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Notebook 12/26: Running Game Likely to Determine Rams-Seahawks

Posted Dec 26, 2013

Pete Carroll and his Seahawks received they could handle from Zac Stacy and the Rams’ running game nine weeks ago.

Stacy, who was largely unknown nationally prior to the Rams’ appearance on Monday Night Football against Seattle, rushed for a career-high 134 yards in that Week 8 meeting in St. Louis. Now in preparation for the final regular season game, Carroll expects another significant challenge from Stacy and company.

“He had a great game against us, and they’re off and running,” Carroll said during his Thursday conference call with St. Louis media. “We could see why they would be one of the top running teams in the league at this time now. He’s been terrific.”

Following that midseason game against Seattle, Stacy has piled up three more 100-yard performances, including each of the last two weeks. He remains just 42 yards shy of becoming the third Rams rookie to surpass 1,000 rushing yards. He would also give the Rams a 1,000-yard rusher for the ninth consecutive season. There will be a concerted effort on the part of the Rams’ offense to find running room once again, though offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer acknowledged another 200-yard day would be quite a feat against what is currently the league’s top-ranked defense.

“It just doesn’t happen to this defense,” Schotteheimer said. “Certainly they’ll adjust. We felt good about our ability to do it, but certainly we didn’t win the game. They found a way to win the game and that’s the objective. It doesn’t matter how many yards we have running, throwing, anything. We want to get the win, but again it’ll be tough sledding this week.

Leading up to the last meeting between the two teams, discussion surrounding the running game centered primarily on the Seahawks’ Marshawn Lynch, who recently tallied his fifth career 1,000-yard rushing season. The Rams then limited Lynch to just 23 yards on eight carries, his lowest single-game rushing total in three years. The Rams’ performance against Seattle paved the way for what has been one of the league’s best run defenses during the second half of the season, and ranks seventh against the run overall this year.

“We have to go and play well in the run game,” Rams defensive coordinator Tim Walton said. “That’s where it all starts with us. When we stop the run early and teams can’t run the ball and they have to drop back and throw it, that really plays into the strength of our guys that can rush and then get our hands on balls and force the quarterback to make errant throws. So, it all starts with that. We’ve got to keep it going. We have to finish that strong.”

News and Notes:

-Several Rams are closing in on personal and team milestones on Sunday. With 641 receiving yards this year, TE Jared Cook is just 16 yards shy of the Rams’ single-season record, set by Mike Barber in 1983. With 2.5 sacks on Sunday, DE Chris Long would post his third consecutive season of 10 sacks or more. With his first tackle on Sunday, LB Alec Ogletree will break teammate James Laurinaitis’ rookie record of 144 tackles, set in 2009.

-Defensive ends Robert Quinn and Long have more sacks (25.5) than any other pair of teammates in the NFL this year. Quinn’s 28.5 sacks are also second to only Houston’s J.J. Watt (30.0) in the NFL since the beginning of the 2012 season.

Injury Report:

Rams:

WR Tavon Austin (ankle), RB Daryl Richardson (thigh) and S T.J. McDonald (illness) did not practice. DE Chris Long (thigh) participated fully.

Seahawks:

LB K.J. Wright (foot), WR Percy Harvin (hip), WR Jermaine Kearse (ankle) and DE Red Bryant (knee) did not practice Thursday. G J.R. Sweezy (concussion), FB Derrick Coleman (shoulder), T Russell Okung (toe), LB Malcolm Smith (ankle), CB Richard Sherman (hip) and S Earl Thomas (thigh) had full participation Thursday.

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