With bruising running back Marshawn Lynch leading the way, the Seattle Seahawks put on an impressive all-around display in front of a prime-time audience last week.
Viewers could be in for much of the same Monday night when the Seahawks host a hapless St. Louis Rams team they’ve dominated for years.
Most sports books monitored by SportsOptions have installed Seattle as a hefty 10-point home favorites, with the total set at 37.
While Seattle (5-7) is still mathematically alive in the playoff hunt, its chances remain slim after winning just two of its first eight games. The Seahawks sit in a second-place tie with Arizona in the NFC West – five games behind San Francisco, which clinched the division last week.
Seattle, though, seems to have turned a corner following a disappointing start, winning three of four while outscoring opponents 94-61.
Much of that success can be attributed to Lynch’s midseason emergence. After totaling 263 rushing yards over his first six contests, Lynch has compiled an NFL-best 591 yards on the ground and five rushing TDs since Week 9.
Lynch was difficult to bring down during a 31-14 victory over Philadelphia on Dec. 1, escaping defenders and running over would-be tacklers in rushing for a season-best 148 yards – 75 after contact – and two scores.
“When a guy like that is working that hard and you know what he can do, if we get on our guys and stay on them he’s going to do the rest of the work,” left guard Robert Gallery told the team’s official website. “He gives us a spark, and he doesn’t need much.”
Lynch’s recent accomplishments are all the more impressive given the state of Seattle’s offensive line. The Seahawks, who put rookie right tackles John Moffitt and James Carpenter on injured reserve with knee injuries last month, lost left tackle Russell Okung (torn pectoral muscle) for the season Thursday.
“We’re getting close now where new guys are going to have to play next,” coach Pete Carroll said. “Hopefully we can keep everybody together and make a good finish here.”
Seattle has posted five consecutive 100-yard efforts on the ground – its longest such streak since a seven-game run Nov. 10-Dec. 22, 1996 – and there’s little reason to believe it won’t make it six Sunday. The Rams are surrendering a league-worst 157.8 rushing yards per game.
Seattle recorded 126 rushing yards – including 88 and a TD from Lynch – during a 24-7 victory at St. Louis on Nov. 20.
The Seahawks have taken 12 of the last 13 matchups with the Rams – including six in a row at home by an average of 17.6 points – and they’ve averaged 164.5 yards on the ground in those wins at CenturyLink Field.
St. Louis (2-10) has been outscored 114-25 in its last four visits to Seattle, and experienced similar offensive woes last Sunday. The Rams managed a season-low 157 yards in a 26-0 loss at San Francisco.
“We just can’t seem to put anything together,” said quarterback A.J. Feeley, who started in place of the injured Sam Bradford. “We have to do a better job, plain and simple.”
Things aren’t about to get any easier for St. Louis, which might have to turn to its No. 3 quarterback. Feeley, who threw for 156 yards with an interception last weekend, suffered a small fracture in his right thumb and isn’t likely to be available.
Bradford’s progress, meanwhile, remains uncertain after he aggravated a high left ankle sprain during a 23-20 loss to Arizona on Nov. 27.
The Rams are expected to put Tom Brandstater under center if neither Feeley or Bradford can go. Brandstater, selected 174th overall in the 2009 draft by Denver out of Fresno State, was activated from the practice squad prior to last week’s game but hasn’t taken an NFL snap.
“(Brandstater) would have to be the guy,” coach Steve Spagnuolo told the Rams’ official website. “The good thing is we had him for a good month period there so the system is not new to him. Last week he was in there with the practice squad reps and kind of got the juices flowing again.”
If Brandstater starts, his NFL debut isn’t like to go smoothly. Seattle has made things difficult on opposing quarterbacks lately, recording eight interceptions and nine sacks over its last four games while holding them to a 68.4 passer rating.
The Seahawks sacked Bradford five times when the teams met last month. They also held three-time Pro Bowl running back Steven Jackson to 42 yards on 15 carries.
Jackson, averaging 41.6 rushing yards during the Rams’ three-game skid, has been held to 3.5 yards per carry in his last seven versus Seattle.