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Rams can focus on Seahawks, not their fans, during game in Seattle

Seats at Lumen Field in Seattle are empty shortly before the Seahawks played the New York Jets on Dec. 13, 2020.
Seats at Lumen Field in Seattle are empty shortly before the Seahawks played the New York Jets on Dec. 13.
(Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)

They will miss the noise and even the insults, good-natured and otherwise.

The Rams, like all teams, have become accustomed to playing in empty stadiums during the COVID-19 pandemic. But in road games, the absence of fans on Sunday for their NFC West showdown against the Seattle Seahawks will probably be the most pronounced.

“The 12s,” as they are known in Seattle, have typically provided an ear-splitting home-field advantage for Seahawks teams at recently renamed Lumen Field.

“It will be nice not having the 12s screaming at us,” Rams tight end Tyler Higbee said. “But at the same time sometimes you enjoy going into a place where it’s just the team and everybody else is against you. It’s kind of a cool deal.”

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The Rams (9-5) can clinch a playoff berth even before they play Sunday if the Chicago Bears (7-7) lose to or tie the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-13) earlier in the day in Jacksonville. If the Bears win, the Rams can clinch a spot by defeating the Seahawks (10-4) and set up a chance to win the division with a victory over the Arizona Cardinals in the season finale.

The Rams could clinch a playoff berth even before they play the Seattle Seahawks, but last week’s loss to the Jets has heightened their determination to win.

The Seahawks can clinch the division title if they beat the Rams. But they won’t have their fans helping them.

“I’m really hoarse after the games from trying to make up for the crowd by yelling myself,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll joked. “I’m trying to counter the fact that there’s not 68,000 crazy people going nuts here. … We have a great crowd and great following and they’re going crazy, but they’re sitting at home doing it.

“So, it’s not a factor that we have enjoyed. … It’s one of the great assets you have is when the opponent can’t hear the snap count when you’re rushing the passer. So, we lose that factor, but the Rams and everybody else loses their factor too. It just kind of equals itself out.”

Rams coach Sean McVay has a 2-1 record against the Seahawks in Seattle. Last season, former kicker Greg Zuerlein missed a 44-yard field-goal attempt in the final seconds of a 30-29 Rams loss.

“I love going to Seattle,” McVay said, “There’s a handful of people that’ll say some really mean things, I kind of like it in a messed-up way.

“So, I’ll miss that.”

Seahawks fans share their thoughts on Rams coach Sean McVay during a game in October 2018.
Seahawks fans share their thoughts on Rams coach Sean McVay during a game in 2018.
(Gary Klein / Los Angeles Times)

So will quarterback Jared Goff.

“Any time you get to go up there and in front of that crowd in that atmosphere, it’s always fun,” said Goff, who has a 2-2 record as a starter against the Seahawks in Seattle. “It’s obviously always more fun when you win up there.

“But yeah, we’ll be approaching it no different than we would otherwise as far as just another road game for us.”

While Seahawks players have been forced to adjust to having no fans for home games, the Rams have yet to experience the advantage of a home crowd at brand new SoFi Stadium. On Nov. 15, the Rams defeated the Seahawks, 23-16, in front of more than 70,000 empty seats.

“You can only imagine what it would have been like this year in a new stadium with sold out crowds,” cornerback Jalen Ramsey said. “It would have been crazy, a good crazy.”

The absence of noise in stadiums has afforded players opportunities to hear more of each other.

“There’s a lot more people who trash talk than ya’ll would think,” Ramsey said. “We hear that more often.

“Obviously guys like myself and a few others in the league, we get highlighted for our trash talk, but it’s kind of league-wide. Kind of everybody.”

Rams quarterback Jared Goff failed to deliver in clutch situations last season, but he has done so in the past. NFC West showdown at Seattle is latest test.

Rams linebacker Troy Reeder, who made his first NFL start at Seattle in 2019, said the empty stadiums have enabled him to hear entertaining banter from coaches and teammates on sideline. And listening to the Rams offense from the sideline — or after a game while reviewing a television broadcast — also has been enlightening.

Fans can hear and see intricacies that are missing from a video game, Reeder said.

“It’s not like Madden where you select a play and go out and run it,” he said, “but all the little things that go into what a quarterback does, and communication-wise with the offensive line.

“I think from that perspective it’s pretty cool as a fan to be able to listen to that.”

Rams kicker Matt Gay said the quiet of an empty stadium can be more distracting than “loud deafening noise that kind of blocks everything out” during pressure-packed moments.

Sam Farmer makes his picks and predictions for Week 16 of the NFL season. Will the Rams beat the Seahawks for a second time this season?

“When it’s quiet you can hear the [defensive] line chirping out some very specific things, trying to get into your head,” said Gay, who has made eight of 10 field-goal attempts.

Gay said that he repeats a word to himself to remain focused on his process.

What word?

“I’ll keep that private on my end,” he said. “Don’t want them yelling that word at me when I’m kicking.”


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