Seahawks are no laughing matter for Rams
Regular officials are back. You might have heard the big news. In honor of the occasion, here's how a replacement ref would view the St. Louis Rams through three weeks.
Topic No. 1: Jeff Fisher replaces Steve Spagnuolo.
Replacement ref's take: Man, the Rams are way worse under the new coach. Who do these guys think they are? They have 18 penalties for 165 yards. They are smacking Robert Griffin III on the sideline. They are jawing at Josh Morgan between plays. They are ripping Jay Cutler in postgame comments. And this Cortland Finnegan character? Complete non-factor. Bring back the Ram Rules. Bring back the four pillars. Bring back Spags. He has worked wonders in New Orleans.
Topic No. 2: Greg Zuerlein.
Replacement ref's take: Are you kidding? You should never, ever draft a kicker. And in the sixth round? From where? Missouri Western State? What a wasted pick. Just think: the Rams could have had Jeremy Lane or Keith Tandy or Justin Bethel. OK, ok, so the kid has a right leg that can boot the ball to Pluto. Big deal. The Rams play all their games in a dome anyway.
Topic No. 3: The Rams' chances against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
Replacement ref's take: First down, St. Louie!
Onto Week 4…
How will the Rams stop the Seahawks' defensive front?
We all like a snicker to break the week. Fisher obliged Wednesday, when he cracked about starting Kellen Clemens after seeing how Seattle's D-line turned Aaron Rodgers into a voodoo doll with eight sacks in the first half Monday.
In reality, though, the topic is no joke. The Seahawks could bring hurricane-force winds to the Rams' house-of-cards offensive line. Check out these numbers: Seattle has allowed the fewest points in the NFL, surrendering 13 per game; they are fourth in total defense (272.3 yards per game) and they rank sixth in sacks (10).
On paper, the fight looks as mismatched as a steel-cage brawl between Floyd Mayweather and Floyd Landis. The Chicago Bears decked Sam Bradford sacked six times. The Rams' offense, a week after shredding the Washington Redskins, would have had trouble shredding bank statements against Lovie Smith's rush.
But as a wise ex-coach once said: Hello, you play to win the game.
Here's a postscript: As long as you stand upright.
How will the Rams slow Marshawn Lynch?
Same speed, familiar demon.
Lynch made St. Louis' defense his personal runway last year, earning 203 combined yards rushing and two touchdowns in Seattle's sweep. This season, he has treated opponents to a similar burn: He's fifth in the NFL with 305 yards, second in attempts with 72, and he was 2 yards shy against the Green Bay Packers of earning his second consecutive 100-yard effort.
But St. Louis could have a 6-foot-5, 322-pound answer. Rookie defensive tackle Michael Brockers practiced on a limited basis Wednesday through Friday and is questionable for Sunday. Still, the 14th overall pick seemed optimistic earlier in the week that he would at least place himself in position to take the field.
Why not? Seattle's defense looks like a beast, so St. Louis' D must do the heavy lifting if the Rams are to keep pace in the NFC West. If there was ever a time for Brockers to return, this is it.
After all, seasons change. But sometimes, the devil on the other side of the ball never seems to disappear.
What will happen?
My palm is raised. I'll admit it. I was swept away in the post-Washington glow and forgot that Brian Urlacher receives an NFL paycheck because he and other Bears defenders are quite good.
Yes, I picked the Rams to win at Soldier Field, and Week 3 was a dose of reality as strong as Julius Peppers. The Rams were bystanders in the closing minutes for the first time this season. It felt like 2011, it felt like a leap back, it felt like Josh McDaniels had chloroformed Brian Schottenheimer and swiped his headset as a parting gift.
Let that be a lesson for this season. These aren't the same old Rams, but the same old empty feeling will return from time to time. Such is life with a young team, a team trying to learn how to sustain success, a team that's vulnerable but also capable of stretching itself.
This week, it's wise to keep caution. The joke refs are gone, but Seattle is no laughing matter.
Pick: Seahawks 20, Rams 7
You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.