Five keys for Rams vs. Seahawks

Still no clarity on starting QB for L.A. against Seattle
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THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Well, it’s game time.

I had a chance to talk to Mike Martz, former coach of the Rams, about his 2004 team that defeated the Seattle Seahawks three times, including a win over Seattle in the postseason, the last time these two teams met in the playoffs.

Martz basically said the Rams had Seattle’s number that year, reaching the postseason at 8-8 and defeating Seattle on the road, 27-20 in a game that came down to the final seconds.

On fourth-and-goal from the Rams’ 4-yard line, Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck scrambled to buy time and found receiver Bobby Engram in the end zone, but he couldn’t come up with the tough catch and Seattle turned the ball over on downs.

“The receiver dropped the ball,” recalled Martz. “The ball was down around his knees. And maybe he gets in and maybe he doesn’t, but there’s a real chance. … Seattle, to me, is one of the top two or three toughest places to play. The stadium the way it’s built is so dog gone loud. Without that crowd, it’s a different place. So I don’t think there’s advantage there other than having to travel. The crowd there is like playing in a dome.”

Former Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren said it’s tough to defeat a team three times in a season, and expects a close game with the Rams and Seahawks so familiar with each other.

“There are challenges,” Holmgren told KJR-AM Radio in Seattle. “One, if you won the game, there’s a tendency that you feel a little too confident and not quite as edgy. That happens to teams. The other thing is you know each other so well that you sometimes overthink things. … And you start changing things maybe a little too much for that third ball game, instead of ‘We do these things very well, and we’re going to out execute them.’”

If you’re interested in taking a trip down memory lane, you check out highlights from that 2004 playoff game below.

Doesn’t appear that weather will be a factor in Seattle, with temperatures in the 40s and no wet stuff expected this afternoon.

Here’s a statistical breakdown for the game. I predicted a 24-17 win for the Rams.

Here are five keys for the Los Angeles Rams as they try to get a road playoff win:

Jared Goff or John Wolford? Interesting report by Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, who says the Wolford got the majority of reps in practice and Jared Goff would have to provide a convincing argument to start this afternoon. I asked McVay about how he handled practice reps between the two quarterbacks this week, and this is what he had to say.

“It’s a challenge in and of itself just because of the reps, not exclusive to the quarterbacks,” McVay said. “But just your players overall, when you lose a day of preparation, you want to make sure that you’re thorough with that. But when you do lose that day, that’s a big deal. Especially when these guys are turning over pretty quickly, you want to make sure that they’re as fresh as possible now being the 17th game of the season for them. So, it’s a challenge really for the team, but Seattle has to work through it as well.”

Certainly, it seems like a possibility Wolford could be the guy and Goff could be an emergency quarterback if needed if they feel Goff from a physical standpoint is not ready to go. And that would mean an offensive game plan that leans on Wolford’s ability to use his legs.

Ball-Hawking defense: The Rams have scored four touchdowns on defense and have forced 22 turnovers, tied for No. 10 on the year. With Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, L.A.’s defense has to lead the way for the Rams, forcing a couple turnovers and making Russell Wilson uncomfortable.

Protect the football: On the flip side, the Rams have at least one turnover in every game and 25 overall this season, so taking care of the football should be a top priority for the entire offense.

Score TDs in the red zone: The Rams have not scored a touchdown in two games and went 0-for-4 in the red zone against the Arizona Cardinals last week. McVay needs to be creative when he gets into the red zone and find ways to score touchdowns.

Win the fourth quarter: The Rams are 34-0 under McVay when holding a lead at halftime. If the Rams can find a way to get an early lead and play from ahead, that would take some pressure off the offense. And in the fourth quarter, defensively the Rams will have to find a way from Wilson making big plays.