RENTON, Wash. — Inside the Seattle Seahawks locker room following their two-point loss to the Los Angeles Rams last month, player comments reflected a range of feelings. Evident among the disappointment in letting a winnable game slip away were hints of satisfaction that they had hung with perhaps the NFL’s best team.
And then there was what D.J. Fluker said:
“We literally kicked their ass up front.”
That was just a sampling of how the Seahawks’ right guard colorfully and enthusiastically described the job his offensive line did against Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh & Co. in paving the way for Seattle’s best rushing performance of the season.
Fluker’s postgame comments will make for some added spice in Sunday’s rematch — assuming he’ll even able to play through a calf injury. His iffy status and that of running back Chris Carson threaten to undermine what might be the Seahawks’ best chance of prevailing, even with the Rams having just surrendered four touchdown passes at the New Orleans Saints in their first loss of the season. Because if they Seahawks are going to pull off an upset as 10-point road underdogs, it’s going to have to be with the same formula that nearly got it done last time, which included 190 yards on the ground and nearly 6 yards per carry.
“We definitely have to have that again,” Seahawks left tackle Duane Brown said. “We have to have a solid run game in order to win.”
That won’t be easy given the injury situation. Carson is dealing with a sore hip that had him listed as questionable heading into Seattle’s home game against the Los Angeles Chargers last week. He left after only 10 snaps and didn’t return. Fluker left late in that game because of a tight calf; and while coach Pete Carroll said at the start of the week that Fluker appeared to be OK, the coach didn’t sound as certain on Wednesday when he said Fluker came back from the off day feeling more sore than he did earlier.
Neither practiced Wednesday or Thursday, so their statuses heading into Los Angeles seem far from certain.
Carson looked like he could he headed for his fourth 100-yard performance in five games when he carried four times for 30 yards on the Seahawks’ opening touchdown drive against the Chargers. But he had an ice pack wrapped around his left thigh by halftime as Mike Davis took over.
Davis has proved to be a nice secondary option and even a more-than-capable spot starter. He averaged more than 4 yards per carry in Carson’s absence on Sunday. Davis had more than 100 yards and added two touchdowns in a start at the Arizona Cardinals in Week 4. And has shown enough to hold onto the No. 2 job ahead of first-round pick Rashaad Penny. But there’s a drop-off from Carson, especially when it comes to the punishing style that none of Seattle’s other running backs can replicate. Davis even acknowledged that when he said after the Chargers game that not having Carson “changes the physicality.”
“Chris has been pretty hot lately, and he’s been doing a lot of really good things for us,” Carroll said, “and we certainly missed him.”
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Fluker, meanwhile, has been exactly what the Seahawks hoped he would be when they signed him to a one-year, $1.5 million deal this offseason — a difference-maker in their run game. Seattle has averaged a league-best 159.8 rushing yards per game since Week 3, when Fluker made his Seattle debut after recovering from a hamstring injury. He hasn’t been the only difference — Seattle has been more committed to the run after some curious playcalling over the first two games — but he has been a big one.
That was never more evident than in the first meeting against the Rams, when the Seahawks had their most productive game on the ground in more than a calendar year.
“Hell of a game,” Brown said of the way Fluker played that day. “Those interior guys they have are probably the best two that you’ll find in the league as a tandem. He was dominant.”
Brown then mentioned a pancake block that Fluker — all 340-something pounds of him — had on Suh that cleared the way for a 6-yard Davis touchdown run, calling it “a highlight that we’ll have for the season.”
Fluker had that play, among others, in mind when he boasted afterward that he “had been taking [Suh] to the water all game long.” That was in response to a question about his block on Suh that resulted in a holding penalty — which the Seahawks disputed — that helped push Seattle out of field goal range on their final drive.
“The thing about it is everybody gets terrified with 99 and 93,” Fluker said, referring to the Donald’s and Suh’s jersey numbers. “We weren’t terrified. We weren’t scared.”
“They haven’t seen a team that’s played physical,” Fluker added. “They want to be pass-rushers. They haven’t seen a team to go out there and actually take it to them every single play.”
How’s that for bulletin board material?
“He’s very instrumental for us in the run game, so hopefully he’ll be good to go this week,” Brown said of Fluker. “But if not, then we’ll make an adjustment and continue to roll.”