Countdown to kickoff

ST. LOUIS – Greetings from the Edward Jones Dome, where the 3-6 Seahawks are preparing for today’s game against the 2-7 Rams – with kickoff and televised coverage (Fox, channel 13 in Seattle) set for 3:05 p.m. here, or 1:05 PT.

The last time these teams got together it was all about the P-word: Playoffs.

The Seahawks and Rams met in Seattle in last season’s finale to determine which team would win the NFC West and advance to the postseason. We all remember how that turned out, with a strong defensive effort and just enough from the Charlie Whitehurst-quarterbacked offense leading the Seahawks to a 16-6 victory – and setting up the stunning upset of the defending Super Bowl champion Saints the following week in one wild wild-card playoff game.

Today, it’s P-times-three: Pectoral, passing game and pass rush.

First, the pectorals. Seahawks QB Tarvaris Jackson has been playing with pain since straining that muscle in his right shoulder during the third quarter of the Week 5 upset victory over the Giants. Rams left tackle Rodger Safford won’t be playing today, or for the rest of the season, after tearing one of his while lifting weights on Friday. He was placed on injured reserve Saturday.

That leads us to the passing-game and pass-rush portions of today’s equation.

As for the passing, the Seahawks should be able to exploit the Rams’ injury-decimated secondary. The Rams’ five best cornerbacks are on IR, and Justin King is iffy with an ankle injury. If King can’t play – he’s listed as questionable – Josh Gordy and Rod Hood will be the starters, with Marquis Johnson as the nickel back.

The Seahawks will have leading receivers Sidney Rice and Doug Baldwin, who got concussions in last week’s upset of the Ravens. But the real concern with just how much the Seahawks will be able to throw on the Rams is Jackson’s right shoulder. He’s settled into a routine of throwing twice a week – Thursday during practice and then on Sunday.

This week, Jackson addressed the possible ramifications of continuing to play.

“We’ve talked about it and they’ve told me it’s a possibility that it could get worse and I might have to get it repaired,” he said. “But right now we just take it one day at a time and just try to do as much as we can.”

As for the pass rush, with Saffold out, Mark LeVoir, who was signed Oct. 26, starts at left tackle because preferred backup Adam Goldberg is starting on the right side for an injured Jason Smith. The Rams’ line will include only two opening-day starters – guards Jacob Bell and Harvey Dahl – because center Jason Brown has been benched in favor of Tony Wragge.

The Seahawks have their own injury-induced – and well-documented – situation on the O-line, with Paul McQuistan and Breno Giacomini stepping in at right guard and right tackle to replace John Moffitt and James Carpenter, who suffered season-ending knee injuries in the past seven days.

But back to the pass rush, the Seahawks have 14 sacks, more than only two teams in the league. Today, they need to take advantage of the Rams’ patch job at the tackle spots to pressure Rams QB Sam Bradford, who’s playing on a sprained ankle.

“We want to get the pressure, we want to get the sacks, but if we can’t affect the quarterback into making bad decisions …” defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said during the week.

We all know where that leads. So rather than blitz and leave themselves vulnerable to Bradford going to the open receiver in the vacated area, the Seahawks must be able to generate some pressure and sacks with a four-man rush. “Leo” end Chris Clemons has five sacks, and had two here last season. But no one else has more than one, including Raheem Brock, the end opposite Clemons in the nickel line.

Of course to get the Rams into passing situations, the defense will need to slow down Steven Jackson. The battering Ram of a back, and the franchise’s all-time leading rusher, has rushed for 100-plus yards in three consecutive games. But he has never done it against the Seahawks, and today he’ll be running into a defense that is allowing 3.6 yards per carry, third-best in the league.

Two other P-words also could be factors as the Seahawks try to win back-to-back games for the second time in two seasons under coach Pete Carroll: Post-snap patter and physicality.

As Bradford told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch this week, “Any time we get together with Seattle, it’s pretty chippy. I remember the two games last year; there was a lot of talk, a lot of extra (stuff) after the play. It’s definitely going to be a physical game.”

One where the Seahawks need to find a way to turn all these P-factors into a W.

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