What: Rematch of top two teams in the NFC West
When: Sunday, November 14th, 10:00 am (PST)
Where: Edwards Jones Dome, St. Louis, Missouri
Rams Key Players:
QB Marc Bulger: Bulger hasn't been as up and down as he was last season in his first extended action, but he hasn't made that many big plays either. Against the Seahawks in the teams' first meeting, Bulger passed for 325 yards (his second highest total of the season), three touchdowns and three interceptions. Most of his yards and all three of his touchdowns came in the final seven minutes of regulation and the first series of overtime as he was befuddled by the Seahawks defense for the first 53. On the season Bulger has completed 65% of his passes for 2,270 yards, 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He has a quick release and if he makes quick decisions he can pick a team apart.
WR Isaac Bruce: Bruce just continues to excel even at the age of 31. He is on pace to have the second best season of his career catching 48 passes for 694 yards and two touchdowns so far. He still has above-average speed and he is dangerous with the ball in his hands. He is also an underrated blocker but he can be pushed around by more physical corners.
RB Marshall Faulk: During the offseason it was feared that Faulk's knee was giving him so much trouble that he was considering retirement before the season even started. Well, the future Hall-of-Famer has defied the naysayers having a solid first eight games of the season. So far he has rushed for 531 yards (a 4.3 yard average) and three touchdowns. He lacks the explosiveness that was his trademark in his prime, evidenced by his longest run being 18 yards, but his vision allows him to make runs that keep the chains moving.
DE Leonard Little: In the first meeting with the Hawks, Little did exactly that…little. But he made one of the biggest plays of the game when he sacked QB Matt Hasselbeck late in the game to set up the Rams' tying score. Little has had a subpar first half of the season but you cannot totally blame him. No other defensive end has stepped up on the opposite side and teams have double-teamed Little on almost every play. Defensive coordinator Larry Marmie has been moving Little around hoping to free him up but so far it hasn't resulted in more pressure on the opposing QB. Little's four sacks put him on pace for his worst sack total since 2000.
SS Adam Archuleta: Now in his fourth season Archuleta continues to be a big-hitter and sure tackler, but a liability in coverage. Archuleta ranks second on the team with 48 tackles but he continues to struggle with diagnosing plays. He is overly aggressive and tends to overrun plays, but his intensity intimidates receivers and backs in the short zones.
Rams Ts Orlando Pace and Grant Williams vs. Seahawks DEs Antonio Cochran and Chike Okeafor: With Hawks DE Grant Wistrom a "gametime" decision it looks like Cochran may get his fourth straight start. Cochran has been solid this season, racking up three sacks and holding up well against the run. Okeafor leads the Hawks with 5.5 sacks and is having one of his best seasons. Pace continues to stonewall most defenders he goes up against but Williams has been abused by most defenses this season allowing several sacks in losses to Miami and Atlanta. Okeafor and Cochran must pressure Bulger into making mistakes or the Hawk defense could be on the field all day.
Seahawks secondary vs. Rams wideouts: In their first meeting the Hawks' deep patrol handled the "Greatest Show on Turf" with relative ease for the first 53 minutes of the game. Then the wheels came off of the Hawks' defensive scheme and they were burned for two long touchdowns that tied and then won the game for the Rams. CB Ken Lucas, like Wistrom, will be a "gametime" decision and if he can't go veteran CB Bobby Taylor will likely step in. Look for the Rams to exploit the Hawks in the three and four-receiver sets. Bruce and Torry Holt are two of the best in the business but second-year wideouts Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald have had solid seasons so far and they both have the speed to get deep.
Seahawks running game vs. Rams run defense: The Rams rank 28th in the league giving up over 130 yards per game on the ground. In September, RB Shaun Alexander ran for 150 yards and one touchdown against the Rams. The last two weeks the Hawks' offensive line has opened holes for the fifth-year back, as Alexander has gained 355 yards and three touchdowns. Rams DTs Damione Lewis, Ryan Pickett and the newly healthy Jimmy Kennedy must play strong at the point of attack and bottle up the middle. Archuleta and MLB Robert Thomas must also be active and make plays, otherwise the Hawks will run the Rams into the ground.
Hasselbeck vs. Rams secondary: Rams CB Jerametrius Butler has the only two interceptions on the team and the pass defense ranks 25th in the league. FS Aeneas Williams has not been his typical ball-hawking self this season and his tackle total is down from last season as well. With the Rams having troubles in their secondary, Williams has been asked to play more coverage and less center field and it has hurt the team's coverage in the deep middle. Hasselbeck seems to have righted himself the last two weeks after one of the worst games of his career against Arizona three weeks ago. Hass' 57.1% completion percentage is much lower than head coach Mike Holmgren would like to see but he is making better decisions and the line has been blocking better giving him more time to throw and see his receivers.
News and Notes:
Seahawks rank 5th in the NFL in rushing with 141.4 yards per game; Alexander is the only back in the NFL with three 150-plus yard rushing games; Seahawks have at least one interception in 13 straight games and lead the NFL with 12 this season; Rams head coach Mike Martz is 19-7 versus divisional opponents; Faulk had 88 yards from scrimmage last week, giving him 18,256 career, passing Barry Sanders (18,190) for 4th all-time; Bulger is 22-8 as a starter.
PROBABLE: CB Travis Fisher (mouth); OL Scott Tercero (shoulder); CB Jerametrius Butler (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Tod McBride (hamstring)
DOUBTFUL: WR Dane Looker (ankle)
PROBABLE: WR Darrell Jackson (ankle); WR Jerry Rice (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Ken Lucas (chest); WR Bobby Engram (ankle); Maurice Morris (concussion)
DOUBTFUL: DE Grant Wistrom (knee)
Prediction: Rams 27 – Seahawks 23
.NET Reporter Scott
Eklund writes for Seahawks.NET every week. Feel free to contact him at email@example.com.
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