On the surface, it seems the 1-4 St. Louis Rams would provide the perfect get-well game for a Seattle Seahawks team needing to bounce back from the Dallas loss that caused them to drop to 3-2.
But then you have to note that no team in the league has been tougher on quarterback Russell Wilson, sacking him 19 times in four career games — seven times the last time the Seahawks visited the Edward Jones Dome last season.
And then you notice that coach Pete Carroll is a modest 2-2 in four games at St. Louis, and needed a heroic last-minute Heath Farwell tackle at the goal line to keep from losing there last year.
Fair, too, to see that the Rams played Dallas closer than the Seahawks, losing 34-31 after leading 21-0 late in the first half.
So, yeah, the Rams have won only once, but if Sunday’s game follows the form of recent battles in St. Louis, it will be a nasty encounter.
“Jeff (Fisher) has always coached a real physical team with an aggressive style of play,” Carroll said. “They’ve always been tough on us when we go there. They’re the youngest team in the league and they’re loaded with a bunch of guys who can fly.”
Carroll called them “disruptive.” And that would certainly apply to their pass rush.
In four appearances against the Rams, Wilson has been sacked only one fewer time than he has in a combined eight games against NFC West Division foes Arizona (11) and San Francisco (nine).
On a conference call Wednesday, Rams defensive end Robert Quinn explained the success in corralling Wilson.
“He’s a shorter quarterback,” Quinn said of the 5-foot-11 Wilson. “Not trying to take anything away from him; he definitely makes plays when asked.”
But when you collapse the pocket by pushing taller offensive linemen back into the face of Wilson, “it makes it hard for him to see his receivers. I think the best thing is to try to keep him in the pocket and go from there.”
The Rams, behind Quinn’s 19 sacks, had a total of 53 last season. In five games of 2014, though, they have an historically low one sack.
The reason? The Rams’ reputation as sackmasters, Fisher said, causes teams to get rid of the ball quickly. He also adds that the Rams’ problems with run defense have led teams to pass with less frequency. An ankle injury sidelining defensive end Chris Long contributes to the surprising weakness.
“I’m confident things will change; we’ve been getting pressure,” Fisher said. “We’ve played mobile quarterbacks and they’re hard to get down.”
Despite their record, the Rams should have some residual confidence from last year’s game, when Quinn and Long split six of the seven sacks of Wilson. It was a game in which the Seahawks, in a 14-9 win, showed some of the problems that would lead to their two losses this season.
By dominating time of possession (38-22) and total plays (71-40), the Rams established a blueprint for slowing the Seahawks. Because of the limited number of plays, Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch got just eight carries for 23 yards.
Seattle losses to San Diego and Dallas have followed that pattern.
“We played a heckuva ball game overall but they came up with the ‘W,’ ” Quinn said of the game. “Our guys sold out and went toe-to-toe with the world champs. That’s the same kind of team we have now. We’ve got to put it together and catch fire.”
Physical play is a hallmark of a Fisher-coached team, and a blitzing defense is the style of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
The bruising approach, Fisher said, is not just typical of the St. Louis-Seattle matchup.
“I think it’s critical in the division,” Fisher said, citing the division’s reputation for rugged defense. “We’re continuing to build that way to be able to compete. I think we’re closing the gap. We’re not there yet, but our guys understand that it has to start that way, and the game has to finish that way.”