National Football League
Seahawks-Rams Preview
National Football League

Seahawks-Rams Preview

Published Sep. 9, 2015 1:26 p.m. ET

The Seattle Seahawks' final offensive play of last season will go down in infamy.

The two-time defending NFC champions insist they won't dwell on their failure to repeat as Super Bowl champs, choosing instead to focus on returning again.

Whether the St. Louis Rams will play in the Midwest next season has taken the focus off of football for a franchise that's endured eight straight losing seasons.

The Rams stunned the Seahawks last year at home and will debut quarterback Nick Foles on Sunday against a new-look Seattle secondary missing strong safety Kam Chancellor.


Seattle's 28-24 loss to New England in the Super Bowl won't be remembered for the Seahawks' 10-point blown lead in the fourth quarter. Rather, the enduring image will be of Russell Wilson's pass intended for Ricardo Lockette that was intercepted by Malcolm Butler in the closing seconds with Seattle facing second-and-goal from the 1-yard line.

The Seahawks (12-4) became the first NFC team to return to the Super Bowl since Green Bay in 1997 and '98. They now seek to become the first to reach three straight since Buffalo went to four in a row from 1991-94.

''That's such an obvious factor because it gets brought up all the time, and you get asked the questions and stuff. We understand that, and everybody gets that,'' coach Pete Carroll said. ''How many teams get back to a championship game twice, and then how many teams get back to it three times? There's no reason for anybody to think you can do that, it just doesn't happen. So that's a cool thing, that's a cool challenge for us. So all of that kind of has a subtle way of fueling us.''

Seattle's strength remains the defense, but its famed "Legion of Boom" secondary lost a key member when cornerback Byron Maxwell joined Philadelphia as a free agent, with Cary Williams signing to play opposite Richard Sherman.

A bigger loss would be a lengthy amount of time missed by the big-hitting Chancellor, who's holding out while hoping for a re-worked contract. Carroll says Chancellor has not shown up at the team's practice facility and won't play Sunday.

''It's unfortunate it's come to this and he's not here,'' Carroll said.

Dion Bailey will start in his place along with free safety Earl Thomas.

''For the first time in my life going into a big game I don't feel any pressure,'' Bailey said. ''I'm not here to fill in Kam's shoes. I'm here to go out there and be the best Dion Bailey I can be. The best Dion Bailey has done me well so far.''

The Seahawks' front seven still features plenty of depth and quality in Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Brandon Mebane and linebacker Bobby Wagner. That unit could be even better with rookie defensive end Frank Clark, a controversial addition given his history of domestic violence accusations in college at Michigan.

While there's plenty of enthusiasm for the start of the season from the Seahawks, they will open in a place that seems to be garnering little excitement for the NFL. The Rams (6-10) haven't had a winning season since 2003 and went 0-4 in the preseason.

Fans believe that the franchise will move back to Los Angeles after the season. Season ticket sales are down at the Edward Jones Dome - which was no more than one-third full for either home preseason game.

"Not concerned about it at all," coach Jeff Fisher said. "Gonna be really excited for those that come because they're going to see some really good football."

The injury-plagued Rams tenure of former No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford is over after he was traded to Philadelphia in the offseason for Foles, who went 15-9 as a starter in three years with the Eagles - a stint also marred by injuries. Two years ago, he threw for 27 touchdowns with two interceptions.

''I think the big thing is I just felt comfortable running the offense, being out there playing again,'' said Foles, who has won 13 of his last 16 starts. ''Now it's getting real. Season's here. I'm excited.''

St. Louis won't have rookie running back Todd Gurley, who is out with a knee injury. Tre Mason is nursing a hamstring injury so Benny Cunningham and Isaiah Pead will likely get the majority of the carries.

Seattle brought in some major offensive talent around Wilson, with former New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham the most notable addition. Graham's 4,752 receiving yards since he entered the league in 2010 are the most among tight ends, with his 51 TD receptions second to New England's Rob Gronkowski.

The Seahawks also signed Fred Jackson, a former Buffalo teammate of fellow running back Marshawn Lynch - who was fourth in the NFL with 1,306 rushing yards in 2014.

''The best thing that could have happened to me happened. I got to come to a great organization with open arms and I'm here now and I'm excited about it,'' Jackson said.

The Seahawks have dropped three of their last five visits to St. Louis, falling 28-26 on Oct. 19. That contest featured a 90-yard punt return by Stedman Bailey on a trick play and a late fourth-down conversion when punter Johnny Hekker completed an 18-yard pass to Cunningham.

The Rams, mindful of a season-ending 20-6 loss at Seattle in which they rushed for a season-low 42 yards, do not expect such tactics to be decisive in the opener.

"We can't go into a Seattle game expecting to win the game on a fake punt or a special teams play," Fisher said. "We've got to play better offense and defense against them."


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