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Virus-thinned Rams draw desperate Seahawks

Sportsnaut
Dec 12, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) passes against the Houston Texans  in the second half at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 12, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) passes against the Houston Texans in the second half at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams could really use a bye.

Instead, faced with a short week and a COVID-19 outbreak, the Rams prepared virtually for Sunday’s game with Seattle in Inglewood, Calif.

The Rams (9-4) won 30-23 at Arizona on Monday night to pull within a game of the NFC West-leading Cardinals. Los Angeles notched the victory with five players in the NFL’s virus protocol, including All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey, running back Darrell Henderson Jr. and tight end Tyler Higbee.

By Wednesday afternoon, the Rams had 16 players in the protocol and had been forced to close their practice facility in Thousand Oaks, Calif. The new additions included wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and safety Jordan Fuller, the team’s leading tackler, although Higbee returned due to a “false positive.”

“I am very surprised, because you feel like you’re behind it when everybody is vaccinated and you’re moving in the right direction,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “Without a doubt, we have never experienced anything of this magnitude as it relates to COVID. This is definitely something that’s been eye-opening.”

The Rams had four players ruled out just hours before Monday’s game, forcing them to rework their plan on the fly.

“There’s no time to say, ‘We’re going to scrap this and adjust,'” McVay said. “At least if you have an idea of who’s going to be available and who’s not, you can plan accordingly throughout the course of the week. What they did (Monday) gives me confidence.”

Quarterback Matthew Stafford and league-leading receiver Cooper Kupp have avoided the protocol, and running back Sony Michel has given the ground game a boost. Defensively, the Rams still have lineman Aaron Donald, who had three sacks Monday, and linebacker Von Miller, acquired from Denver at the trade deadline.

The Rams said all 16 players on the list are vaccinated, meaning they have the chance to return for Sunday’s game with two negative tests.

The Seahawks (5-8) have won two in a row, including a 33-13 victory Sunday at Houston as Rashaad Penny rushed for a career-high 137 yards and two touchdowns.

Unlike the Rams, the Seahawks are one of only four NFL teams without a player in the protocol.

“We are holding on right now,” Carroll said of Seattle’s COVID-19 situation.

Of course, he could’ve also been talking about his team’s playoff chances. Seattle could still get to 9-8 in the new 17-game regular season, but there’s a lot of road between Week 15 and the finish line.

“Here we go, we are in the last month of the season, and we’ve got a shot to make it through,” Carroll said.

Along with Russell Wilson getting back on track after midseason finger surgery – he was hurt when hitting the middle finger of his throwing hand against the Rams’ Donald in a 26-17 loss on Oct. 7 in Seattle – the Seahawks’ much-maligned defense has gone eight straight games allowing opponents 23 points or fewer.

“We just got to keep our heads down and keep playing,” Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner said. “We can’t look up and see who we have next or anything like that. You’ve just got to keep getting better each week and see what happens.”

The Seahawks have had several players sit out practice this week, including wide receivers DK Metcalf (foot/back), Freddie Swain (ankle) and Dee Eskridge (foot), offensive linemen Gabe Jackson (knee) and Brandon Shell (shoulder), linebacker Carlos Dunlap II (quadriceps) and safety Quandre Diggs (knee).

–Field Level Media