After capitalizing on nearly every opportunity, the Rams defense didn’t want to miss a final one.
As the clock ticked toward the two-minute warning Sunday, players gathered on the sideline and posed for a photo to commemorate a performance they won’t soon forget.
The Rams shut down Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson on their way to a 42-7 rout at CenturyLink Field to take a two-game lead in the NFC West with two games remaining on the schedule.
“Any time you win you’re going to be happy,” defensive lineman Aaron Donald said. “But any time it’s a great divisional opponent, when it’s a usual dog fight, to come out on top at their house is a really good feeling.”
In their most complete effort this season, the Rams held the Seahawks to 149 total yards, 76 fewer than Seattle’s previous low. Five players combined to sack Wilson seven times. The Rams had nine quarterback hits and forced three fumbles, recovering two.
“The overall speed of our defense, the way they pursue the football, the way they tackle as a unit,” coach Sean McVay said, “I thought that was a big point in being able to have the success they did.”
Several players credited defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ signature 3-4 scheme and the game plan for their success against the mobile Wilson.
“It was just a good combination of good coverage on the back end and then a good plan up front,” said Connor Barwin, who started after sitting out the last two weeks because a broken forearm. “At times, there were guys who were able to disrupt him and at the same time we always had guys on him when he tried to get out and run.”
Wilson completed only 14 of 30 passes for 142 yards and a touchdown. He accounted for 39 of Seattle’s 71 rushing yards.
Two days after calling Donald the “best defensive player I’ve ever played against,” Wilson was met by him several times in the backfield. Donald sacked Wilson three times and hit him four other times.
Donald said the Seahawks left him in several one-on-one matchups.
“You’ve got to take advantage of it,” said Donald, who made five tackles, two for losses.
But every defensive player contributed in the dominating effort.
For the seventh time this season, the Rams forced a turnover in an opening drive. And for the second time in three games, it was safety Lamarcus Joyner who made the play. Against the Arizona Cardinals, Joyner intercepted a pass.
On Sunday, he forced receiver Tanner McEvoy to fumble after a 22-yard catch. Linebacker Alec Ogletree recovered and the Rams’ ensuing drive ended with a field goal for a 3-0 lead.
Joyner said that he gave a pregame speech to inspire the defense. “We just knew that we had to start it fast,” he said, adding, “I had it set in my mind that me or someone was going to get a turnover.”
Linebacker Robert Quinn, who had two sacks, said the defense could sense the Seahawks were “flustered” after the initial turnover.
The Rams kept the pressure coming.
In the Seahawks’ second series, defensive linemen Michael Brockers and Matt Longacre combined to sack Wilson. The Seahawks punted two plays later.
In the second quarter, Quinn sacked Wilson and forced him to fumble. Lineman Morgan Fox recovered the ball, and the Rams converted the turnover into a touchdown to take a 27-0 lead.
The Seahawks finished the first half with 59 yards. Their only points came late in the third quarter. McVay pulled several starters early in the fourth.
“To be able to hold them the way they did today, give full credit to Wade, his staff and the players being able to execute,” McVay said.
Several key reserves also made outstanding plays.
Cornerback Troy Hill started in place of Kayvon Webster, who suffered a season-ending Achilles injury last Sunday. Hill broke up a deep third-down pass early in the second quarter.
Linebacker Cory Littleton, signed as an undrafted free agent in 2016 from Washington, replaced Mark Barron in the first quarter after Barron suffered a knee injury. Littleton finished with four tackles.