially important because it’s a divisional game.
Here are four keys to victory for Los Angeles at home tonight.
Limit big plays by Seahawks
The Seahawks have a knack for creating big plays, both through the air and on the ground. This season, they’re tied for fourth with 11 plays of 40-plus yards, with nine being passes and two being runs. The Rams lead the league with 16 such plays, but they’ve also given up 11 plays of 40-plus yards – which is tied for the third-most.
There’s no doubt the Rams are the better team in this one but the easiest way for a bad team to pull off an upset is by creating big plays (and turnovers). If the Rams allow Seattle to pick up chunk gains with deep passes or long runs, the Seahawks won’t go quietly.
In three of the Rams’ four losses this season, they allowed at least one play of 40-plus yards. Keeping Russell Wilson, DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett – if he’s available – in check by eliminating plays over the top is critical.
Turn yards into points
The Seahawks defense is not very good, but it does excel in one area: the red zone. It’s why they’ve allowed the most yards in the NFL, but also rank fourth in points allowed. Seattle only allows touchdowns on 49% of opponents’ red zone trips, good for fourth in the NFL.
The Rams shouldn’t have much trouble moving the ball on offense but if they get into the red zone and stall out, settling for field goals, this game will stay competitive and give the Seahawks a chance to pull off the upset. The Rams can’t come away empty-handed or with three points on drives that go 50-70 yards. They must convert yards into touchdowns and force the Seahawks to play catch-up throughout the night.
Avoid costly penalties and turnovers
During the Rams’ three-game losing streak, they turned the ball over multiple times in each game, totaling seven giveaways in that stretch. They were also uncharacteristically undisciplined against the Titans when they committed 12 penalties for 115 yards.
Turnovers and penalties will keep the Seahawks in this game by giving them short fields and either extending their drives with defensive penalties or killing the Rams’ own possessions with penalties on offense.
The Rams have to be disciplined and not beat themselves because the Seahawks aren’t exactly equipped to win this game very easily. Matthew Stafford must take care of the football, the offensive line can’t commit holding penalties and pre-snap infractions and the defense has to avoid personal fouls, which have cost the Rams a few times this season.
Don’t force the run for the sake of balance
Being balanced on offense is great. Running the ball for the sake of being balanced is not. No one is going to confuse the Seahawks with the Buccaneers when it comes to their run defense or front seven, but this isn’t an easy team to run the ball against. They’re allowing only 3.8 yards per carry, which is the best in the NFL despite teams running the ball 400 times in only 13 games.
The Seahawks rank eighth in run defense DVOA, so it’s been tough sledding for teams that try to pound the ball on the ground against Seattle. The Rams shouldn’t fall into that trap.
Seattle is much more susceptible to the pass, ranking 25th in net yards per attempt allowed and giving up the most passing yards in the NFL. The best way for the Rams to win this game is by throwing the ball and complementing it with the run, not the other way around.