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NFL: Rams draw desperate Seahawks under COVID cloud

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The Los Angeles Rams could really use a bye.

What they will get instead is at least a two-day respite as their home game scheduled for Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks has been moved to Tuesday. It was one of three games the NFL elected to push back because of COVID-19 concerns.

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.

As of Thursday evening, the Rams had 25 players in the protocol and had been forced to close their practice facility in Thousand Oaks, Calif. The team had nine COVID additions Thursday, including veteran linebacker Von Miller, who has since tested out.

Higbee, who was deemed to have a false positive last week, turned positive but was able to be cleared along with Ramsey and Henderson.

“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.”

But based on the tidal wave of COVID-19 spread through the NFL and beyond, the Rams know not to count their players as “cleared” until the ball is in the air Tuesday.

The Rams had four players ruled out just hours before last week’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 (on Dec. 13) 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 against Arizona, and Miller, acquired from Denver at the trade deadline.

McVay said before the game Tuesday that Henderson and Michel would share the workload.

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.

Head coach Pete Carroll described the team as “holding on” as COVID-19 hit the franchise and will keep leading receiver Tyler Lockett and eight others at home on Tuesday.

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.”

Starting right tackle Brandon Shell (also nursing a shoulder injury) and running back Alex Collins are also out for Seattle.

–Field Level Media

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