The Los Angeles Rams shook up the NFL Power Rankings by toppling the Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, coming out on top 34-24. In what could easily be an NFC Championship game preview, the Rams showed that their new-look offense still gets it done against a sterner test than they had encountered over the first two games of the season. But it was their defense that proved too potent for the Bucs to get consistent production and keep pace.
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Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay passing game had to get things going all by themselves in this game with only 13 total rushing attempts, three of which involved Brady scrambling under pressure. Brady racked up over 400 passing yards and was largely accurate, but pressure began to cost the offense key plays at critical times.
The run game was barely a factor in this game, meaning the only running back of consequence became Giovanni Bernard, who picked up a late injury as he was flipped into the end zone for a consolation score. Bernard didn’t have a rushing attempt but saw 10 targets, catching nine of them as an outlet for Brady for 51 yards and that late touchdown.
With no Antonio Brown, the question heading into the game was how the offense would take shape. Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson split the extra available snaps, with 30 and 23 receiving snaps, respectively. Johnson doubled Miller’s targets with a flurry of targets midway through the game, catching three of the six passes sent his way for 63 yards. He nearly sprung loose for what could have been a huge game-changing touchdown but the last line of the Rams defense made the tackle.
Nothing signals a game against Aaron Donald like a guard finishing the game with a PFF pass-blocking grade in the teens, and that may end up being the situation for Ali Marpet pending review. Marpet has a mark of 13.0 on first-run, surrendering five total pressures and exposing Brady to pressure right up the gut, the variety he struggles the most to overcome.
It took until under six minutes left in the game for the Bucs defensive line to get a sack on Stafford, with William Gholston coming up with that play when the score was already 34-17. The absence of Jason Pierre-Paul certainly hurt, but rookie Joe Tryon-Shoyinka was the only defensive lineman on the team to register multiple total pressures, playing 51 total snaps.
With no pressure coming from the defensive line, the Bucs used their linebackers to try and generate some heat on the quarterback, with Devin White and Lavonte David combining for 15 blitzes. White tied for the team lead with just two total pressures, but they struggled against a dominant Rams offensive line overall.
Injuries continue to mount in the Buccaneers' secondary. Already without Sean Murphy-Bunting, the team lost Jamel Dean during the game, leaving Ross Cockrell and Dee Delaney to try and slow down a potent passing attack that wasn’t under pressure. Needless to say, it didn’t go well. Cockrell managed two forced incompletions, but the secondary was overmatched.
It didn’t start smoothly for Matthew Stafford and the Rams passing game. He badly missed a deep shot to DeSean Jackson early in the game that should have been a walk-in score, but it was the open opportunity, not the miss, that was to prove a portent of what was to come. Jackson was open behind the Bucs defense consistently, and Stafford eventually connected on one later in the game. He was largely kept clean in the pocket all game, pressured on just 18.4% of his dropbacks.
|Dropbacks||EPA per pass||YPA||Explosive Pass Rate|
Sony Michel became the workhorse back for the Rams in this game after the loss of Darrell Henderson to injury before the game. Michel had 20 carries, 19 more than any other Rams back, and showed some powerful running. Michel gained 54 of his 67 yards after contact and had at least one critical play picking up the blitz and keeping his quarterback upright.
DeSean Jackson proved there is still plenty of juice left in his 34-year old legs. Jackson got behind the defense at least three times on targeted plays, eventually catching one of them and finishing with 120 yards and a score. Cooper Kupp remained on a tear and was by far Stafford’s favorite target. Kupp caught nine of the 12 passes thrown his way.
This game was arguably won in the trenches. Tampa Bay’s defensive line has been causing teams problems dating back to last season, but the Rams offensive line largely shut them down and kept Stafford clean in the pocket all day. Nobody on the Rams line surrendered more than two total pressures, and the sack late in the fourth quarter was the first and only time the line allowed him to even hit the ground.
Aaron Donald was at his untouchable best in this game. He had a strip-sack on Brady, with four total pressures, and was a constant factor in the Tampa Bay backfield any time he wasn’t being double-teamed out of the play. Donald was the best but far from the only factor as a pass-rusher, with five different defensive linemen racking up multiple pressures, pending review.
Kenny Young had an eventful day for the Rams defense, leading the team with eight tackles and six defensive stops. Young was also targeted a monster 11 times, allowing a catch on each occasion, but four of those plays were examples of him keeping the play in front of him and making a defensive stop on the play. He also registered a sack, running right through the running back late in the third quarter.
Where the Rams deploy Jalen Ramsey is always the most interesting thing to watch in their secondary, and in this game they showed a new wrinkle — Ramsey the pass-rusher. He had blitzed just twice in the first two games of the season, one in each game, but against the Bucs he blitzed four times, racking up three pressures of Brady. In coverage, he allowed seven catches for 65 yards and three first downs.
Jalen Ramsey alignment by position (snaps/snap rate)
|Line of Scrimmage||4||5.60%|