Rams vs. Seahawks matchups: Jared Goff, offense look to bounce back

Rams quarterback Jared Goff throws a pass against the New England Patriots on Dec. 10, 2020.
Quarterback Jared Goff is 5-3 in his career against Seattle, but rookie Cam Akers, the Rams’ top rusher, will not play Sunday because of a high-ankle sprain he suffered against the Jets.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

How the Rams (9-5) and Seattle Seahawks (10-4) match up heading into Sunday’s game at Lumen Field in Seattle at 1:25 p.m Pacific time. (TV: Fox)

When Rams have the ball: Just when it looked as if the Rams’ offense was coming together, it took a step backward last Sunday in a 23-20 loss to the previously winless New York Jets. The Rams failed to make plays in key situations and lost a chance to clinch a playoff berth. Rookie Cam Akers, the Rams’ leading rusher, will not play because of a high-ankle sprain that he suffered and played with against the Jets. Running backs Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown will share the work against the Seahawks, who have improved on defense since the Rams defeated them 23-16 on Nov. 15. Henderson has averaged 4.5 yards per carry, Brown 4.1. Quarterback Jared Goff is 5-3 in his career against the Seahawks. He has passed for 20 touchdowns, with 12 interceptions, including one in the loss to the Jets. Receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp have combined for nine touchdown catches, and tight end Tyler Higbee has two in the last three games. Pro Bowl linebacker Bobby Wagner and linebacker K.J. Wright lead a Seahawks defense that is getting more of a pass rush now that Carlos Dunlap has settled in after his midseason acquisition. Wagner and safeties Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams were voted to the Pro Bowl.

Rams and Seahawks numbers.
(Los Angeles Times)

When Seahawks have the ball: Quarterback Russell Wilson was a leading MVP candidate the first time the teams met. He cooled some but has passed for 37 touchdowns, with 13 interceptions. Wilson is now operating with a full complement of weapons. Running backs Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde, who sat out the Nov. 15 game against the Rams because of injuries, have returned, and they provide a strong rushing attack that takes some pressure off Wilson. Carson rushed for 63 yards, Hyde 55 in a 20-15 victory over Washington last week. Pro Bowl receiver DK Metcalf is no doubt eager to show he can be more effective in his second matchup against Rams Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Metcalf has 74 catches, 10 for touchdowns, and averages 16.5 yards per catch, which ranks fourth in the NFL. Tyler Lockett has 85 catches, eight for touchdowns. The Rams’ Aaron Donald has 12½ sacks, second most in the league, for a defense that is giving up a league-low 286.1 yards per game. Edge rusher Leonard Floyd has 7½ sacks. The loss to the Jets marked the first time in four games that the defense did not force a turnover or score a touchdown. The Rams are No. 1 in pass defense.

When they kick: The last time the Rams played in Seattle, former kicker Greg Zuerlein missed a 44-yard field-goal attempt in the final seconds that would have won the game. Matt Gay has made eight of 10 field-goal attempts. Johnny Hekker averages 45.9 yards per punt. Nsimba Webster had a career-best 34-yard punt return against the Jets. Seahawks kicker Jason Myers has made all 20 of his field-goal attempts.

Gary Klein’s prediction: Despite their embarrassing loss to the Jets, the Rams are in position to win the NFC West. But with a reinvigorated rushing attack, the Seahawks are surging and primed to clinch the division with a victory Sunday.