THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- That’s what we wanted.
That’s what Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald said right after his team defeated the Arizona Cardinals to punch their ticket into the postseason, finding out they would face the Seattle Seahawks.
That’s right -- the same Seattle team that had just defeated the Rams 20-9 two weeks earlier to earn the NFC West division title, something Donald has not forgotten.
Like the refrain from one of James Brown’s most famous songs, Donald is mad and needs some payback.
The Rams defeated the Seahawks 23-16 at SoFi Stadium in Week 10, so Saturday’s matchup will serve as the deciding contest in the season series.
“We play them twice a year,” Donald said. “We won the first game and they got the best of us the second game, so now this one is more like the tiebreaker. They got the division, and they were happy about that. And now they have to see us again a third time.
“When you’re playing a team that you see twice a year, you’ve kind of got a feel for each other. They know what you’re going to do, we know what they are going to do. It’s pretty much man on man, and the best team should win. So there’s no better way than that to start it off.”
So, the familiarity had a lot to do with you wanting to play Seattle, Aaron?
“Yeah, and I think they beat us the last time, so that has something to do with it, too,” joked Donald.
Although the Rams are on the road, there will be no 12th man to deal with due to the COVID-19 protocols locally in King County.
“It’s going to be like it’s been all year,” Donald said. “I kind of wish there were some fans that we could feed off when we make a play. Even if they’re booing or mad, you kind of feed off that. You miss that, but it’s just going to be like we’ve had all year. We’ve got to feed off each other, pick each other up and just go out there and play ball.”
Donald will see a familiar face across the line of scrimmage in Russell Wilson. The elusive Seattle quarterback is getting easier to catch in hi old age, as the Rams sacked the 32-year-old Wilson a combined 11 times in two games this season.
However, Donald still understands that Wilson can make plays if the Rams don’t remain disciplined in their pass rush.
“I’ve been playing against him for seven years, so you kind of have a feel for what he does,” Donald said. “There’s certain ways he wants to roll out. And certain things he can do as far as when he pump fakes to make you jump if he wants to roll and throw.
“If you play against a guy for seven years twice a season, you get a feel for him. But he can still make things happen. He’ll hit you once and get rid of the ball. We know what we’ve got to do to get to him and try and affect him.”
Wilson is a 5-0 in postseason play. The Seahawks currently have a 10-game winning streak at home in the playoffs.
Wilson’s 9-6 overall in the postseason, leading the Seahawks to a Super Bowl win after the 2013 season. He’s completed 62 percent of his passes for 3,612 yards, with 23 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in the playoffs, posting a 96.7 passer rating.
“He’s been there so many times,” Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said about Wilson’s track record in the postseason. “Back then, in the first year, he didn’t have all these wins, and then all these games behind him and all these experiences and all that. So, he knows the game better. He knows himself better. He knows me better. He knows how we operate and all that. He’s just better in general, but his makeup has not changed.
“His makeup has been the same throughout. It’s just kind of the high school or the graduate version, I guess you’d say, of what his makeup is. He’s just had so many experiences. He’s been through so many challenging times and he’s won so much too, that he’s just got a great background of what it takes. His belief and resolve about what he’s able to do and add to the team’s efforts is really clear. So, we just try and make that come to life again.”