Momentum Must Continue Against Rams

The Seahawks' renewed confidence on defense should help them against the Rams in a key NFC West battle at Qwest Field, but the team still must prove it can prevent big plays against a viable offense. Shutting down the Raiders last week counts only so much.

The 16-0 victory over the Raiders featured nine Seattle sacks, including seven in the first half. But the Raiders' offensive line and offensive system doesn't come close to matching the Rams' increasingly balanced, big-play offense.

"It has a whole new set of challenges," coach Mike Holmgren said. "They have had really good games against us offensively. They are good offensively. They are experienced at the right positions. They are talented.

"But I think our defense played a good game Monday night. What most impressed me was that we were disciplined. We got to the quarterback a lot, but when we didn't, we were still in pretty good position down the field."

The Seahawks won't get that kind of pressure against the Rams, even at home. That means the secondary must hold up its end in coverage. Shutting down the Rams entirely isn't an option as long as Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce are around. But it's reasonable to expect the Seahawks to play their assignments well enough to avoid death by deep ball.

"The Raiders have guys who can run and get the ball down the field and we were in good position," Holmgren noted. "I thought we handled that better. So I would say, "Yes, I hope there is a carryover and now we start building and gaining some momentum down the stretch here for the second half of the season.'"

Holt struck for a 67-yard touchdown in the final two minutes of Seattle's 30-28 victory at St. Louis last month. Strong safety Michael Boulware was the man in coverage on the play. He gave up a 40-yard touchdown pass to the Vikings' punch-less offense a week later, leading coach Mike Holmgren to make a change at the position.

Talent isn't the problem on the back end for Seattle. Right corner Marcus Trufant was the 11th player chosen in the 2003 draft. Scrappy left corner Kelly Herndon is enjoying his finest season. Free safety Ken Hamlin is a big hitter with outstanding range.

If healthy, Jordan Babineaux will make his third start Sunday and his first at strong safety against the Rams. He's a former cornerback with good cover skills for a safety. Seattle needs Babineaux to work with the other defensive backs to improve communication. A shoulder injury limited Babineaux in practice this week, meaning Boulware could be back in the lineup.

Babineaux and/or Boulware need Trufant to play smart; in Babineaux's first start two weeks ago, Chiefs receiver Eddie Kennison got behind Trufant for a game-altering 51-yard reception in the final minutes. Trufant blew the coverage by biting on the out route, and Hamlin wasn't able to get back in time.

Containing the Rams also means keeping them off the field. Seattle's rejuvenated ground game should help on that front. The Seahawks made significant strides against the Raiders in that department last week. Maurice Morris carried 30 times for 138 yards in his best outing since Seattle lost MVP Shaun Alexander to a broken foot. Holmgren must stay committed to Morris in this game.

Before gaining 138 yards against Oakland, Morris' only sustained production came during the second half of a 30-28 victory at St. Louis.

Seattle's offense should remain effective against the Rams even with Seneca Wallace at quarterback. Wallace has run the offense better than expected. A gifted runner, he has started making plays with his arm and his feet.

Wallace avoided turnovers against the Raiders, but he might have to take more chances against a St. Louis team that will score points.

SERIES HISTORY: 17th meeting. The Rams lead the regular-season series, 9-7. They hold a 1-0 lead in the postseason. Seattle won both games last season and the first game this season, prevailing 30-28 in the Edward Jones Dome.


--The NFL levied a $15,000 fine against Seahawks TE Jerramy Stevens for tangling with Raiders DE Tyler Brayton during the Monday night game. The league fined Brayton $25,000 for kneeing Stevens in the groin. The league fined Stevens for allegedly instigating the incident by trying to knee Brayton in the groin. Broadcast replays showed Steven's leg coming off the ground while the two wrestled from a standing position, but the Seahawks thought Stevens never tried to strike Brayton with the knee.

"I didn't think Jerramy deserved a fine on that," Seattle linebacker Julian Peterson said. "He didn't try to knee anybody in the groin area or anything of that nature. I think it's a little bit excessive."
Peterson, who played against Stevens while a member of the 49ers, laughed when asked if Stevens has a reputation as a dirty player.

"I couldn't stand him either," Peterson said. "I told him. He knows that. He just knows how to rub people the wrong way. It's not like he's doing dirty things. He's just like that gnat that keeps on being around you and you're like, 'Man, get away from me.' You're trying to slap it all the time."

--Running back Maurice Morris is coming off a 30-carry, 138-yard rushing performance on Monday night. He's a bit undersized to be an every-down back and it shows on the days after games. "He gets beat up pretty good," coach Mike Holmgren said. "You go down to see him in the training room and the ice bill for the organization is doubled.

"He has bags of ice on every part of his body. He's in those (leg wraps) like if you're in a ski accident. It looks like he's been through the ringer, but he shows up on Sunday."

BY THE NUMBERS: 22 -- The number of passes Seattle has dropped through eight games, matching its 16-game total from last season.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's hugely important to both teams. The players know that. Once again, I'm glad we're playing at home. That's always a good thing for us. But we have to play well to win the football game." -- Holmgren on playing the Rams.


WR Nate Burleson becomes part of the offense when Seattle goes to its one-back, three-receiver sets featuring TE Jerramy Stevens. Burleson isn't getting on the field in the base offense or the two-back, three-receiver sets. He simply hasn't been productive enough to beat out WR D.J. Hackett, let alone starters Darrell Jackson or Deion Branch. Burleson's role in the offense could diminish further if Bobby Engram bounces back from a thyroid disorder anytime soon.

The Seahawks want to keep Burleson involved on some level, one reason they have made him the punt returner ahead of CB Jimmy Williams. Burleson had returns of 16 and 17 yards against the Raiders, a good start for a player who hasn't made the impact Seattle anticipated.

Injuries could be a concern for Burleson, however. He's listed as questionable this week after suffering a foot injury against the Raiders.


--RB Shaun Alexander remains week-to-week as he tries to come back from a broken left foot. The team had hoped Alexander would be back on the field by now, but the MVP won't play until tests show the crack in his fourth metatarsal has disappeared.

--RB Maurice Morris lacks the size to be a featured back in the NFL. He carried 30 times against the Raiders on Monday night. That's too many carries. Seattle might need to direct more carries to FB Mack Strong, but right now the staff has no plans to incorporate backup RB Marquis Weeks into the offense.

--QB Matt Hasselbeck plans to take some snaps and throw some passes later in the week, probably on Friday. The team hopes Hasselbeck can return for its game against San Francisco on Nov. 19.

--DT Marcus Tubbs was declared "out" for the Rams game with a lingering knee injury. Tubbs had surgery during the season but the knee isn't coming around as expected. The Seahawks miss his size against the run.

--LB D.D. Lewis was declared "out" for the Rams game with a lingering toe injury. Lewis could have a hard time regaining his form this season because of the lingering nature of the injury.

GAME PLAN: Seattle's ground game made significant strides against the Raiders last week. The Seahawks need to stay committed to Maurice Morris in this game. Before gaining 138 yards against Oakland, Morris' only sustained production came during the second half of a 30-28 victory at St. Louis. Seattle's offense should remain effective against the Rams even with Seneca Wallace at quarterback. Defensively, the Seahawks need to find the right balance between being aggressive and remaining true to their assignments. FS Ken Hamlin and SS Michael Boulware must take away the deep ball. That means the front seven must step up against Steven Davis and the Rams' ground game.

Seahawks RT Tom Ashworth vs. Rams DE Leonard Little. Ashworth has been forced into the lineup by Sean Locklear's ankle injury. He struggled during the preseason and in spot duty early this season, but Ashworth has fared much better physically over the last two games. He has struggled with false-start penalties, committing three while matched against Raiders DE Derrick Burgess last week. Burgess had one sack, but he didn't beat Ashworth on the play. Seattle will have to help Ashworth in pass protection.

--Seahawks SS Marcus Trufant vs. Rams WR Torry Holt. Holt has dominated this matchup over the years. He caught eight passes for 126 yards and a touchdown at home against the Seahawks last season. He caught the go-ahead 67-yard touchdown pass against Seattle last month. SS Michael Boulware, since benched, was to blame for the 67-yarder. Trufant is coming off a strong performance against Raiders CB Randy Moss, but Oakland's problems in pass protection took the heat off Seattle's secondary in that matchup.

INJURY IMPACT: The Seahawks almost certainly won't put RB Shaun Alexander or QB Matt Hasselbeck on the field against the Rams. That impacts the offense in significant ways, but replacements Maurice Morris and Seneca Wallace are coming off strong performances. Seattle wouldn't want to be without Alexander and Hasselbeck for the long term, but Morris and Wallace are good enough to win a couple of games in the interim. Top Stories