In what could be a preview of the NFC championship game this year, the Los Angeles Rams were able to come away with a win and make themselves the team to beat in the NFC, defeating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by a score of 34-24.
The Rams now improve to 3-0 on the season, led by four touchdown passes by Matthew Stafford.
Here is how LA got the easy win against the defending champs.
Neither team could get much going early on offense as both the Rams and the Buccaneers started with three and outs their first drives and then continued to punt back and forth to one another. It won’t be a highlight, but Stafford had a good look at DeSean Jackson deep and underthrew the speedy veteran on LA’s second drive of the game.
It took 12 minutes into the first quarter for either team to get anything going, but after being pinned on the five yard line Stafford and company got back to their normal ways on offense, which was highlighted by a 22 yard pass to Cooper Kupp.
Staff and Coop connect again pic.twitter.com/rkgpTO5xxu— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) September 26, 2021
Score: Buccaneers 0, Rams 0
Stafford hit Tyler Higbee on a beautifully designed tight end screen that left a clear path to the end zone. Stafford went 8/8 on the drive after a slow start in the first quarter.
Tampa Bay would respond well though and moved the ball down the field methodically. Tom Brady found Rob Gronkowski wide open for 26 yards that put the Bucs in the red zone. Chris Godwin got the handoff at the 2 yard line, finding a huge gap in the Rams defense, and finished past the white line for six.
After a horrid start to the game, Stafford finally found his safety blanket in Cooper Kupp. Stafford found Kupp four times during the drive, the biggest gain was a 22 yard reception, but the most important was a two yard reception to put the Rams up by seven.
With 51 seconds left on the field Brady did his usual thing and gave his team a chance to put three more on the scoreboard before the half. Aaron Donald still was not able to sack Brady for the first time in his career, but he will have to settle with a forced fumble that ended up in the arms of Giovani Bernard (though the forced fumble would be credited as a sack). Though Bernard was able to advance the ball and create a positive play, the officiating crew helped LA when they placed the ball back at the spot of original possession. None of it would matter for Tampa Bay though, as their field goal attempt went wide right.
Score - Rams 14, Bucs 7
And then it happened — Stafford found DeSean Jackson for a 75 yard touchdown and much like he has all his career, the wide receiver walked into the end zone for the touchdown. After missing the wide receiver two times prior, Stafford finally hit his mark to start the second half explosive.
Brady did not let the game get ahead of him. On a drive that saw Gronkowski come off the field with an injury, the 44 year old quarterback took 9 plays and 80 yards to lead his team to their second touchdown of the game. After a 17 yard pass to backup tight end Cameron Brate put Tampa on the one yard line, Brady kept the next snap and snuck it into the end zone himself for the score.
And then it happened again — Stafford found Jackson on the right side of the field that the receiver turned into a 40 yard gain, once again showcasing his ageless speed. The very next play Stafford found Kupp for a 10 yard touchdown reception, good for his second TD of the game and his fifth of the season.
LA’s defense paid respects to the offense and stepped up during a very important drive for the Buccaneers. After an 11 yard reception to O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay found themselves in a 3rd and 20. Donald made an impressive play on Bernard on a screen that forced a fourth down. Although the Los Angeles Rams stalled just a bit after Tampa’s punt, they still came away with three points.
A goal line stance the next drive by LA kept the Buccaneers to only a field goal. Brady’s offense was moving the ball at will against the Rams defense until they found themselves within the 10 yard line and were unable to punch the ball in for six.
Score- Buccaneers 17, Rams 31
LA started the fourth quarter with three after being unable to move the sticks on third down in the red zone. They were able to take plenty of time off the clock, however, giving the ball back to Brady with a three score deficit and 8:07 left in the game. Typically Brady takes those opportunities and rises to the challenge, but on a 4th an 2 the defending Super Bowl champs were stopped by the Rams defense, giving the ball back to LA with 7:10 left. Tampa Bay responded with their own defensive stand the next drive and forced a Los Angeles punt, giving Brady back the ball with 4:50 to go and in need of three scores.
Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, the typical Brady magic would not work in a rocking SoFi stadium. LA’s suffocating defense would not allow any miracles, improving the Rams to 3-0 on the season and forcing the Bucs first loss.
Final Score: Rams 34, Bucs 24