Standing at 6-foot-4, 235 pounds with 4.33-second speed, Seahawks receiver DK Metcalf is a unicorn. As such, very few defensive backs have been able to bottle up his game-breaking ability.
One of those exceptions, however, has been Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey who, in three games in 2020, limited Metcalf to just four catches for 44 yards on 11 total targets.
After Metcalf got the best of Ramsey in their first meeting back in 2019—reeling in five receptions on five targets for 69 yards—the two-time All-Pro corner flipped the script and more or less eliminated Seattle's most dangerous weapon in a trio of crucial intra-divisional matchups. In Week 10 of the 2020 campaign, Ramsey shadowed Metcalf for much of the afternoon and held him to no targets through the first half; he ended the day with no catches on two targets within the individual matchup. Six weeks later, Metcalf was once again targeted a mere two times with Ramsey in coverage, catching one pass for an 11-yard gain.
When the Rams and Seahawks got together for a third time in the wild-card round of the playoffs, Metcalf put up strong numbers—five catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns—but still struggled to do much damage versus Ramsey. In six attempts, the Mississippi native caught three balls for 33 yards and Seattle went on to lose by a score of 30-20, ending its season.
Having to sit on those struggles for an entire offseason, Metcalf didn't get a shot at a rematch for 10 long months. But on Thursday night, as the Seahawks and Rams reconvened for their first matchup of the 2021 season, the third-year receiver exacted his revenge.
On the Seahawks' second offensive drive of the game, Metcalf immediately set the tone against Ramsey. Running a beautiful stop-and-go, he successfully baited Ramsey into breaking down on his route and turned him around as he headed upfield wide open. Raising his right arm in the air for the attention of a scrambling Russell Wilson, Metcalf hauled in an under-thrown ball for a 25-yard gain before being sandwiched in between the trailing Ramsey and Los Angeles linebacker Kenny Young.
Two drives later, the Seahawks drove into the Rams' red zone looking for their first points of the game. On 2nd and 7 from the 19-yard line, Metcalf was given a near 10-yard cushion by Ramsey. He sprinted to the corner's starting point then crisply broke inward right as the two met, snagging a rocket off Wilson's arm and squeezing in between Ramsey and safety Taylor Rapp for the score. With that, his 17-quarter scoreless streak against Ramsey was snapped.
As the game progressed, Seattle's offense became stagnant and Metcalf went quiet. In the time between his touchdown and his very next target, the Seahawks ran 18 plays on four drives and lost Wilson to a finger injury. Enter backup quarterback Geno Smith, who took his first snaps in meaningful minutes for the first time since December 3, 2017.
With the Seahawks down by nine points and starting their first drive with Smith under center at their own two-yard line, Metcalf took over. After a pass interference call on Ramsey—who was covering receiver Tyler Lockett—gave Seattle some breathing room, Metcalf helped his backup quarterback get into a rhythm with a 17-yard catch-and-run to the 34-yard line.
Smith continued to pick apart L.A.'s defense, leading his men all the way down near their opponent's red zone. He'd look Metcalf's way again, connecting on a 23-yard pass for a touchdown to stun the Rams and pull the game back within two points.
Quickly down nine again following a brutal effort from their defense, the Seahawks needed points—fast. Smith executed yet another brilliant drive, moving deep into Rams territory for a field goal to cut the deficit to 23-17. That was made possible thanks in part to a clutch 14-yard catch by Metcalf to keep the chains moving on 3rd and 10.
While the Seahawks came up short in their eventual 26-17 defeat, and wound up losing more than just the game, Metcalf proved to be a rare silver lining in an otherwise disastrous evening. In all, he recorded a nearly identical stat line to the one he posted 10 months ago in Seattle's wild-card loss: five catches for 98 yards and two scores, with three of those receptions coming with Ramsey in coverage.
But Ramsey would still have an impact on the game, breaking up a second-quarter pass intended for Lockett that popped up into the air and into the arms of linebacker Troy Reeder for Wilson's first interception of 2021.
Nevertheless, the outing—particularly for Metcalf—was a welcome sight for the Seahawks, who desperately need something to hang their hat on right now. At the very least, their budding star receiver has seemingly taken yet another step forward into greatness. Following a slow start to the year, he's now sixth in the NFL in receiving yards (383) and tied with Rams wideout Cooper Kupp for the league lead in touchdown receptions (five).
With Wilson sidelined until at least mid-November, Metcalf will be pivotal in helping Smith keep Seattle's offense afloat. So far, he's shown a good rapport with the ninth-year quarterback and now gets a chance to show his chops without an elite passer feeding him targets.
If the Seahawks are going to stay relevant during Wilson's absence, they'll need Metcalf to continue establishing his superstardom. He made quite the statement on Thursday night by overcoming his biggest hurdle up to this point: Ramsey. They'll get at least one more crack at one another when Seattle travels to SoFi Stadium in Week 15, penning another chapter in one of the game's greatest active player-versus-player rivalries. For now, Metcalf has regained the upper hand.