Russell Wilson was asked this week to describe how the Seattle Seahawks offense has improved or evolved since a Week 5 victory over the Rams.
The quarterback led the Seahawks to a 16-10 win at the Coliseum.
“It’s been impressive just to see how far we have really come and grown since the last time we played them,” Wilson said.
The Seahawks’ scoring has increased but, if anything, the offense has become even more Wilson-centric. The sixth-year pro and Super Bowl winner has accounted for all but one of the unit’s 33 touchdowns.
As the Rams prepared for Sunday’s NFC West showdown with the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field, the Rams’ most important game in more than a decade, players and coaches stated the obvious: They must contain, if not stop, Wilson, who has passed for 29 touchdowns and run for a team-best 482 yards and three touchdowns.
“He’s the key to it all,” Rams coach Sean McVay said.
The Rams (9-4) have a one-game lead over the Seahawks (8-5) in the division. A victory Sunday would put the Rams in control with two games remaining.
And perhaps portend a changing of the guard in the division.
“We know if we do win this one, how big that is for the rest of the season going forward,” quarterback Jared Goff said.
The Rams play at Tennessee on Dec. 24 and finish at home against the San Francisco 49ers on Dec. 31.
The Seahawks play at Dallas and finish at home against the Arizona Cardinals.
“This is our chance to, I guess, kind of take over the division and prove that we belong in first place,” Rams kick returner Pharoh Cooper said. “Our main focus is to win the division, and we have a great opportunity.”
Though the Rams have historically played Wilson tough, they know that he is capable of almost single-handedly spoiling their plans.
In October against the Rams, Wilson completed 24 of 37 passes for 198 yards and a touchdown, with one interception. He rushed for 16 yards in a game in which the Rams committed five turnovers.
It’s not only what the elusive Wilson does. It’s how he does it.
“He can run 20 yards back, run 20 yards forward and throw a touchdown,” Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald said. “I always say he just plays backyard football, and makes a lot of plays.”
In Seattle’s loss last week at Jacksonville, Wilson passed for three touchdowns, and had a season-high three passes intercepted.
But the Rams anticipate that he will be on point Sunday, leading an offense that averages 24.2 points and 361.1 yards per game.
“He’s not your typical quarterback that just stands there in the pocket and throws the ball down the field like a sitting duck,” linebacker Alec Ogletree said. “He’s able to get out of stuff even when you think you’ve got him.”
Wilson has been especially effective late in games, passing this season for 17 fourth-quarter touchdowns, an NFL record.
“In the fourth quarter, you better hang onto everything because he’s still coming,” Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said, adding, “Even if you’re ahead in the fourth quarter, nothing’s safe.”
In the days leading up to the game, the Rams prepared to slow down Wilson, and to attack a defense that must make up for the absence of several stars, including cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Kam Chancellor.
The Rams also took steps to ready themselves for the crowd noise at CenturyLink Field, which ranks among the NFL loudest stadiums.
“Coach was asking me, he’s like, ‘How loud is it going to be?’ ” running back Todd Gurley said. “I’m like, ‘Yeah, we’re not going to hear nothing.’ Not expecting to hear anything, but hopefully we go in there and do what we’re supposed to do and shut the crowd up.”
As they did before playing at Minnesota’s U.S. Bank Stadium, the Rams practiced during the week with music pumped at maximum volume on speakers that ringed the field.
“There was a couple times where it sounded like the speakers blew out,” McVay said.
The Rams said they also would be prepared if it rains during the game.
They practiced at times during the week with a wet ball. And Goff cited their 51-17 victory over the New York Giants in Week 9, which was played in rainy conditions.
“We feel real comfortable,” Goff said of playing in the rain.
Wilson, of course, could make the Rams sweat regardless of the conditions.
A nightmare scenario for the Rams would be an energized “12th man” crowd riding a wave of momentum created by Wilson.