You know what is better than 2-0?
Another Monday morning undefeated and man does it feel good. The Los Angeles Rams closed the curtain on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with an absolute dominant game that the scoreboard is making it appear was closer than it actually was. Matthew Stafford is for real, but we already knew that, so here’s some other things I learned this week from LA’s victory over the defending Super Bowl champs.
The Stafford-Jackson connection is just starting to form—other teams beware
When the Rams made the trade to get Matthew Stafford this offseason general manager Les Snead and coach Sean McVay knew they had to get him some weapons to highlight his big-time arm. Fast forward a couple months and LA had made the sneaky free agent addition for DeSean Jackson.
During training camp videos began to surface of Stafford airing it out to Jackson over the top of the Rams defense, but come Week 1 Jackson saw little contribution to McVay’s game plan and it was receivers Van Jefferson and Cooper Kupp scoring deep passes from Stafford. Much was the same in Week 2 against the Indianapolis Colts, where Jackson saw even less involvement in LA’s pass game.
Maybe they were saving him, keeping him fresh for games such as the one on Sunday against the defending Super Bowl Champs.
The Stafford-Jackson connection we all dreamed of in the offseason turned out to be reality three plays into the third quarter. After missing two deep passes earlier in the game to Jackson, Stafford dropped back, waited patiently behind his formidable offensive line before airing it out a third time to his ageless receiver who was wide open towards the right side of the field.
Jackson caught the ball as he has done his entire career and then high-stepped it into the end zone for his first touchdown in a Rams uniform, good for 75 yards. He finished the game with three receptions for 120 yards which led all Rams receivers.
SoFi Stadium is a huge advantage
SoFi stadium is quietly, but loudly, becoming one of the best home field advantages in the National Football League. Rich Eisen on the Rich Eisen show called it “the greatest home field advantage the Los Angeles Rams have ever ever enjoyed.”
Brady and company figured that out quite quickly on Sunday after lineman Josh Wells jumped before the ball was snapped on the third play of the game. Tampa would suffer two more false starts later in the match, giving them three total and the Rams zero. Defensive end Aaron Donald was also surprised how loud it was in SoFi,
(21:00) “Its loud man, its so loud, it was so loud... we were trying to make checks and we had to keep echoing because we couldn't hear, but I love it. That's the atmosphere you want to play in. To have that in a home stadium, packed, I know its hard for the offenses to get certain things off so we got to continue to have that with the fans,” he explained in a press conference after the game.
As an offense as explosive as the Rams have, and a defense that swarms to the ball, SoFi stadium should be packed and loud for the remainder of the season, giving LA one of their biggest advantages at home.
Stafford is for real, for real
Stafford looked a bit shaky in his first two possessions on offense. His usual high-accuracy throws were not on display as he left a few passes too high for his receivers and suffered two short drives that ended in Johnny Hekker punts.
Suddenly flashbacks of times past began to enter the minds of Rams fans and fear that big games such as this one might be too big for a quarterback who was left in the shadows of Detroit... but then the skies cleared and the Cali sun removed any hint of doubt on Stafford’s third drive. After some dink and dunks to Sony Michel and Tyler Higbee to get the chains moving, Stafford threw a beautiful pass to the left sideline that Kupp toe-tapped in for a 22 yard gain.
Staff and Coop connect again pic.twitter.com/rkgpTO5xxu— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) September 26, 2021
A few plays later Stafford threw to Higbee on a designed tight end screen who then ran it in for the first score of the match.
On Sunday, Stafford proved that no game is too big for him. In his press conference after the game he looked cool, calm, and collected—like a player that had no doubts what he could do on the football field.
(27:00) “Every time we go out there its a big one. We prepare really hard. We practice, we work hard, we watch tape we do all those things and we get one chance a week to go out there and execute and make those plays. No doubt Tampa is a really good football team... Super Bowl champs, Tom Brady, the defense, all of it. It was a big challenge, it was nice to just go out there and play our game.”
Stafford thus far has been everything that McVay could have ever imagined.
The offensive line played lights out
The offensive line absolutely bullied Tampa in Sunday’s victory. If an entire positional group could get MVP, I might have to give it personally to LA’s offensive line. Stafford has only been sacked one time in each of the three games, allowing him to drop back and throw the ball at will. In Detroit last season Stafford was sacked 38 times. Stafford had nothing but positive words for the group that kept him upright for nearly the entire game,
(29:15) “They did a hell of a job today against a really good front, an aggressive defensive coordinator that wants to send pressures, they did a great job of picking them up and giving me time to survey the field and get the ball to the right guys. Every week we talk about being the most physical team and that starts with those guys. I think that they did it again today.”
Matthew Stafford & Cooper Kupp are a SCARY combination ⬇️pic.twitter.com/6fmO0nvpUe— TWSN (@TWSN___) September 26, 2021
Its not only the passing downs that the offensive line has been able to be dominant in. Though running back Michel only averaged 3.35 yards a carry, there were times he was able to break free for chunk yards against arguably the leagues best run defense. Michel had 67 yards total for the day, the most the Buccaneers have allowed this season.
If the line can stay healthy for the rest of the season the Rams offense should continue to do whatever it wants. Against the Bucs Stafford was able to throw a mix of screens, intermediate throws, and deep passes without much contention against a really good defensive line. In three weeks they have been challenged by the opposing team, but have always come up on top. Hopefully the trend can continue in a long football season.
Just an added tidbit—sometimes the offensive line needs help from a good blocking back:
Sony Michel's pass blocking has been watchable all day https://t.co/GDVX1F2te6— TurfShowTimes (@TurfShowTimes) September 26, 2021
The defense absolutely flies to the ball
As the season progresses we may have to come to terms with the fact that this defense is not the same as last years without Brandon Staley, but its a much easier pill to swallow because this defense is still dominant.
Although early, Brady’s Buccaneers were averaging 39 points a game after two games and were one of the hottest offenses going into the game against LA. The Rams defense forced three punts in the first three drives of the match and if it were not for a late touchdown by Brady they would have only put up two touchdowns and a field goal. Brady did have plenty of success throwing the ball against the Rams, going for 432 yards on 55 attempts and a touchdown, but when it mattered the Rams defense came out on top and got the stops they needed.
What many thought to be a problem at the beginning of the season has now turned into a strength for the LA as they only allowed a total of 19 rushing yards between Ronald Jones II and Leonard Fournette. Tom Brady actually led his team in rushing yards with 14—a stat I’m sure he will not like to see ever again. It also help that the offense for the Rams has been able to put up points regularly, forcing teams to abandon the run quickly and air out.
What this defense does do extremely well is fly to the ball. The opposing team has to fight for every yard they gain against LA, because as soon as the ball is caught there are defenders ready to make the tackle. Kenny Young was especially fast on Sunday, tallying eight solo tackles, three of which were tackles for loss, and sacking Brady once. As a whole, the Rams defense had three sacks on Brady and two forced fumbles, though neither of them were recovered.
(20:00) “I think guys are playing lights out... its multiple guys out there that are flying around making plays. Kennys out there making a lot of plays. Secondary is playing lights out. Its all 11 making the big plays, its hard to for a team to beat a defense like that and we got to continue to get better,” Donald said in regards to the his defenses performance.
The defense is still trying to find its identity a bit under new defensive Raheem Morris, but one thing they’ve figured out is that speed is most definitely on their side.
What did you learn from this game? Let’s discuss in the comments below!