Young Secondary Key to Seahawks' Chances in NFC West Rematch with Rams

Gashed by a talented Rams receiving corps in Week 5, Seattle must shore up underneath coverage to win Sunday's rematch.

Looking back at a competitive 33-31 loss to Los Angeles Rams last month, a few more friendly bounces in the Seattle Seahawks favor could’ve swung the tide in favor of the home team on the scoreboard.

But ultimately, coach Pete Carroll understands that for Seattle to have a shot at avenging the Week 5 defeat in Sunday’s rematch at the Coliseum, a young, developing secondary must show substantial progress after Rams quarterback Jared Goff carved the unit up with short and intermediate passes.

“We have to work with the under coverage better than we did last [time].” Carroll said. “We gave up some stuff that they dumped off and made a lot of yards after the catch. A couple of those were tackles, but just deployment and stuff.”

Even after losing top receivers Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp to concussions during the game, Goff didn’t take the foot off the pedal at CenturyLink Field on October 7, completing nearly 72 percent of his passes while distributing the football to seven different receivers in the process. With receivers running open seemingly every play, the third-year quarterback finished with 321 passing yards and a touchdown.

As Carroll pointed out, missed tackles loomed large for Seattle, as free safety Tedric Thompson and his secondary companions whiffed several times, including on a six-yard touchdown pass from Goff to Kupp in the first half. Penalties also proved to be a killer, as a fourth-down stop to start the fourth quarter turned into a new set of downs thanks to a defensive pass interference penalty on cornerback Shaquill Griffin.

Additionally, dual-threat MVP candidate Todd Gurley scored three touchdowns on the ground and has continued to be a thorn in the Seahawks’ side, as he’s scored seven combined touchdowns the past two times the bitter NFC West rivals have met.

Aside from two somewhat lucky turnovers, including a deflected goal line pass by rookie Tre Flowers that landed in the hands of defensive end Frank Clark, Seattle couldn’t find any answers to coach Sean McVay’s brilliant offensive game plan. The inability to generate pressure on Goff only worsened matters, as the Seahawks only hit him twice through four quarters of play and he enjoyed a comfortable pocket all afternoon.

Coming off their first loss of the season in New Orleans, Carroll doesn’t anticipate McVay's Rams changing much heading into Sunday and the Seahawks will simply have to play much better defensive football.

Most vitally, Flowers and a still largely untested secondary that is still licking its wounds a bit from a tough outing against Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers must bounce back quickly facing a team featuring Cooks, Kupp, and Robert Woods on the outside.

“This group is fantastic – all three guys getting almost 40 catches.” Carroll said when discussing the Rams deep receiving corps. “So, you don’t know where the ball is going. They have great choices and those guys are fantastic in there.”

Sitting at 4-4, the Seahawks desperately need a win to stay in the thick of the NFC playoff hunt and there’s no margin for error against an opponent that has performed well in all three phases of the game this season. Seattle will once again be the underdog, but after exchanging hay-makers in a tightly-contested game last month, Carroll believes his team can push the talented Rams to the brink if the secondary can clean up its mistakes from the last outing.

“We have an enormous matchup this week with a team that’s been flying the whole first half of this season…” Carroll stated. “We’re up against it, we’ve got to play great football and we do that by practicing really well this week and jumping at the challenge, and that’s what we’re going to do.”