The scramble to buy time outside the pocket was textbook Russell Wilson. Likewise his poise and awareness as Seattle Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett ran a crossing route and then changed direction four times before drifting toward the left corner of the end zone.
Wilson squared his shoulders and fired a pass toward the rear pylon. With Rams safety Eric Weddle nearly draped on his back, Lockett caught the ball and toe-tapped the turf for a 13-yard touchdown.
Wilson made that spectacular pass nearly nine weeks ago in the Seahawks’ 30-29 defeat of the Rams at CenturyLink Field. But the veteran quarterback’s ability to pull it off continued to resonate with the Rams this week as they prepared for Sunday’s game against the Seahawks at the Coliseum.
“You’re thinking when you see it in live action, ‘There’s no way,’” Rams coach Sean McVay said.
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips had similar thoughts.
“We actually had really good coverage and he throws it running to his left — a dime — whatever they call it,” Phillips said. “It seemed like about a $20, $100.”
Two weeks ago, dual-threat Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson dissected the Rams on “Monday Night Football” to cement his status as a most-valuable-player front-runner. Now, in another showcase on “Sunday Night Football,” the Rams must try to stop or control Wilson, an eighth-year pro and Super Bowl champion making his case for MVP.
The Rams are 7-5. They trail the Seahawks (10-2) and the San Francisco 49ers (10-2) in the NFC West, but they are more realistically chasing the Minnesota Vikings (8-4) in the race for an NFC wild-card spot. The Rams probably need to win their remaining games against the Seahawks, Dallas Cowboys, 49ers and Arizona Cardinals to secure their third consecutive postseason berth.
It’s a different scenario than 2018, when the Rams ran away with their second consecutive division title and their late-season focus was on securing home-field advantage for the playoffs.
“Last year, we were trying to save ourselves to get to that No. 1 or No. 2 seed,” running back Todd Gurley said. “Now, we’re scratching our way in, but you just focus on the game on Sunday. Just go out there, give it our all and then just see what happens.”
Gurley rushed for two touchdowns against the Seahawks in October. But those plays were overshadowed by Greg Zuerlein’s missed field-goal attempt with 15 seconds left — and Wilson’s near-perfect performance.
Wilson completed 17 of 23 passes for 268 yards and four touchdowns, including a 40-yard strike to receiver DK Metcalf and the perfectly placed show-stopper to Lockett.
“That is unbelievable,” Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman said of the play on the FOX television broadcast, adding, “I don’t even know how Russell Wilson thought he could fit the ball in there.”
Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald has enjoyed more success than any player against Wilson — has sacked him 10½ times since 2014 — but that does not make his or the Rams’ task any easier Sunday.
“He’s definitely a guy that can run backwards 10 yards, and then run 10 back up, and then throw a ball and score a touchdown,” Donald said.
Wilson directs an offense that features power running back Chris Carson and ranks among the NFL leaders in yards rushing. The Seahawks defense, anchored by middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, has forced a league-best 16 fumbles.
The Seahawks helped the Rams’ playoff chances by defeating the Vikings on Monday.
Now the Rams must help themselves.
Last Sunday’s 34-7 victory over the Cardinals gave the Rams momentum heading into their matchup against one of the NFL’s hottest teams.
The Rams were in a similar situation two weeks ago. A week after they defeated the Chicago Bears, the Rams lost 45-6 to a Ravens team that featured an MVP candidate at quarterback, a strong rushing attack and a tough defense.
Unlike the Ravens, an unfamiliar opponent from the AFC, the Rams and Seahawks know each other well. They play each other twice each season, so schemes and tendencies are familiar.
But the Rams will present Wilson with a slightly different look than what he saw when they played in October.
Five days after that game, the Rams traded cornerback Marcus Peters to the Ravens, and then traded for cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Two weeks later, they traded Aqib Talib to the Miami Dolphins.
Ramsey’s man-to-man coverage skills have changed the Rams’ philosophy and scheme. Ramsey faced Wilson in 2017 while playing for Jacksonville. He intercepted a pass in a Jaguars victory over the Seahawks.
“He makes smart decisions,” Ramsey said of Wilson. “He picks when he wants to run and possibly get the first down or when he can still pass the ball.
“His receivers do a good job of working for him when he is scrambling, whether they are coming back to the ball or going deep trying to make a play.”
Wilson took advantage of Lockett’s headiness on their touchdown against the Rams in October. McVay, who built his career on his work with quarterbacks, has an appreciation for the skill that enabled Wilson to deliver the perfect pass.
“I’m a fan of the game,” McVay said, “but hopefully I’m not a fan of too many plays that he has this weekend.”