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LA Rams Film Room Review: Week 3 At Tampa Bay Buccaneers

In spite of the inclement weather, the Rams eked out a win in Tampa Bay.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Los Angeles Rams Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images

Jeff Fisher has gotten the Rams ahead of the 7-9 bullshit curve. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers kept it tight and nearly won the game in the final seconds, but the Rams held on to get their first road win of the year. Even with the home crowd in their favor, the Buccaneers looked disjointed and uncomfortable. Tampa Bay’s offense was largely hampered by the Rams defense, while the Rams offense mustered up the small handful of explosive plays that they needed to outscore Tampa Bay. It was an ugly game by all accounts, but an ugly win is a win.

Rams Offense vs Buccaneers Defense

Los Angeles’s offensive personnel was a bad match up for Tampa Bay’s defense. The Buccaneers defensive front was, for the most part, as pesky as expected, but their secondary was not equipped to handle what the Rams were throwing at them. All of Tampa Bay’s cornerbacks are the smaller, scrappier type, leaving them susceptible to losses against bigger receivers, like Kenny Britt. Tampa Bay’s safeties are slow, both mentally and athletically. When the Rams have athletes like Brian Quick and Tavon Austin to threaten those safeties, it was never going to be a good day for those deep players.

That being said, the Bucs defense fell apart more than it normally does. They are prone to a few big plays, yes, but the variety that they gave up to the Rams were inexcusable, not to mention their pass rush wasn’t quite what it normally is, at least coming off the edge. It wasn’t shocking when the Arizona Cardinals offense barraged them, but for the Rams offense do it felt uncharacteristic. The Bucs defenders were not themselves and the Rams took full advantage of that.

Game Notes:

  • Cody Wichmann: still horrid.
  • The offense’s potential is extremely limited with Case Keenum at the helm. He is still missing more throws than he should, his ability to handle pressure is not up to standard and he plays with cement feet in the pocket.
  • The offensive line can’t get push on most plays. It’s even disrupting the flow of pulling blockers and ruining plays before they begin. They have breakdowns in their assignments often, too. It’s a jumbled mess and there has been little, if any, improvement from Week One to now.
  • There were a lot of drops by pass catchers, especially early on. Most of them should have been easy catches.

Flashes of Life From Todd Gurley

Todd Gurley has not been Todd Gurley this season. Offensive line woes aside, Gurley doesn’t look or feel like the same explosive, dynamic presence that won Rookie of the Year last season. His big play ability has been a no show for the first three games of the season and he’s clearly flustered about it. Gurley is slowly showing signs of life, though. His first performance versus San Francisco was as bad as the rest of the team’s was, then he found slightly more success versus Seattle, and now Gurley has given the Rams fan base a glimmer of hope that he can be who he is supposed to be.

This is pure wizardry. Nobody on the offensive line generates ample push, but there is just enough room between Lance Kendricks and a pulling Cody Wichmann for a weasel to slip through. Somehow, someway, Gurley squeezes his way through the crease, cuts hard right, then turns back up the field for a nine yard gain. It’s not the explosive play that all of us are dying to see from Gurley, but it’s encouraging. He still has the ability to summon production out of thin air and that is something that the Rams can take solace in while the offense tries to gather itself.

Gurley had a handful of other nice gains to go with this one, including the fifteen yard run in the red zone in which he lost his balance and went down at the one-yard line. It was not an outstanding performance, but it was better than he had shown in the first two weeks of the year. Of course, there is still plenty to be desired from Gurley.

The Train Wreck That is the Rams Offensive Line

Gurley has not played up to standard in his own right, but the offensive line has done him little to no favors this season. There does not appear to be any chemistry or flow along the offensive line, and there are still countless assignment blunders in every game. Even Roger Saffold, the returning veteran who was supposed to anchor the offensive line, has not played particularly well. It’s hard to find hope throughout the first three weeks of this offensive line’s play.

Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is a menace and the Rams did not have an answer for him. As wildly talented as McCoy is, he should not be winning on every snap and derailing every play. On the play above, McCoy blows up left guard Roger Saffold as soon as the ball is snapped. Saffold loses ground quickly and finds himself well behind the line of scrimmage in an instant.

Starting at Saffold’s left before the snap, Kendricks is supposed to be moving across the formation to pick up the back side block on the defense end on the right. Saffold’s loss of ground forces Kendricks to dance around Saffold and waste time in getting to his spot. The extra step or two that Saffold made Kendricks waste was all defensive end William Gholston needed to slide across the line of scrimmage and corral Gurley. It’s impossible to say how many more yards this play would have gone for if Saffold did not derail it, but the play certainly had the potential to be more than what it ended up being.

Rob Boras’s Favorite Route Combo vs the Bucs

As was stated in the preview for this game, the Bucs safeties are bad. They struggle to match well in coverage and they do not have the athletic ability to be a threat to anything. Offensive coordinator Rob Boras went after them relentlessly this week and it was a huge success. While he attacked them in a number of different ways, Boras had one particular route combination that gave the Bucs loads of trouble.

The formations are different, but the key route combination is the same on both of these plays. The slot receiver (Kenny Britt in the first example, Tavon Austin in the second) runs a deep crosser to the boundary, while the No.1 receiver from the opposite side of the formation runs a deep post to the middle of the field. Before delving deeper into how this worked so well, it’s worth noting that this combo was only called when the ball was on the left hash, which almost forces the cornerback to pick up the deep post and have the safeties choose how to play the crosser headed to the sideline.

In the first play, the safety to the short side of the field does his job by flowing down to handle the crosser. If a receiver is crossing the field into the intermediate to deep area of the field and the cornerback to that side is occupied, the crossing receiver is his. The field safety, though, gets caught looking at the crosser when he shouldn’t be. As soon as the field safety sees the receiver go lateral instead of vertical, the field safety needs to rotate up the field and turn himself into a centerfielder. Since he did not do that, the boundary cornerback Alteraun Verner was left 1-on-1 with Brian Quick and allowed a touchdown.

The second play is much different. This time it is the boundary safety who is caught out of position. When the safety to the short side of the field recognizes the route combo, he flies up the field to help double team the post route. While that made sense in theory and helped avoid a catastrophic play for the Bucs defense, it left a massive void between the flats defender to the short side of the field and the field side safety. Easy completion for Case Keenum.

Now, whether or not the Bucs safeties are taught to match receivers that way and force the far side safety to pick up a crossing receiver is tough. But even if that is the case, both safeties had lapses of execution and failed to get to their spots in time. The Bucs safeties had been a mess for the first two weeks of the season and Boras set out to make it a third week in a row of rough play for them.

Rams Defense vs Buccaneers Offense

The Bucs offense was not entirely stalled, but defensive coordinator Gregg Williams did an excellent job of keying on their strengths and limited the success the Bucs could have with those strengths. Regardless of game planning, quarterback Jameis Winston still kept the Bucs in the game until the final seconds. Williams put together an excellent plan to limit big plays, put pressure on the second year quarterback and coax Winston into egregious errors, but Winston nearly won through it all.

The final drive of the game was a roller coaster of emotion. From big gains, to dropped passes, to near interceptions, to a head-scratching scramble form Winston as time expired, the end of the game was as exciting as it was stressful. The Rams very well could have lost the game on the final drive, but the defense only bent, they did not break.

Game Notes:

  • Defensive back Lamarcus Joyner was lights out. He shined in coverage and made a handful of nice plays in the run game. He’s an aggressive, fiery player that seems to have flipped the switch.
  • Linebacker Alec Ogletree is often too slow and/or passive in his run keys. He’s often late to react to the play, then he tends to struggle to know how and where to fit along the line of scrimmage to limit an offensive gain. Ogletree had his moments, but he was rough.
  • Los Angeles played very passively in their zones. The safeties and linebackers sat deep at the snap and took deep zone drops. It allowed for some plays underneath, but the team rallied to the ball well and the strategy stopped Winston from striking deep down the field.
  • The Bucs don’t have play makers in space. Running back Charles Sims has flashes, but he almost has to catch the ball out of the backfield. Wide receiver Mike Evans is obviously a stud, but he is more the type of receiver to create a huge target for the quarterback than make plays after the catch. Outside of those two, it’s tough to find any sort of play making ability in Tampa Bay, not including Winston, of course.

Aaron Donald Was Aaron Donald

Aaron Donald was a manimal against Tampa Bay. From the first defensive series to the last, he was manhandling Tampa Bay’s offensive line and making plays in every possible way. While he did not finish with a sack, he created relentless pressure that forced Winston to bail the pocket. On top of that, Donald recorded two passes defended with swats at the line of scrimmage. He was just as dominant in the running game, too.

Donald abused the left guard on this play. Right off the snap, Donald attacks the frame of the left guard and does so with a quickness that doesn’t allow the left tackle to help much with a double team. In what seems like an instant, Donald tosses the left guard aside and puts him smack dab in front of the running back, forcing the running back to the inside. Unfortunately for the running back, Donald was waiting for him after having disrespected the left guard’s livelihood. Donald filled multiple gaps all on his own and ruined this play. The rest of the defense reacted well to this play, too, but it was Donald’s havoc that changed the play.

Donald was far and away the most notable aspect of the defense. The group played well as a whole, but most of what happened was either by design or not overly exciting. Trumaine Johnson and the rest of the secondary had an exceptional game all around. Even Troy Hill looked less terrible than he normally does. The defensive front was largely dominant, and allowed the Rams to keep smaller bodies in and focus on defending the pass. Though Donald did not accumulate a sack, the pass rushers played with as much dominance as many knew that they could. The defense still had some issues adjusting to a dynamic quarterback like Winston and allowed some big plays that way, but they did their job, for the most part.


This game could have ended in a loss, but the Rams showed resiliency and held on. The offense showed that their is potential there, while the defense played up to their full potential and put on display just how menacing they can be. There are still plenty of kinks to work out on both sides of the ball, but both the offense and defense played in a way where they were dictating the game, not being forced to play a certain way. This week was by far the most encouraging of the season thus far.

The Rams head to Arizona next week for a divisional clash. The Cardinals sit at 1-2 and need a win to stay relevant. Arizona is coming off of a brutal loss, though, and the Rams are riding high after a road win. Emotions will be tested in this game and the result could have major implications on how the playoff hunt shakes out.