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2020 Rams Recall: A Week 11 win over the Bucs

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

Fuck it, let’s just talk about Tom Brady.

A little more than two months before he won his first ever Super Bowl (as a Buccaneer), Brady was making his second appearance on Monday Night Football in less than a month. In his MNF debut as a member of the Bucs, Brady helped orchestrate a fourth quarterback comeback against the New York Giants that was so impressive, you’d think he was Eli Manning against the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

There’s been so much focus on Tampa Bay’s road to the Super Bowl coming via the wild card that I think some of us may have forgotten that the win over the Giants improved the Bucs to 6-2.

Tampa Bay was in the front position for the number one seed halfway through the season and Brady had thrown 20 touchdowns against only four interceptions, but no turnovers since Week 4.

Brady had accomplished more over the first half of the 2020 season than most quarterbacks will ever do in their entire careers after turning 38. And he was 43. Brady had so much goodwill at that point of the season, that the only acceptable response from the public after Tampa’s Week 9 gutterball against the New Orleans Saints was that of a collective: “Thank you, Jesus.”

The Bucs did not implode at that point in the season — they lost three of four games and those losses came to the 12-4 Saints, 14-2 Chiefs, and 10-6 Rams — but each one of those drops came at home. And in all three losses, Brady threw multiple interceptions. Tampa Bay was set aside from the conversation at 7-5, and all they had to do was win each of their next eight games.

Ultimately, we found out that the Bucs would have the better team and the better season, but that is beside the issue. What’s important for Rams fans to remember is that there is a narrative going around that Tom Brady’s season is being “overrated” because of the Super Bowl win, and they’re citing performances like the ones he had against the Packers, Saints, and Rams. But outside of those games, Brady was a completely fair choice for MVP.

The fact that he was bad against the Rams — arguably worse than in any other game — does not prove that Brady is showing is age. It proves that LA had a damn good defense. If Aaron Donald doesn’t enter Lambeau Field with sore ribs, who knows how the rest of the playoffs would have played out.

We only know how this Week 11 game on Monday Night Football played out.

Week 1 - Win over the Cowboys

Week 2 - Win over the Eagles

Week 3 - Loss to the Bills

Week 4 - Win over the Giants

Week 5 - Win over a Football Team

Week 6 - Loss to the 49ers

Week 7 - Win over the Bears

Week 8 - Loss to the Dolphins

Week 9 - BYE

Week 10 - Win over the Seahawks

Week 11 - Los Angeles Rams at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

LINK TO THE HIGHLIGHTS

Important Personnel Notes:

  • Joe Noteboom takes over as the starting left tackle
  • Cooper Kupp plays in 52 snaps, Josh Reynolds plays in 65
  • Darrell Henderson leads backs with 33 snaps, followed by Malcolm Brown at 27, Cam Akers at 12
  • This is Micah Kiser’s final game until the playoffs, at which point he only returned on special teams
  • A’Shawn Robinson’s second game back — failed to mention that last week against the Seahawks. Robinson averaged about 13 snaps per game last year. He had 15 in this one.
  • Matt Gay, drafted by Tampa in 2019, is LA’s newest kicker
  • Bucs were without starting left guard Ali Marpet

One of the reasons I like doing this series is that context matters, and once a game is over, we tend to only focus on the final score. But what about the context?

It’s important context to note that the Rams didn’t just beat the Bucs last year, but that they beat them without Andrew Whitworth and with Reynolds getting more snaps than Kupp, and Brown playing a bigger role than Akers. LA knows that they can be an even better team than the team that beat Tampa Bay in late November of last year.

After forcing the Bucs to punt on their first drive, the Rams responded with an 80-yard drive that included four third down conversions, including a 37-yard catch and run by Cooper Kupp.

The drive ended on a four-yard touchdown pass to Robert Woods, giving the Rams a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter.

On Tampa’s next drive, facing third-and-10, Jalen Ramsey was called for pass interference on Mike Evans and that kept the drive alive. Ramsey disagreed with the flag and given some clips we have coming up, he might have a case.

Ramsey made a phenomenal tackle on Evans to force third-and-1, but give Evans the credit he deserves. He might go into the Hall of Fame one day, and he willed himself into the end zone on the next play.

Ramsey could also be going to the Hall of Fame.

The score was then 7-7, but the following drive is a) something you’ll rarely ever see and b) more evidence of why the Rams made a change at quarterback this offseason.

Jared Goff went 3-of-3 on LA’s next drive. It was also a three-and-out. The Rams gained a total of eight yards on those three completions. That has something to do with Sean McVay’s play calling and designs, but what plays will he be able to call next season with Matthew Stafford instead?

That’s up for debate, I know not everyone sees a great difference in the two quarterbacks. We’ll find out. I mentioned all of those other differences between the Rams of 2020 and the Rams of 2021, and that didn’t even include the biggest change of all.

On Tampa’s ensuing drive, Brady twice converted third down on tosses to tight end Cameron Brate, then it was another pass interference penalty — this time on Jordan Fuller — that kept the Bucs alive and deep into Rams territory.

It was a rough night for Jordan Fuller.

(I’m kidding.)

The refs kept handing opportunities to Tampa, including on this penalty on Ramsey, but it was declined anyway.

The Bucs scored one play later on a run by Leonard Fournette and they took a 14-7 lead.

Goff returned to the field with an impressive drive that included six completions, including a 24-yarder to Kupp and a 7-yard touchdown to Van Jefferson, tying the score at 14-14.

LA managed to squeeze in one more offensive drive, and with Goff completing another five passes, the half ended with a 38-yard field goal by Gay, giving the Rams a surprising lead going into the break. I only say “surprising” because that’s not how the game felt it would be going after Tampa went up by a touchdown at home.

It also didn’t feel like it would continue that way after Goff was picked off on the third play of the second half. Similar to Goff being picked off by Miami’s Christian Wilkins a couple games earlier, throwing mistakes can also happen in the short and intermediate areas and in this case, it setup Tampa Bay deep in Rams territory.

But the Rams have a good defense and all that was allowed was a field goal, tying the game at 17 apiece.

After Gay then missed a 44-yard attempt (yes, there was still doubt about the position when Gay started his Rams career), Fuller opted to give his offense one more chance by picking off an apparent errant throw by Brady.

This time LA finished the drive and took a 24-17 lead on a four-yard run by Akers.

When Brady returned to the field, he had two incompletions to Antonio Brown. It’s important to note that in this game, Brady targeted Brown 13 times but only gained 57 yards. Brady’s insistence on having Brown as a part of the offense may have helped Tampa Bay win the Super bowl, but it also seemed to stunt progress in games like this during the regular season. Is Brown still a viable threat in the NFL?

In this game, he was quite terrible but that didn’t stop Brady from going to him.

After not much happened for a while, Goff threw his second interception of the game, this time to safety Jordan Whitehead.

This is Whitehead’s third career interception. Here is his first career interception, which came a year earlier, also against Jared Goff.

At this point, Tom Brady again shows that he’s still a damn good quarterback and a fairly easy drive ended in a 13-yard touchdown to Chris Godwin, stretching out for all he’s got over Darious Williams.

With the score tied 24-24, Goff immediately completed a 23-yard pass to Robert Woods, then two plays later gained nine on a throw to Woods, then 19 on a pass to Kupp. That was basically all the Rams needed, settling for a field goal by Gay with 2:40 remaining.

Nobody wants to give Tom Brady the ball with 2:40 and a three-point deficit. Nobody.

But maybe last season, it is fair to say that the Rams defense was more trustworthy in the two-minute drill than the Rams offense.

Key Play:

Brady completed his first two passes, gaining 19 yards and approaching midfield. But his third throw — to Brown — fell incomplete. And his next, strangely “going for it” against the number one pass defense and two minutes remaining, once again landed in the very-open arms of Fuller.

Game.

Brady’s 54.1% completion rate was his lowest of the season. His 62.5 passer rating was the second-lowest. His 4.5 Y/A was the lowest. His 3.46 adjusted Y/A was second-lowest. His 48 attempts was the highest he had all year. But he only gained 216 yards, fourth-lowest total of 2020 for Brady. It was one of four games in which Brady had multiple interceptions. Tampa Bay went 0-4 in those games, compared to 11-1 in the others. Of course, Brady threw three interceptions in the NFC Championship, but the Bucs won.

Final Score: Rams 27, Bucs 24

Up next: vs San Francisco 49ers