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For all their success, Seahawks have struggled with Rams

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson warms up before a preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday.
(Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)

It’s noon at Seattle Seahawks headquarters, an idyllic piece of land along Lake Washington, and practice has just ended. Young employees carrying trays of made-to-order recovery drinks and smoothies distribute them to players heading off the two fields. Other players linger on the playing surface to visit with family members. Thousands of Seahawks fans cover a grassy hillside opposite the lake, happily hemmed in behind a chest-high fence and hoping their football heroes might come over to sign autographs.

The place has a country-club feel, and the Pete Carroll-coached Seahawks have earned it. They are a model franchise, both in the way they have created their brand and succeeded on the field, going 51-21 since the second half of the 2011 season and 1-1 in Super Bowls during that span.

Much as the Seahawks are a model franchise for the Rams, who haven’t had a winning season since 2003, the Rams have been a headache for the Seahawks, beating Seattle in three of the last four meetings, including a two-game sweep last season.

“They’ve had our number a little bit the past two years,” said Seattle punter Jon Ryan, noting some of those games hinged on pivotal plays by the Rams’ special-teams units.

The Rams’ defensive front manhandled Seattle’s offensive line in many of those games. In eight career games against then-St. Louis, quarterback Russell Wilson was sacked an average of 4.4 times. Against the rest of the league, Wilson was sacked 2.3.

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With Wilson as the starter, the Seahawks are 4-4 against the Rams since 2012, and 42-14 against everyone else.

The Rams have the NFL’s youngest team — Carroll similarly built the core of his team with young players, as opposed to wading deep into free agency — and many coaches agree that the Los Angeles roster is stocked with pure athletes.

“They do look good getting off the bus,” Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett conceded.

Of course, the key is not who gets off the bus, but how that player performs within the lines, and the Rams ultimately will be relying on a rookie quarterback, Jared Goff, who is still getting used to calling a play in the huddle and taking a snap from under center. At the moment, veteran Case Keenum is the starting quarterback.

“He’s going to be taking hits, and we’re going to be delivering hits,” said Bennett, whose team plays at Los Angeles on Sept. 18 in the Rams’ home debut. “It will be fun to hit a new rookie quarterback. In this conference, it’s hard to be a quarterback. You’ve got four of the top defenses every year.”

Even though Arizona won the NFC West last season at 13-3 — Seattle was second at 10-6 — the Seahawks look well positioned to make another run at a division title. They’ve gone 88 consecutive games in which they have either led in the fourth quarter, or have been within one score.

Carroll has told people within the building that this is potentially the best team he’s had since coming to the Seahawks from USC in 2010. He gets no argument from Seattle defensive end Cliff Avril.

“Most definitely,” Avril said, when asked whether this is the best team in his four seasons with the club. “If you look at the core guys on defense and offense, everybody has a lot of experience — from being Super Bowl champs, to losing a Super Bowl, to not making it to a Super Bowl. We’ve had ups and downs in all those seasons, and experience is on our side.”

The Rams are angling for the kind of success the Seahawks and Cardinals have had, both on the field and by changing the way people perceive them.

“I think the city of L.A. is a perfect place for football,” Bennett said. “They love USC, they used to love the Rams and Oakland. So it’s one of those things where I think the city’s ready.”

Of course, the Seahawks aren’t ready to give an inch. Looking good getting off the bus only takes you so far.

sam.farmer@latimes.com

Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesFarmer


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