SEATTLE — Whatever the reason, the Los Angeles Rams seem to have solved winning in one of the most difficult venues in the NFL.
Each of the past two times the Rams have traveled to the Northwest, they’ve come out of Seattle with a victory. They’ve won three of their past four trips to face the Seahawks. One of those was the most lopsided loss handed to the Seahawks during Pete Carroll’s tenure.
So even though the Rams are coming off a surprising home loss to Tampa Bay last week, they still have that history they’ll be bringing with them when they visit Seattle tonight for a key NFC West matchup.
“I think we are all in the same position of, we’re just excited about another opportunity,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “We respect the Seahawks a lot, but I know for me personally, I think a lot of the players would agree, the Thursday week is stressful in terms of the amount of work that is condensed in a short week, but it provides a great chance for us to respond from a disappointing Sunday.”
The Seahawks (3-1) know getting back to the top of the NFC West means reversing the trend of the past few years. Los Angeles (3-1) has won six of the past eight overall against Seattle and a win tonight would make the Rams the first division opponent to win three straight games in Seattle since the Denver Broncos from 1996-98.
“What happened last year, what happened the previous years before doesn’t really matter,” Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “If you don’t bring your game this year, then all of that is erased.”
Even though he tied an NFL record with 45 completions and threw for 517 yards last week, there is worry about how Jared Goff has played. He’s thrown six interceptions in four games. His passer rating is 82.9. Couple Goff’s inconsistency with concerns about Todd Gurley’s usage — he had a career-low five carries against the Bucs — and issues on the offensive line and the Rams offense has yet to click.
Meanwhile, Seattle has no worries about its quarterback. Russell Wilson is off to one of the best starts of his career. He’s thrown eight touchdowns and no interceptions. He leads the NFC and is second in the league in passer rating. Seattle’s offense has sputtered at times but it’s not because of Wilson.
“I think I’m playing good. I think there’s some more things out there that you can always try and do,” Wilson said.
Here’s what else to watch for as the Seahawks and Rams meet for the 43rd time overall.
ON THE LINE
The Rams’ reconfigured offensive line hasn’t been overly impressive after replacing two veteran starters with unheralded second-year pros Brian Allen and Joe Noteboom, but veteran tackles Andrew Whitworth and Rob Havenstein both hurt Los Angeles last week with penalties. The line was a durable strength of McVay’s first two offenses, and its sudden shakiness is a clear factor in the Rams’ slow offensive start. Look for Jadeveon Clowney, Rasheem Green, Quinton Jefferson and the Seahawks’ other pass rushers to test that line.
LEAN ON THE RUN
Seattle led the NFL in rushing last season and two of its best games came against the Rams. Seattle rushed for a season-high 273 yards in the game in Los Angeles. The Seahawks haven’t matched their league-best rushing attack from a year ago, but Chris Carson rushed for 104 yards last week and Rashaad Penny should return after missing the past two games with a hamstring injury. Penny had the only 100-yard game of his career last year against the Rams.
TAKE YOUR PICK
Although the Rams gave up 385 yards through the air by Jameis Winston last week, their pass defense has been largely solid with the addition of safety Eric Weddle to three holdovers from the Super Bowl team. Marcus Peters returned the Rams’ fourth interception of the season for a late touchdown against Tampa Bay. Los Angeles’ defensive backs got no help from a struggling pass rush last week, but Clay Matthews and Dante Fowler hope to increase their quarterback pressure to take the load off Aaron Donald, who has been double-teamed on roughly 85 percent of the opponents’ snaps.
Rams receiver Cooper Kupp leads the NFC with 388 yards receiving as he returns to the state where the Yakima native was born and raised and attended college at Eastern Washington. In the Rams’ previous meeting with the Seahawks, Kupp badly injured his knee in the fourth quarter, sidelining him for the rest of the season in Los Angeles’ Super Bowl run. He has returned better than ever, with his connection with Goff somehow even stronger.
RING OF HONOR
Seattle will induct former owner Paul Allen into the team’s “Ring of Honor” before kickoff on Thursday. Allen purchased the Seahawks in 1997 and helped keep the team in Seattle after former owner Ken Behring attempted to move them to Southern California. He owned the franchise until his death last year from non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Allen will become the 12th person honored by the team.
“He gave us a chance,” Wilson said. “He gave us an opportunity just to have this amazing facility. To have the great coaches that we have. To have the culture that we have. The opportunities that we have.”