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The Good, the Bad and the Difference

The LA Rams are 7-3 and they could have the best defense in the NFL

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

Football Outsiders wants you to believe that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a much better defense than the Los Angeles Rams do. The Bucs and more than a handful of other teams. I now believe that DVOA misses the mark.

After Monday Night Football, it may miss it by a lot.

Not only did the Rams defense stifle Tom Brady with about as much stifleness as any other team this year, but receivers Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods were able to beat Tampa’s defense ins ways that none of the Bucs’ former Pro Bowl players could. We got a chance to see two of the best defenses in the league on Monday night, but one of them was better.

We got a chance to see each team’s offense against those defenses and it was again clear that even in spite of Jared Goff’s mistakes, the Rams were better there too.

In a game that was actually not dominated by Aaron Donald, the LA Rams beat the Bucs 27-24 and improved to 7-3 on the season. They should be considered one of the top three defenses in the NFL. Let’s see if Football Outsiders corrects that by Tuesday.

The Good

Cooper Kupp gets first attention

Five of Jared Goff’s first six pass attempts went to Cooper Kupp and he caught each one, gaining a total of 62 yards. Kupp had more yards on the first drive than he had in three of the last four games.

Rams score first, Jared Goff to Robert Woods

It wasn’t until Goff’s eighth attempt that he looked Robert Woods’ way, finding him for a four-yard touchdown to give the Rams a 7-0 lead.

Jalen Ramsey makes himself known to Mike Evans

Ramsey is so good that when a play doesn’t go his way, it’s highlighted on TV and couch scouts on Twitter take their shots at the NFL’s best corner. By the end of the night, it was clear which player won the war. As it almost always is, Ramsey came out as the winner in his matchup.

Cooper Kupp isn’t finished

Kupp had 11 catches for 145 yards, his most in a game in over a year.

Van Jefferson ties game with first career touchdown

This was Jefferson’s only target of the game. It’s clear that Sean McVay has a few packages where he’d like to get Jefferson involved and this particular situation called for him to get the ball. Will he get more opportunities as the season goes on?

Robert Woods keeps :01 second on the clock for a FG

It wasn’t likely that the Rams would get any points on this drive but they somehow managed to get three. Later on, they won by three.

Jordan Fuller picks off Tom Brady

This was Fuller’s first career interception.

Cam Akers also has first career touchdown, Rams re-take lead

Akers had five carries for 15 yards but he was targeted once. This once.

Cooper Kupp’s regression continues

Saying that somebody is “on pace” for some type of season after one quarter or even one half of a season is an incredible waste of time. I would know, I used to write that way all the time. I hope I don’t get caught in that trap again. Players don’t often spread their production evenly over the course of a season. Teams don’t to ever be as “bad” or as “good” as they were at some other point in the season either.

Kupp’s overall season numbers have gone up considerably over the last three games: 27 catches, 305 yards.

Samson Ebukam sacks Tom Brady

This was Ebukam’s first solo sack of the season and the only sack that LA had on Monday.

Rams take 27-24 lead with 2:36 remaining

McVay will take some heat for being conservative in this part of the field and leaving this much time for Brady. But the Rams trusted their defense and won.

Jordan Fuller’s second interception ends the game (essentially)

This was Fuller’s second career interception.

The Bad

Questionable penalty against Jalen Ramsey

Jalen Ramsey didn’t have defensive pass interference on Mike Evans. Not in actuality. He did draw a flag for defensive pass interference, but I didn’t notice anything to confirm it on the video. Seems this was a case of the NFL not wanting to take Tom Brady out of the game that quickly again.

Mike Evans reaches long arms to tie up the score

Could the Rams defense had held the Bucs out of the end zone if they had first and goal from the two? I doubt it only because that would be difficult for any defense. But Mike Evans assured it wouldn’t have to be an issue.

Jordan Fuller makes a good play, but commits a 32-yard penalty

This one was more understandable. Fuller almost made a perfect play but instead it was a penalty. It’s an encouraging play by Fuller though.

Leonard Fournette scores a touchdown to give Bucs early lead

They should have been letting Ramsey and Evans play off against each other but that’s not what we got. It resulted in Fournette’s short touchdown run to give the Bucs a 14-7 lead.

Jason Pierre-Paul intercepts Jared Goff

The Bucs also have a good defense.

Matt Gay misses his second field goal attempt with Rams

Matt Gay missed his second field goal attempt with LA, this one from 44 yards out. McVay has admitted that the Rams may have made a mistake in how they went about finding a kicker to replace Greg Zuerlein.

Morgan Fox not credited with a forced fumble

It’s possible that if the refs had allowed this call to be a fumble, the Rams would’ve had a defensive touchdown on Monday also.

Jared Goff throws a second interception

PFF with another lame attempt-at-humor tweet. Jared Goff with another regrettable interception.

Chris Godwin ties the game for Bucs

Tampa Bay has a number of offensive weapons and are difficult to beat, but the Rams did beat the Bucs.

The Difference

I want to emphasize that Fuller had himself a game but his interceptions were also a byproduct of an overall quality performance by the entire defense. It’s like winning an Oscar and then saying “This belongs to everybody in the crew.” LA’s defense is probably the best in the league. Last week it was Russell Wilson and DK Metcalf. This week it was Tom Brady and Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown.

It’s the type of defense that should give Rams fans confidence in two upcoming matchups against Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins, as well as a rematch against the Seahawks. It’s a defense good enough to help LA get the number one seed.

But for The Difference in this game, I want to highlight two players who have not had many opportunities to be highlighted recently: Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods.

They’re paid to be one of the best wide receiver duos in the NFL and that was on display on Monday. Against a great defense, Kupp and Woods had their most productive performances of the season. It was also the type of night from McVay that gives me hope that we’ll see more explosive passing plays towards them — and other Rams — in the future.