Gridiron Gab Week Four Preview: Seattle at St. Louis

Despite sitting atop the NFC West in a two-way tie with Arizona at 2-1, the early stage of the 2010 season for the Seattle Seahawks can be described as a reenactment of the book Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

At home, the Seahawks are 2-0. They’ve outscored opponents by 32 points and have lost the ball only three times while forcing visiting teams into seven turnovers.

In Seattle’s one road game, a loss in Denver, the Seahawks scored just 14 points and were outscored by 17. They didn’t get a turnover, but lost the ball four times.

The impact of the change of scenery hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“We were not the same,” said Seattle’s head coach, Pete Carroll, at his Wednesday press conference from the team’s Renton, Wash. training facilities. “It’s just makin’ sure we carry our style wherever we go. That’s the idea. It doesn’t matter where you play.”

Looking to turn Carroll’s words into practice, the Seahawks take on the St. Louis Rams Sunday in the Edward Jones Dome.

The Rams (1-2) are in the midst of a rebuilding project, winning twice in the last 29 games; however, don’t let the record fool you. The team’s defense hasn’t allowed more than 17 points this season and held the visiting Washington Redskins last Sunday to one-for-ten on third downs.

St. Louis’ offense has also been effective, due in large part to its rookie starting quarterback, Sam Bradford.

“He can throw everything. He’s poised,” said the Seahawks’ head coach. “They’re showing great confidence in what they’re asking him to do.”

The rookie out of Oklahoma has started all three games for St. Louis and is coming off his most effective game as a professional. In the Rams’ 30-16 victory last Sunday against the Redskins, Bradford posted his best completion percentage yet (62.2) while completing passes to nine different players and throwing a touchdown.

“It’s remarkable that a guy can do this this early,” said Carroll.

In each of the past two weeks, Bradford’s comfort in the Rams’ aerial attack has grown. After throwing three interceptions in Week One, the 6-foot-4, 228-pound signal caller has been picked off only twice.

“We’d like to make it hard for him and that’s not just by blitzing or pressuring,” said Carroll. “That’s by the way you change your looks and the coverage changeups you utilize as well as mixing in your pressure.”

Bradford’s job could be harder Sunday even before Seattle takes the field. All-Pro running back Steven Jackson could miss the game due to a groin muscle strain. If Jackson misses the game, backups Kenneth Darby and Keith Toston, who is also dealing with an injury and could be limited, will be thrust into the limelight against a Seahawks defensive unit that’s fifth in the National Football League against the run.

While the Seahawks have succeeded in limiting opposing running backs, the team’s own running backs haven’t done much better with the ball.

“We haven’t run the ball the way we want to yet,” said Carroll of his running backs who collectively rank 24th in yards per game.

That ranking could improve with the increasing integration of veteran running back Leon Washington into the team’s game plan.

Last week serving as the team’s kick return specialist, Washington returned four kickoffs for 253 yards, with two of them resulting in points. The first-year Seahawk recorded the franchise’s two longest returns ever (101 and 99 yards) en route to two touchdowns.

“When John (Schneider, Seattle’s first-year general manager) brought it up, that we had a chance to get Leon, I was thrilled. I was already sold on him,” said Carroll.

Last Sunday’s touchdowns come less than a year after Washington broke a leg while still a member of the New York Jets.

“After seein’ him score and put up…250 yards of returns,” said Seattle’s head coach, “it would be nice to see him get the ball in his hands a few more times and see if he can do that again on offense.”

Kickoff in St. Louis is set Sunday for 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

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