INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Quandre Diggs lined up against Matthew Stafford every day in practice for 4 1/2 seasons in Detroit, so the Seattle safety knows a little more about the tendencies and talents of Los Angeles’ quarterback than his teammates.
“That’s my guy,” said Diggs, the leading Pro Bowl vote getter among NFC free safeties. “He’s going to try to attack me, and I’m going to try and get him.”
The Seahawks (5-8) will take every little edge they can get when they travel to SoFi Stadium on Tuesday for an NFC West showdown with the Rams (9-4) that could prove vital to both teams’ playoff hopes. The game was moved from Sunday due to COVID-19 concerns.
Seattle is clinging to hope of a late-season surge back into postseason contention after its 3-8 start to the season. Back-to-back wins have kept the Seahawks alive for their 10th consecutive winning record under coach Pete Carroll, but a loss in Inglewood would end that streak — and could prove insurmountable in the crowded NFC playoff picture.
“According to the outside, we were out of it two weeks ago, and it doesn’t matter what we’ve done the last two weeks,” Diggs said. “We’re still 5-8. … We’re comfortable with the uncomfortable. Right now we’re in an uncomfortable situation, so we’ve got to make it do.”
Meanwhile, the Rams have also put together back-to-back victories after a three-game winless November, securing their fifth straight winning season under Sean McVay — something this franchise hadn’t done in more than four decades.
They’re leading the wild-card playoff standings while keeping pressure on NFC West leader Arizona (10-3) with four games to go, but every game left on Los Angeles’ schedule looks difficult.
Seattle would never qualify as an easy game — even though the Rams have won seven of the rivals’ past nine meetings, including games at Lumen Field in last year’s playoffs and again last October. The Seahawks haven’t even scored 20 points in their past five meetings with the Rams.
The Rams wouldn’t have gotten much significant practice time this week because of an outbreak of COVID-19 cases on their roster. By Wednesday, 16 players were on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Although only a handful of starters were affected, they included 2020 All-Pro defensive back Jalen Ramsey.
Then the league moved the game to Tuesday. McVay likely wouldn’t have practiced much on a short week from Monday night’s win at Arizona, but the Rams got a respite.
“This is definitely something that’s been eye opening, and it’s something that (we) have to figure out,” McVay said. “Nobody is going to feel sorry for us. We’ve got to keep it moving, and so what that looks like is going to be interesting.”
While the statistics might say otherwise, the Seahawks have been one of the better defenses in the league basically since their previous meeting with the Rams. Seattle has the fifth-best scoring defense in the league for the season, giving up 20.2 points per game, and has not let a team score more than 23 points since its Week 5 loss to the Rams.
Seattle has improved dramatically in its third-down defense, and its red-zone defense has been among the best in the league for most of the season.
The Seahawks are still giving up too many yards for their liking and need to get more pressure on the quarterback, which will be a big key against Stafford.
“They do a great job at protecting him. We need to do a better job at getting to him,” Seattle defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said “It’ll be a good challenge for us.”
One of the best games of Rashaad Penny’s career came back in 2018 when he rushed for 108 yards and one touchdown against the Rams. Since that game, Penny has shown that same explosiveness only in rare occurrences, largely because of injuries.
One of those big games came last week when Penny rushed for a career-high 137 yards and two touchdowns against Houston. It was a terrific performance, but came against the worst run defense in the league. Having a big game like that this week against the Rams would be a much bigger accomplishment for the 2018 first-round pick.
STAFFORD IN THE POCKET
The Rams have rebounded from two poor offensive outings in November to score 95 points in their past three games, with Stafford snapping back into form after a six-turnover spree in that three-game skid. In his first taste of this rivalry last October, Stafford passed for 365 yards against the long-feared Seattle defense, which is now ranked last in the NFL in yards allowed, yet still only giving up 20.2 points per game.
Seattle TE Gerald Everett was looking forward to seeing his former team back in Week 5. But that never happened as Everett was sidelined on the reserve/COVID-19 list and was not cleared in time to play against the Rams.
It’s been a mixed first season in Seattle for Everett, who has 36 catches in 11 games. Everett had a miserable game two weeks ago with two fumbles and a bobbled catch attempt that led to an interception, but the rebounded with a touchdown catch last week against Houston. Seattle could use Everett developing into a more consistent option in the pass game late in the season.
AP Sports Writer Tim Booth contributed.
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