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Rams defense picks off Russell Wilson, shuts down Seahawks to move atop NFC West

Seattle Seahawks running back Alex Collins is tackled by Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey and defensive lineman Greg Gaines.
Seattle Seahawks running back Alex Collins is tackled by Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey, bottom center, and defensive lineman Greg Gaines, right, as Leonard Floyd trails the play during the fourth quarter Sunday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The lofty statistics and ranking were earned against some of the NFL’s least potent offenses.

So the Rams defense was ready for its greatest challenge Sunday against Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and the league’s highest-scoring offense.

“That’s what we live for,” star cornerback Jalen Ramsey said.

The Rams proved they were legit, shutting down the Seahawks and once again dominating the second half in a 23-16 NFC West victory at SoFi Stadium.

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Cornerback Darious Williams intercepted two passes, edge rusher Leonard Floyd had three of the Rams’ six sacks and also recovered a fumble, and Ramsey nearly shut out star receiver DK Metcalf as the Rams improved to 6-3 — good for a share of the division lead.

This was different than manhandling the offenses of the Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants, Washington Football Team and Chicago Bears in victory — and even the Miami Dolphins in defeat.

Offensive wiz Sean McVay was supposed to take the Rams offense to new places with Jared Goff, but expectations haven’t been in touch with reality.

This amounted to a statement game for first-year defensive coordinator Brandon Staley and a unit that was ranked second in total defense and points allowed.

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The Seahawks were averaging 34.3 points, but the Rams, who had given up 19 points per game, mostly stifled Wilson and sent the Seahawks (6-3) to their second consecutive defeat.

“Unbelievable job,” coach Sean McVay said of a defense that gave up only three points in the second half. It was the eighth time in nine games the Rams defense allowed three or fewer points in the second half.

Malcolm Brown rushed for two touchdowns and Darrell Henderson rushed for another to lead the Rams offense, which suffered a blow when veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth exited with a knee injury.

But the defense was the difference.

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“It gives us a whole lot of confidence just to see our dawgs out there just getting it in, man, and being able to stop an electrifying offense,” Brown said. “It just gives us a little excitement, gets us fired up, gives us the momentum and we always just want to backdoor that with a score.”

Rams quarterback Jared Goff scrambles away from the Seahawks' defense.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff scrambles away from the Seahawks’ defense during the second quarter Sunday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Sunday’s game was the Rams’ first since a 28-17 loss to the Dolphins on Nov. 1, a defeat that was lowlighted by quarterback Jared Goff’s two interceptions and two fumbles.

Goff was more efficient against the Seahawks. He completed 27 of 37 passes for 302 yards. He did not have a pass intercepted but lost a fumble while being sacked.

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Brown, Henderson and rookie Cam Akers combined to rush for 99 yards. The Rams, however, could not consistently exploit a Seahawks defense that ranked last against the pass. The Rams scored a third-quarter touchdown but were shut out in the fourth quarter.

Fortunately for Goff, the Rams defense remained stout.

“You can’t understate everything they’ve done,” Goff said. “It’s exciting as a quarterback to be so reliant on them. You know you don’t want to be, you want to win that game by four touchdowns, but we don’t have to score on every drive.

“We’re able to rely on the defense a little bit and it is helpful.”

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Darious Williams got plenty of air time and out-shined Jalen Ramsey with his two interceptions in the Rams’ victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

In addition to Floyd, rookie outside linebacker Terrell Lewis had two sacks and Michael Brockers had another. Wilson completed 22 of 37 passes for 248 yards, with two interceptions.

“They’ve got some pretty hot stuff coming up front, but when we have our chances we got to get rid of the football and didn’t do it well,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said, adding, “We were fine early in the game and it kind of snowballed on us later.”

The Rams led 17-13 at halftime after Henderson and Brown touchdown runs and Williams ended a threat with an interception in the end zone. The Rams extended the lead in the third quarter with an 88-yard drive that ended with Brown’s one-yard touchdown.

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Then the defense stepped up.

Floyd, who had two sacks during one series in the third quarter, recovered a fumbled snap early in the fourth. Williams ended another Seahawks drive when he picked off Wilson with 7:48 left.

The Seahawks kicked a field goal with 25 seconds left, but Rams receiver Robert Woods recovered an onside kick to seal the victory.

Breaking down the notable numbers behind the Rams’ 23-16 victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.

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It was a noteworthy win for a Rams team that plays the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and quarterback Tom Brady (7-3) next Monday night in their fifth and final trip to the East Coast. It’s a marquee matchup outside the division before NFC West games against the San Francisco 49ers (4-6) and Arizona Cardinals (6-3).

“Definitely the message [is] that we can get to the quarterback, we can cause a lot of stress on the quarterback,” said Floyd, who increased his sack total to seven, equaling his career best. “We’re looking forward to going to Tampa, man, and just building off this.”


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