The 2016 Week 2 meeting was a forgettable day for Seattle's offense. The Seahawks punted seven times, crossed midfield only three times and lost a fumble in the final minute to seal a 9-3 loss. It was the fewest points the Seahawks had scored since a 2011 game in which they started Charlie Whitehurst at quarterback.
No defense has given the Seahawks fits quite like the Rams in the last few seasons, and Seattle was even further handicapped in this game. A week earlier, Wilson had suffered a high ankle sprain -- the first of two significant leg injuries he dealt with in 2016 -- when Ndamukong Suh stepped on his foot. Predictably, he couldn't run very well that afternoon in Los Angeles.
Or, as he put it:
“I moved like a bag of bricks," Wilson said Thursday, drawing laughter from the assembled media. "I really couldn’t move last time when we played them at the Coliseum. ... The ankle was pretty bad that day. I taped it up like crazy and I was just hobbling around."
That was then. Wilson is moving well again, which might be as big of a factor as anything else when the Seahawks (2-2) and Rams (3-1) meet again Sunday in Los Angeles.
Wilson leads the NFL with 127 rushing yards on scramble runs through four games, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He only had 202 scramble yards all last season, when the ankle injury and then a sprained MCL on his other leg zapped his speed. His 259 total rushing yards last season were less than half of what he averaged in his first four seasons, one of several reasons why Seattle's running game fell off in 2016.
But it's been evident for a while now that Wilson has regained the mobility that has made him arguably the NFL's most elusive quarterback. The latest indication came last week when he dropped back to pass, faced pressure and took off on a 23-yard touchdown run. It's the type of play that made him a star quarterback, but one he couldn't make last season on two bad legs.
"For me, it’s always great when you can move," Wilson said. "I think that the game, as fast as these defensive ends and linebackers are and everybody else, you have to be able to move and to be able to make some throws and do some things."
Especially against the Rams.
There might not be a worse matchup at any position group for the Seahawks than their perennially-challenged offensive line against the Rams' loaded defensive front. The Seahawks have gone 5-5 in their last 10 games against the Rams, with their last road victory coming on a Monday night in St. Louis in 2013. One constant in those games has been how the Rams have given Seattle trouble up front.
According to Pro Football Reference, Wilson has been sacked 39 times in 10 career games against the Rams, the most by any opponent. By comparison, the San Francisco 49ers (31 sacks in 11 games) and Arizona Cardinals (29 in 10 games) are well behind that mark.
It's no wonder, given all the talent Los Angeles has along its front seven. All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald might be the game's best defensive player. Robert Quinn, a former defensive end who's now an outside linebacker in Los Angeles' 3-4 scheme, had 40 sacks in a three-year stretch from 2012-14. Defensive tackle Michael Brockers and linebacker Alec Ogletree are also first-round picks.
Donald has four sacks in six career games against the Seahawks. He and Brockers combined to blow up a fourth-down running play against Seattle that sealed a Rams win in the 2015 opener. So Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was speaking from experience when he described Donald as "really, really problematic" and a "nightmare."
"There is just nobody like him quickness-wise," Carroll said. "For a guy that doesn’t have a big stature, he’s got extraordinary strength and explosion and ability to disengage and get off. He makes remarkable plays that other guys can’t make. You don’t know when it is going to happen, so he's really a challenge to play against."
Seattle's offensive line has shown improvement since a disastrous performance in Week 1, to be sure. But it's still allowing pressure on 31.5 percent of its dropbacks, the fourth-highest rate in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
And this is still the Rams. While they've been winning games with a suddenly dangerous offense more than a defense that has struggled through the first month of the season, the Rams are generating pressure on 33.3 percent of opponents' dropbacks, second-best in the league.
Seattle's offensive line is going to have its hands full even if left tackle Rees Odhiambo is able to play Sunday with a bruised sternum.
It's a good thing for Wilson and the Seahawks that he has his mobility back. There's a good chance he'll need it.
"Whenever you’re playing guys like Aaron Donald and Quinn and all of their linebackers and everybody that they have, like Ogletree and all of those guys, you have to be able to move every once in a while, because they’re going to get there and they’re going to make some plays," Wilson said. "They have great players. We’re looking forward to the challenge and I’m glad I can be on my feet this time."