RENTON Russell Wilson--and thus the Seahawks--are far better equipped for Sunday’s showdown for the early division lead than they were the last time they played the Rams in Los Angeles.
The previous L.A. trip came days after Seattle’s indispensable, franchise quarterback got a high-ankle sprain in the 2016 opener.
“I moved like a bag of bricks,” Wilson said Thursday, laughing earnestly.
“I really couldn’t move the last time I played them at the Coliseum. ... The ankle was pretty bad that day. I taped it up like crazy, and was just hobbling around.”
The Seahawks got bricked, all right. The immobilized Wilson and his offense slogged to just 247 yards over the first 58 minutes on Sept. 18, 2016. The Seahawks lost 9-3 on that hot day in South Central L.A., their lowest-scoring game in five years. The Rams sacked Wilson twice and battered him nine other times.
Being a standing target against Aaron Donald, Robert Quinn, Michael Brockers and friends is a bad way to try to win.
In fact, Wilson said Donald, freakishly fast, strong and dominant defensive tackle for Los Angeles, is going to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame when he’s done playing. And the two-time All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowl tackle is only in his fourth NFL season.
“Obviously, be able to move and make plays on your feet...for me, it’s really critical,” Wilson said. “It’s always great when you can move. As fast as D-ends and linebackers are, you have to be able to move and be able to make some throws and do some things. It’s always make it tough on a defense, that’s for sure.”
What a difference two healthy legs make.
Now, Wilson heads back to Los Angeles on Sunday to meet the NFC West-leading Rams (3-1) with his high-ankle sprain and sprained knee he got a week after that loss at L.A. last year fully healed.
Now, he is back to being able to make his signature, playground plays away from three pass rushers. To run to his left, throw a dart across his body and off his wrong foot 45 yards in the air to, say, Tyler Lockett. That’s what he did on the first play of the fourth quarter last weekend in Seattle’s win over Indianapolis. People are still talking about that wowing through around Seahawks headquarters days later.
Now, Wilson is fully equipped to get away from the extra Rams pass rushers new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is sending inside his 3-4 system in Los Angeles.
“They rush five most of the time, so that’s going to be a big part of this game,” Seahawks offensive coordinator and play caller Darrell Bevell said. “They have great players over there. Obviously, Aaron Donald is a premier player in this league and that’s something that we’ll have to make sure that we can handle.”
That will be the key to whether the Seahawks can leave California Sunday night tied with the Rams for the division lead, or two games back five games into this already uneven season.
The Seahawks’ offensive line has had problems this season having five blockers adequately hold off four and three pass rushers on key plays. They will often get double that load Sunday. Plus, left tackle Rees Odhiambo is coming off a bruised sternum and hospital stay into Monday, putting some doubt into whether he starts against the Rams or Matt Tobin makes his Seahawks debut there.
So, yes, Wilson is going to need his legs to escape, to make more playground plays, to win in the Coliseum this time. Seattle has played the Rams three times there: in its 1976 expansion season, in ‘79 and last year. The Seahawks have scored a total of nine points in those three games.
“Whenever you are playing guys like Donald and Quinn and all the great linebackers and everybody they have--(Alec) Ogletree and those guys, (Mark) Barron--you have to be able to move every once in a while,” Wilson said. “Because they are going to get there.”
Oh, yes, they are. The Rams have 39 sacks in 10 games against Wilson. That’s the most any opponent has dumped the Seahawks’ QB in his career.
“They’ve got great players,” Wilson said. “But we are looking forward to the challenge.
“I’m glad I can be on my feet this time.”