Richard Sherman calls this a “poopfest.” But having to play Thursday following a Sunday game is actually another “p” word for the Seahawks this week:
“I’m personally happy that we are playing Thursday, because we get to throw that game we had last week away faster. We don’t have to wait until Sunday,” Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner said on the eve of the Seahawks (8-4-1) hosting the Los Angeles Rams (4-9) on Thursday night at CenturyLink Field.
Oh, yeah, last week. That’s what makes Thursday unprecedented for Wagner and every Seahawks teammate except safety Kam Chancellor and punter Jon Ryan.
Seattle got a true butt-kicking last weekend, 38-10 at Green Bay. For the first time in 96 games, the Seahawks are coming off a loss larger than 10 points. It’s the first time in more than six years that the Seahawks are rebounding from as large a defeat. Only Chancellor and Ryan were on the team when Seattle lost, 41-7, to the New York Giants on Nov. 7, 2010.
So, yes, if there was ever a week a team needed a short turnaround between games, it’s this week.
If quarterback Russell Wilson and Seattle turn it around in short order, the Seahawks will win the NFC West for the third time in four seasons. Seattle needs one win over the final three regular-season games, or one loss by Arizona (5-7-1), to win the division.
Wilson threw a career-high five interceptions at Green Bay, two of which went off receivers’ hands. No Seahawks quarterback had thrown that many picks since Jon Kitna in 1999.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll says he thinks Wilson is uniquely equipped emotionally to handle what happened to him and the team against the Packers.
“Without question,” Carroll said Wednesday. “He has had the demeanor that it’s the next play from years ago when we got him here. I think he’s mastered that skill, and I think it’s a hugely valuable skill for a guy playing quarterback in this league. ...
“It’s been important for him this week — but it’s been important for him always. Never noticed him to linger in moments in the past. Never. He’s good at this.”
Yet Wilson’s play caller, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, revealed that he had to cheer up his QB in Green Bay.
“In that last game I was building him up,” Bevell said Tuesday. “... Very seldom is he down. There’s five interceptions or whatever happened in that game, so I just kept talking to him about coming back. That’s gone and we just have to keep moving on.”
Wilson had two interceptions in his first 11 games. He has eight in his last three.
He used basketball and baseball analogies to describe his off day.
“We missed. We went to the free-throw line and didn’t make our free throws that night,” Wilson said. “We went to the plate and sometimes you have a few strikeouts and you may have a pop fly.” But, hopefully, the next night you come back out and you go 4 for 4. That’s just one of those things.
“We moved on quickly. We had to move on.”
Moving on has been a convenient theme this short week. And if there was ever an opponent against which to rebound, Los Angeles is it.
Think the Seahawks have problems? The Rams fired coach Jeff Fisher on Monday. They promoted special-teams coach John Fassel, who had a whole two days to ready himself for this game against the division leaders.
“So initially it was just a bummer, that a guy that I really respect and admire just lost his job,” Fassel said Tuesday. “Then having to switch over quickly and figure out how to do this on the fly. It’s been emotional, which is a good thing, I think.”
Fassel has completed three Ironman triathlons. He may need to draw upon those experiences for what he’s about to attempt.
The Rams start a rookie quarterback, Jared Goff, who has yet to win in his four NFL starts. They are last in the NFL in total offense (286 yards per game), last in points (14.9 per game), 30th in rushing yards (81 per game) and 29th in passing yards (205.1 per game). The Rams are last in the NFC and 30th in the NFL in turnover margin, at minus-11.
They lost three fumbles and Goff threw two interceptions last weekend. That is why Atlanta blew them out of the Los Angeles Coliseum. The Falcons led 42-0 before winning 42-14.
Other than that, all is starry and sunny for Los Angeles. And now Goff and company get to play in front of the Seahawks’ fans at CenturyLink Field.
“Coming into C-Link, I don’t think — in my opinion — I don’t think he’s played in front of a crowd like that,” Wagner said. “So it’s really going to test his communication. It’s really going to test how he talks to his line. And we are going to have stuff, too.
“We are going to try to make it as hard as we can for him.”
It’s already hard enough for Goff and the Rams.
Goff has completed 55 percent of his passes with four touchdowns, five interceptions and a passer rating of 65.8 since taking over for Case Keenum. The Rams are averaging 13.8 points per game with Goff.
If the Rams can score more than 14 points, their defense remains formidable. Aaron Donald is the fastest, most disruptive defensive tackle in the league, and he’s controlled the line of scrimmage and games in the last three meetings with the Seahawks. The Rams have won all three.
Donald has 27 sacks in less than three full NFL seasons.
“He has extraordinary quickness; he’s faster than all the defensive linemen that play in that spot. He’s a 4.6 guy. That’s one,” Carroll said, when asked for the reasons why Donald gives the Seahawks so much trouble. “He has tremendous instincts; he has instincts like Michael Bennett does. They can feel a play coming and undercut a block and jump across a block, and in just really destructive fashion for the offense. He’s been a great playmaker for them and he does it with quickness, but without the instincts that he has he wouldn’t be able to be so effective.
“He’s really special.”
That’s the adjective Carroll used a couple of months ago describing the chemistry and potential of these Seahawks. He said they had a chance to be the best team he’s had since arriving to lead Seattle in 2010.
Now, after two losses in three weeks by a combined 52-15, does the coach still believe?
“Yeah, I think this team in the next couple years here — whether it’s now — I feel like we have the best group of leaders. They’ve matured to this point where we have a chance to really find it,” Carroll said. “It’s so tenuous, each season as it comes along, it depends what happens. We’ll see.
“I’m not giving up on this team right now. I think we have a lot of great football ahead of us. We need some maturing process to continue. We need to handle the big close to the season, and see how that works. We’ll see what happens.”
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle
LOS ANGELES RAMS (4-9) AT SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (8-4-1)
Thursday 5:25 p.m., CenturyLink Field
TV: Ch. 5, NFL Network. Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM.
The series: The Rams have won three in a row and four of the past five meetings. That includes a 9-3 win Sept. 18 at Los Angeles. The Rams won the most recent meeting in Seattle, 23-17 last Dec. 27.
Line: Seahawks by 15.
Give him the rookie treatment: First-overall pick Jared Goff makes his fifth career start. As Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner says, Goff has never been in a stadium as loud as CenturyLink Field will be for this one. It’s been only a few days since the Rams got smacked by Atlanta at home, 42-14, when Goff had two of Los Angeles’ five turnovers. That, Goff’s inexperience, a new head coach in his first days on the job and the crowd factor will undoubtedly result in a simplified game plan for a Rams offense that is last in the league in points and yards. Expect the Seahawks to blitz with Wagner more than he did (meaning didn’t) last weekend at Green Bay. Expect ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril on stunts inside and out. And expect a long night for Goff, a California kid.
Gang up on Gurley: Everyone else has this season. Todd Gurley, the 2015 NFL rookie of the year, may not even reach 1,000 yards rushing this season. He has 740 yards through 13 games. He hasn’t had a 100-yard day this season; his high is 85 from way back in September at Tampa Bay. He has half as many touchdowns as last season, five. Wagner pointed out that defenses now have film on Gurley and know where and how he likes to run. If the Rams game plan is as simple as expected, that likely means leaning on Gurley. If the Seahawks respond, the league’s last-ranked offense is in trouble. Again.
Prove themselves: Last weekend’s face-plant at Green Bay suggested these Seahawks aren’t as good as they think they are. Yet four days later, every factor imaginable is in the Seahawks’ favor against the Rams. They are back home, where they are undefeated and a relative scoring machine. But the Rams defense has given Seattle, especially its offensive line, problems for years. No team has sacked Russell Wilson more often. It’s overdue time for a roll — not as extensive as they’d hoped, but a mini one — in the final three games against down division rivals for Seattle to ramp up and into the postseason.
If the Seahawks mess this one up, they are way below what they or anyone thought they were. But they won’t. The Rams are a mess, particularly on offense. A Seattle shutout. Seahawks 21, Rams 0.
3 — Russell Wilson, QB (5-11, 215, fifth season): He’s now 16-4 in December. But that fourth loss, wow. All eyes on how he rebounds here.
50 — K.J. Wright, LB (6-4, 246, sixth season): Everywhere on every down, deserves Pro Bowl consideration. National-TV chance to show why.
76 — Germain Ifedi, RG (6-5, 325, rookie): First-round pick has had an up-and-down debut year. Now he gets the NFL’s best DT, Aaron Donald.
16 — Jared Goff, QB (6-4, 215, rookie): He’s 0-4 so far in his career, with a 55 percent completion rate. This will either be a breakout, or a breakdown, in Seattle.
30 — Todd Gurley, RB (6-1, 227, second season): Expect simple LA game plan: Hand it to No. 30. But last season’s rookie of the year has struggled.
99 — Aaron Donald, DT (6-1, 285, third season): Has 27 sacks in less than three full seasons. Has run over Seattle’s O-line in past three meetings, all Rams wins.
Gregg Bell: firstname.lastname@example.org