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October 18, 2014 at 12:52 PM

Seahawks-Rams: What to watch

Here are three things to watch for in Sunday’s Seattle-St. Louis game from beat writers Jayson Jenks and Bob Condotta.

First, Jenks:

1. Who picks up the receiving slack? Percy Harvin had the most catches on Seattle’s roster through five games, and while it’s true the Seahawks played almost all of last season without Harvin, they also had Golden Tate. Now the Seahawks will find out what life is like without Harvin and Tate, and the question becomes: Who carries the load? Obviously Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin will get increased targets, but I’m just as interested in seeing how things play out behind those two. Will Bryan Walters and Ricardo Lockette have increased roles? Or will rookies Kevin Norwood and Paul Richardson, neither of who have played much this season, take on more responsibility? Richardson isn’t a “Percy Harvin clone”; he is far more of a deep threat and a better route runner, but he isn’t as explosive in short bursts or as hard to bring down as Harvin. Will we see more of him?

2. How will the Seahawks hold up at cornerback? Starting cornerback Byron Maxwell is out this week because of a calf injury, which means an already thin position for Seattle gets thinner. The good news: second-year cornerback Tharold Simon is set to play for the first in his career. But that also means we don’t know what to expect from Simon, who had surgery for a torn meniscus in his knee earlier this season. The Seahawks will also lean on Marcus Burley, who has had to learn on the fly since joining the Seahawks right before the season. Burley has been solid as Seattle’s nickel corner, but he hasn’t spent much time as a starting outside corner.

3. Seattle’s offensive line vs. the Rams’ defensive line. The thinking heading into the season was that the Rams’ defensive line was one of the best in the league. That hasn’t been the case yet this season. The Rams rank last in the NFL with just one sack after finishing third last season with 53 sacks. Seven of those sacks came in one game against Russell Wilson and the Seahawks last year, although Seattle was playing without both starting offensive tackles. The Rams have given Wilson and the Seahawks problems over the years.

And from Condotta:

1. Will Seahawks get back to basics on offense? The trade of Percy Harvin seems to only further enforce that the Seahawks will get back to doing what they do best — meaning, specifically, handing the ball early and often to Marshawn Lynch. Lynch got just 10 carries for 61 yards in Sunday’s 30-23 loss at Dallas, and only two in the first half as the Seahawks tried early to establish a gameplan around Harvin. Seattle also ran just 48 plays and failed to convert third downs to sustain drives, making it difficult to get Lynch his usual number of carries. Regardless of adjustments Seattle may have to make due to no longer having Harvin, the Rams appear a good team to establish the run against. The Rams have proven vulnerable against the run this season, allowing 139.8 yards per game, 26th in the NFL, though coming off a game in which they allowed the 49ers just 89 on 30 attempts.

2. Which trend will give? This game features a pair of stats — one for each team — that would have seemed unfathomable prior to the season. The surprising stat for the Rams is that they have just one sack, a year after making 53 sacks led by Robert Quinn’s 19. The Rams, though, may think that will turn with Seattle coming to town as they have consistently given the Seahawks trouble up front the last few years, including seven sacks in the game in St. Louis last season. The surprising stat for Seattle is that the Seahawks and their Legion of Boom secondary have just two interceptions — only three teams have fewer. But now Seattle faces St. Louis and quarterback Austin Davis, forced into duty after injuries to the team’s top two signal-callers. Davis has thrown four interceptions in four starts, three returned for touchdowns.

3. Will Seattle have more success on third downs? Seattle coaches this week said improving their efficiency on third down on each side of the ball would go a long way toward solving every other problem. Of course, everything is related in football. Failing to get much on first and second down last week led Seattle to need to gain six or more yards on 12 of its 13 third downs on offense. Not surprising, then, that Seattle converted only five. That continued a season-long trend in which Seattle has converted just 38 percent of its third downs, 23rd in the NFL. Seattle is actually worse on defense, allowing opponents to convert 47.3 percent of third downs, which ranks 28th. The league average on offense is 41.73 and on defense 41.77. At least Seattle has been consistent —- in its two losses, Seattle allowed both Dallas and San Diego to convert 10-17, 59 percent while converting exactly 38 percent on offense (a combined 8-21).

 

 

 

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