The Rams understand the daunting task ahead of them Sunday when they travel to Seattle to play the Seahawks, a team that has clinched a playoff spot, but also has a chance to win the division with a win and a San Francisco loss to Arizona.
In addition, the Seahawks are one of only two teams in the NFL (Atlanta is the other) that is undefeated at home and the Seahawks have won their last three games by a combined score of 150-30.
Want more. In their last seven visits to Seattle, all losses, the Rams have been outscored 199-76. The count is 175-54 without a last-second 24-22 loss in 2006. The Seahawks have scored at least 30 points in four of those games and the Rams have scored six or less three times, including a 16-6 loss in 2010 in the season finale when the division title was at stake.
Said coach Jeff Fisher, "I would submit that this is clearly, probably the most difficult game we're going to play all year. Considering they've scored 50, 42 and - whatever they've scored - they're averaging 45 points a game (actually 50) the last three weeks against pretty good defenses. And they're not giving up points and it's a tough place to play, so this will be a huge challenge. Probably the biggest challenge for us."
When asked if he's even seen a team as hot as the Seahawks are, Fisher said. "Not necessarily, no. I don't think I've ever come across a team that's scored 50 points a game three consecutive weeks, and then faced them in the fourth. So, if we hold them to under 50 (points) is that good?"
Of course, the Rams have larger goals than that. A win, as unlikely as it might appear, would provide the franchise with its first winning record since 2003. It would also be their fourth consecutive road victory and would end the season undefeated (5-0-1) in NFC West games.
Of the latter, Fisher said, "In order to compete, in order be a consistent playoff contender, you have to have success in the division. You have to build yourself for success in the division, and I think we're on the right path. We're not there yet, but we're on the right path."
Despite the improvement this season, the team remains disappointed there will be no playoff games for the eighth consecutive season.
Said quarterback Sam Bradford, "Obviously it's frustrating. That's why you play the game, you play for the opportunity to win championships and you obviously can't do that if you don't get into the playoffs so that's a little bit disappointing but there's still a lot ahead of us. We could go to Seattle next week and come back with a winning record."
Fisher felt the same way, while acknowledging the positives but lamenting a couple games that got away.
"There's been some good things but we are playing our final game this weekend," Fisher said. "That's not what you set out to do. We had a few in the past that we had a chance to win and didn't. I think that takes the front page as we're concerned. But we saw tremendous improvement from our rookie class, got tremendous contributions from the rookies and second-year players and I think we've improved in a lot of areas. We still have a long way to go. It is difficult to win on the road. But the last three, four trips, we've been successful on the road, and that's important."
With right guard Harvey Dahl on injured reserve because of a torn biceps tendon, Shelley Smith and Chris Williams shared time at the position against Tampa Bay.
Asked about the play of Smith and Williams, Fisher said, "They both played pretty well, so we may stay with it, take the same approach this week. They both played pretty well."
On how the job-share worked, Fisher said, "It was two to three series, but one series was a lot longer than another series, so we ended up just going by plays."
For the game, of the team's 55 offensive snaps, Smith had 31 and Williams 24.
The Rams are one of the best sacking teams in the league, and coach Jeff Fisher likes the way the sacks are spread around among several players.
“It’s been good,” Fisher said of the rush. “I think every aspect of our team and phases could be better, but it’s been good. We’re spreading the sacks around. When we need to generate pressure, we can manufacture pressure. When you look around and the DBs and linebackers have some sacks here and there it means that you’re multiple on defense.
“I think the key for the last three or four weeks for us has been our non-starting defensive linemen. Talk about William (Hayes), and (Jermelle) Cudjo, and Eugene (Sims), these guys are coming in and filling in for the four starters in the rotation. They’ve been very productive.”
The stat: The Rams have scored touchdowns on seven of their last eight red-zone opportunities in the last three games. They also have converted three consecutive two-point conversions.