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Rams-Bucs recap: Yes, damn it, the Rams are one of the NFL’s best teams

Plus a pair of season-best performances from LA’s star receiving duo

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams went to the east coast for the fifth time in 11 weeks and beat the Buccaneers 27-24 on Monday Night Football. The Rams improve to 7-3 and vault up to the number two seed in the NFC with six games left to go. They are only one game behind the 8-2 New Orleans Saints for the number one seed.

Sean McVay should feel optimistic about the chances of Los Angeles continuing to stifle their opponents thanks to an elite defense and an offense that proved capable on Monday night of moving the ball at will through the air.

Why the Rams defense should be considered among the best in the NFL was evident as Tom Brady was held to 26 of 48 passing for 216 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in the loss. Brady’s 4.5 yards per attempt is his lowest such mark in nearly a year. It is only the third time in the last two seasons that a team has intercepted Brady multiple times.

The Rams’ undeniably elite secondary held Mike Evans to 49 yards on nine targets; Chris Godwin to 53 yards on 10 targets; Antonio Brown to 57 yards on 13 targets; Rob Gronkowski to 25 yards on six targets. This wasn’t the type of night those star pass catchers are used to.

But most teams aren’t used to playing against a secondary with Jalen Ramsey, Jordan Fuller, John Johnson, Darious Williams and Troy Hill.

Fuller, the sixth round sensation out of Ohio State whose absence in the middle of the season also coincides with times when the Rams defense wasn’t at its best, had two interceptions against Brady, including one in the fourth quarter to virtually seal the victory.

The defense’s ability to contain Tampa’s passing and rushing (18 carries for 42 yards) attacks was enough to mitigate a manic performance by Jared Goff.

Though Goff had some of his best moments of the season and finished with 376 yards and three touchdowns, he also had two interceptions and nearly lost a fumble on a snap in which it seemed that everybody on offense knew the count except him. Absent those mistakes, Goff had a solid away performance against one of the toughest defenses in the NFL.

Especially when he was going to his top two weapons.

Cooper Kupp caught 11 of 13 targets for 145 yards and Robert Woods finished with 12 receptions on 15 targets and 130 yards. Goff threw a touchdown to Woods in the first quarter to give Los Angeles a 7-0 lead, then later found rookies Van Jefferson and Cam Akers for their first career touchdowns.

The 130 yards by Woods is his highest total since Week 13 of last season against the Arizona Cardinals. Kupp’s 145 yards is his highest total since his 220 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 8 of last season.

As expected against the NFL’s number one run defense, the Rams struggled on the ground, gaining 39 yards on 20 carries. Darrell Henderson had fewer yards (seven) than attempts (eight) and they were only saved by runs of 14 and 11 yards by Malcolm Brown and Akers, respectively.

Fuller has seemingly made big plays in all five games he’s been able to fully play in this season and Monday’s two interceptions with the first of his career. His performance was the only one that tends to stand out on a box score, but the totality of what LA brings on the defensive side of the ball is as good as any team in the league.

That’s why the Rams are now in second place in the NFC and the dream for the all-important one seed stays alive. They are contenders to win that spot and therefore, contenders to win the Super Bowl.

Let’s stop pretending that wasn’t the case already.