ST. LOUIS — Kellen Clemens knows that opportunities like he’s had this season don’t come along very often in the NFL.
The St. Louis Rams quarterback has learned, in his five years with the New York Jets and now in his third season in St. Louis, to appreciate whenever he gets to take the field. It’s certainly not something the 30-year-old Oregon native takes for granted.
Clemens will make his ninth start of the season on Sunday in Seattle. It will be his 21st career start and, with Sam Bradford expected to return from his knee injury at the start of next season, it could also be his last. So he has tried to enjoy every moment of these past 10 weeks.
"It’s been a lot of fun," Clemens says. "There’s some things you’d like to maybe do over, but some moments that I will really cherish for a long time and not all of them have been plays on the field. A lot of it has just been memories and interactions with the guys, being in the huddle. It’s been a lot of fun. It really has."
Even the tough times, like when Arizona linebacker Karlos Dansby crushed him on a blindside blitz in Week 14. The quarterback called the sack by Dansby "less than enjoyable."
"That’s something that I’ve tried to do is just to enjoy it, even the bad stuff because you don’t get the opportunity to play very often in this league," Clemens says. "So it’s been an emphasis for me to just enjoy the ride and I think for the first eight weeks or so we’ve been able to do that."
Clemens is going back home on Sunday and will make his first start in the Pacific Northwest when the Rams (7-8) travel to play the Seahawks (12-3). His hometown of Burns, Ore., is roughly 450 miles southeast of Seattle. His college town, Eugene, Ore., is less than 300 miles directly south.
The quarterback’s ninth start of the season will come against the team he made his first start against in Week 8 on Monday Night Football.
The Rams lost, 14-9, after a failed fourth down pass from the Seattle 1-yard line. Clemens drove the team 96 yards over the final 5:42 but his fourth-down pass attempt to Brian Quick fell incomplete and the Seahawks escaped St. Louis with the win.
Clemens posted a 36.8 passer rating and threw two interceptions in that start, which turned out to be his worst of the season. He’s had some ups and downs, going 4-4 as a starter overall, but he has played better down the stretch.
"Obviously he’s gotten more comfortable with the guys," says Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who also worked with Clemens in New York. "I think that’s part of the deal. I thought last week was one of his most accurate games he’s had throwing the football. I think that’s a big part of it. I think he’s obviously much more comfortable just in his weekly preparation. He’s played very, very well."
Clemens has helped guide the Rams to four wins in their last six games, completing 59.2 percent of his passes for 1,129 yards, with six touchdowns and three interceptions, and a passer rating of 89.8 that ranks 14th in the NFL over that time for quarterbacks with a minimum of 140 attempts.
"I’ve gotten more comfortable," he says. "The guys have gotten more comfortable with me. So there’s been some growth. We’re certainly better prepared this week than we were for that first week. But they are a good football team and everybody knows they are a different beast at home."
Clemens has completed 57.1 percent of his passes overall for 1,516 yards, with seven touchdowns and five interceptions, and a passer rating of 80.6.
"He’s played really solid football and complimented their style and the team makeup," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll says. "They’ve run the ball really well. I think they are the best rushing team in the NFL since he’s come back and started. So he’s played really well. He’s taking care of the football well. They are a good turnover team and he’s a big part of that. He’s been able to make plays and make big throws when they’ve needed them. We see him playing really good football. He hadn’t played in a while, he hadn’t done much in some time, so when he got his chance he was really ready and jumped at the opportunity and made the most of it."
Clemens will try to do just that on Sunday.
You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter (@natelatsch) or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.