BY Art Thiel 08:31PM 12/23/2015

Thiel: Rams forlorn, but pity not in Seahawks

Rams DT Aaron Donald has been a two-year menace for the Seahawks and QB Russell Wilson. But St. Louis is a crippled franchise, and the Seahawks are in no mood to offer sympathy.

Russell Wilson and the Rams — forever on the run. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Upon their 13th consecutive non-winning season, as well as the potential relocation of the franchise back to Los Angeles after 21 years in St. Louis, the Rams are probably the most forlorn outfit in the NFL, aside from Commissioner Roger Goodell’s legal advisers.

But at least the Rams have QB Russell Wilson on the schedule, this Sunday in fact, and will provide him most of their formidable pass rush. That has to make them feel a little better.

The Rams must almost enjoy chasing Wilson, mostly because they catch him more often than anyone. Remember the season opener in St. Louis? Six times they pulled him down, for 32 yards lost, plus numerous harassments that contributed mightily to the 34-31 loss in overtime that began the Seahawks’ early plunge from the NFL summit. Aaron Donald had two sacks among a team-high nine tackles.

Since then, things have happened.

As Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell put it Wednesday, “They’ve gone in a different direction, we’ve gone in a different direction.”

Yeah, sorta.

The Seahawks direction, you know about.

The Rams (6-8) were once 4-3, which included a a win over the Arizona Cardinals. But things have gone poorly since. On their injured reserve list are DE Robert Quinn, FS T.J. McDonald, CB E.J. Gaines and LB Alec Ogletree; on offense, OTs Roger Safford and Jamon Brown and WRs Damien Williams and Stedman Bailey, the latter recovering from two gunshot wounds to the head. RB Trey Watts was suspended for drug use.

Then QB Nick Foles, for whom large treasure was expended to acquire in a much-discussed offseason trade, was benched after a 37-13 loss to Chicago Nov. 15 for nothing other than poor play.

Backup Case Keenum, he of the 40.52 QB rating, meet Michael Bennett.

“He went to (the University of Houston),” Bennett, of Texas A&M, said Wednesday. “So I don’t like him.”

What the Rams do have is second-year DT Donald, whom Pro Football Focus says is in the top-five discussion for Defensive Player of the Year.

The motion was seconded by Seahawks offensive-line coach Tom Cable Wednesday: “I think it’s been a while since you’ve had that dominant a player in the NFL (at defensive tackle).”

Coach Pete Carroll gushed too.

“He’s really, really quick and he penetrates run and pass,” he said. “He’s got 11 sacks, so he’s obviously a big factor in the passing game.

“It’s not just that he can run you down, he has explosion — the get-off that gets him to a point where he has an advantage a lot. He’s a big deal for us to deal with.”

Perhaps better than any team, the Rams have broken down Seattle’s protection and also managed to cut off a lot of Wilson’s read-option chicanery. That can happen when a club has five former first-round draft choices along the defensive line.

What the Rams defense presents, despite the absence of star rusher Quinn, is the biggest test of Seattle’s re-invigorated offensive line. The five-game winning streak has come against average to mediocre defenses based on average yards per game –  San Francisco (27th), Pittsburgh (24th), Minnesota (13th), Baltimore  (14th) and Cleveland (26th).

Largely because of injuries, the Rams defense is ranked 22nd, but it still has premier linemen Chris Long and Michael Brockers to accompany Donald into the Seattle backfield.

“They’ve been a monster to deal with,” Carroll said. “They’ve been really hard. We’ve also had to deal with their kicking game too. Their kicking game is extraordinarily good.

“Those two phases of it are enough to control a football game, and the way they run the football now (rookie RB Todd Gurley missed the first Seattle game), it makes for a really good winning formula. We’ve had some troubles when we’ve played there at times. We’ll see if we can not let that happen again.”

For LT Russell Okung, part of the misshapen debut of the remade offensive line in the opener, a recollection of what happened that game seems to serve as a bit of incentive.

“They hit us first the last game,” he said, “and we paid for it.”

It’s a sad time for Rams fans and coach Jeff Fisher, who is following his first three seasons of 7-8-1, 7-9 and 6-10 with another potential loser in what may be the final season for the NFL in St. Louis.

But the NFL is always pitiless, as are the Vegas oddsmakers, installing Seattle as a 14-point favorite. So the Seahawks, as Okung will go about their business, telling the Rams: You started this.


  • Just Another Bullwhip

    Yes, the Rams totally belong back in Los Angeles, and with the late James Garner on the sidelines. My gosh, how can a team, or anyone, move to St. Louis, at least in the last 50 years or so. I will say, however, that the Cardinals baseball stadium–in baseball city U.S.A.–is great and about the easiest stadium to get in and out of, with a car, that I have experienced.

    • art thiel

      Wow. Something Bull likes. Never would have believed it.

  • 1coolguy

    Nick Foles had a very good game (115 QBR) but he is benched now. Austin is a stud that can be real trouble and their defense is shut down, yet the Hawks should win, 31-10.

  • Warchild_70

    St. Louisian born and bred when the Football Cardinals left for AZ was the second demoralizing event of my pro teams. The first was when our Hawks left for Atlanta GA. Now up here for 33+years I have aligned with my Seahawks and stewed when OK took our Supersonic’s.Well at least there is the WMBA Rain (sp). As for this Sunday’s game it’s the Hawks to loose and I hope the coaches let loose Russell and watch him frolic! Should be close for three quarters 38-16. GO HAWKS!!

    • art thiel

      St. Louis has been generous in sharing its teams with America.

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  • TrippinTheCripple

    St. Louis will get no pity from me where injuries are concerned. Seattle has its own Who’s Who of a MASH unit.
    Besides, we seem to have a knack for bringing the Ram out of the otherwise sacrificial Lambs. A loss Sunday — at home — would deplete all the feel-goods the Seahawks have squirreled away in recent weeks. It’s not enough to cut their throats. We need a slaughter. I won’t be happy until the unrecognizable remnants of the Rams are scraped from the field, boiled in a huge pot and there is mutton left to move to LA but stew.

    • art thiel

      Feel free to say what you think. Don’t be so bashful.

      • TrippinTheCripple

        But I thought I did …?

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    As the fabled Mister T chortles a considerable time ago “I pitty the Fool”….who wears a Ram uniform and comes into the Emerald City expecting to win. These bums are part of the reason for Seattle’s early season stumble/losses and it stings like it was yesterday so a pummeling is due. The Hawks will be happy to administer that pay back.

    • art thiel

      As I mentioned, no pity in this burg.

      • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

        Yes, I was just mirroring your thought that most fans feel the same way. An old fashion whipping is hoped for/expected.

  • notaboomer

    jeff fisher, the poster child for the league of denial (ak the not for long), kept qb case keenum in the game after he had obvious head injury this season v. houston:

  • Raymond Meyers

    I think we really have to start hating the abstract entity “Rams,” in order to have what we can call a rivalry. The abstract entity “Forty Niners” has been emaciated, and is a group we should actually show sympathy if not pity toward. All the people who were really worthy of hatred have left or are no longer worthy The Harbaugh is gone and Loser CK is on IR. Jim Tomsula’s facial expression on the sideline changes, but seems to be painted on a base of “this is the right address, but I don’t recognize anyone.” Hating the Bay Area Bumblers is kind of like kicking cripples. It’s still fun, but it’s kind of mean.

  • just passing thru

    If need be, the D will win the game, with an assist from the 12s.