The Los Angeles Rams red zone defense has been vital in their success, with the team sitting at 2-0 heading into a potential NFC Championship preview against the also undefeated Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With the Rams seemingly playing a bend but don’t break brand of defense this season, how they perform once Tom Brady crosses the LA 20 yard line will most likely determine the winner.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Red Zone Offense
The Buccaneers offense has picked up right where they left off last year: scorching opposing defenses. In only two games, Tampa Bay has already reached the red zone 11 times. In those 11 red zone possessions, Brady has thrown eight touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Truth be told, Tampa’s red zone offense may actually be even more prolific than the numbers suggest. Their only red zone possession that resulted in a field goal came at the end of their game against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 1.
.@TomBrady is actually off to a better start this season as a 44-year-old than his historic 2007 MVP season pic.twitter.com/qTANxsom5v— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) September 23, 2021
On their lone turnover in the red zone, Chris Godwin fumbled at the Cowboys’ 2-yard line, after achieving what would have been a first and goal, less than seven feet away from the end zone.
Leaders in end-zone targets in Week 2:— PFF (@PFF) September 22, 2021
Marquise Brown - 4
Mike Evans - 3
Allen Robinson II - 3
Chris Godwin - 3
Buy low & sell high candidates based on high-value opportunitieshttps://t.co/NwA8EUSLiN
The Bucs only other red zone opportunity which failed to result in any points took place in week two against the Atlanta Falcons. A penalty against Tampa Bay pushed them back outside of 20-yard line. Brady was sacked and fumbled on the following play.
Los Angeles Rams Red Zone Defense
The Rams defense will face their toughest task yet, keeping Brady and company out of the end zone. LA has been able to smother opposing offenses as they cross the 20 yard line, forcing teams to accept zero points and like it 43 percent of the time.
With that being said, those numbers have been against Andy Dalton, a rookie quarterback in Justin Fields, and Carson Wentz. Each of those quarterbacks are in their first season with their respective squads, leading teams that aren’t exactly offensive juggernauts. That won’t be the case this Sunday against the future Hall of Famer.
Buccaneers QB Tom Brady ready for challenge of facing "really good" Rams defensehttps://t.co/E3RnFshN3D pic.twitter.com/baBz20JOQ4— Around The NFL (@AroundTheNFL) September 24, 2021
However, LA may have one less player to worry about in the red zone if wide receiver Antonio Brown misses the game this weekend due to being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. While he hasn’t been a statistical presence in the red zone this season, having zero red zone targets on the year, defenses have certainly had to account for him.
If Brady is forced to play without Brown, the Rams will be able to throw some additional resources at stopping Gronkowski and Chris Godwin, assuming Jalen Ramsey will match up against Mike Evans for most of the game. Goodwin has been the red zone target leader with six and Gronkowski has reverted back to his pre-retirement form.
Rob Gronkowski is the 3rd TE in NFL history with multiple Rec TD in each of his team's first 2 games, joining 1994 Ben Coates and 1962 Dee Mackey. pic.twitter.com/GM4jw5Tf7c— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 19, 2021
In order for the Rams defense to win the battle once their back is against the wall, they will need to finish plays, specifically securing tackles and completing sacks. It feels like the Rams have missed twice the sacks they have actually have, getting opposing quarterbacks down six times in two games.
That cannot happen this Sunday if the Rams want to start the season at 3-0.