Rams-Seahawks: 5 keys to victory for Baker Mayfield’s LA finale

It’s hard to believe that the Los Angeles Rams have finally made it to the end of the season. They’ll wrap up their season on the road against the Seattle Seahawks. While the Rams won’t have anything to play for, the Seahawks will still be competing for a playoff spot. Here are five things the Rams need to do to spoil the Seahawks playoff hopes.

1. Continue with Cam Akers

Over the last three weeks, no running back in the NFL has more rushing yards than Cam Akers. His 5.7 yards per carry also ranks tied for sixth in the NFL. While Akers has three big performances against three bottom-10 defenses, it’s positive to see from the former second-round pick.

Luckily for the Rams and Akers, the Seahawks also have a bottom-10 run defense. They rank 24th in run defense DVOA and 26th in EPA. The running lanes should be there for Akers and if he continues to play well, he should find success.

2. Limit explosives on defense

The Rams defense is built to limit explosives, and simply that didn’t happen against them Los Angeles Chargers. Herbert completed passes of 16 yards or more on five separate occasions. Austin Ekeler had two carries of 10 or more yards, including his 72-yard scamper that went for a touchdown.

That can’t happen on Sunday against the Seahawks. The defense needs to be able to contain Kenneth Walker who left the game early in the first meeting between the two teams. The secondary also needs to be ready for DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett to go vertical.

3. Get to Geno Smith

While Geno Smith had a career day against the Rams in early December, the Rams did one thing really well. The pass rush got to Smith four times and forced an interception. The Rams need to play Smith better in the secondary, but it’s crucial that they get to him with the pass rush and make him uncomfortable.

Five of the Seahawks’ eight losses have come when Smith has been sacked three or more times. Smith doesn’t have an arm like Herbert, but he can still hurt you if he has time to throw. He has seven touchdowns and four interceptions when under pressure this season compared to 22 touchdowns and five interceptions when kept clean. Raheem Morris will need to dial up the pressure on Sunday.

4. Play Efficiently on Offense

The Rams offense missed opportunities in the first half against the Chargers last week. Akers missed a reception on the sideline that he likely would have scored on. On the following drive, the offense stalled inside the five and had to settle for a field goal. TuTu Atwell and Baker Mayfield didn’t connect on a deep ball that would have set the Rams up in a good position. This is why the Rams are 5-11.

To beat the Seahawks on the road in a playoff atmosphere, the Rams will need to take control of the game early. That means taking advantage of opportunities when they are there and playing a complete game. Last week was the fourth time this season that the offense was shutout in the entire second half.

Sunday could be much like the road playoff game in 2020. The Rams need to play efficiently so that they can lean on Akers in the run game, allowing Mayfield to hit easy throws when he needs to. If the Rams can do that, they can play the role of spoiler.

5. Finish the Season Strong

After scoring 51 against the Denver Broncos on Christmas, something seemed “off” against the Los Angeles Chargers. Things that hadn’t been happening all season despite the Rams not being a good team, started to happen. The defense got gashed on the ground and gave up their first 100-yard rusher. The intensity outside of Akers wasn’t there from many other players.

There’s one more game left on the schedule and it’s against a division rival. Not only is it against a division rival, but it’s against the same team Bobby Wagner was released from. On top of all that, the Rams can spoil Seattle’s playoff chances with a win. There’s a lot to play for and the Rams can still finish this season on a high note.

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