Matthew Stafford showed the world what he can do when surrounded with a well rounded structure of talent and coaching that is also in the top tier of the league. DeSean Jackson makes his mark for the first time this season and the Rams defense is tested by the greatest passer of all time.
Here is a breakdown of each positions performance and the resulting letter grade.
Stafford started this game with one completion in his first six. He misfired throwing behind Cooper Kupp and shorted a deep ball to DeSean Jackson who was clearly separating behind safeties. And then he dialed it in and served up a performance that matches the expectations of a veteran quarterback with Super Bowl aspirations. Stafford completed 27 of 38 passes for 343 total yards and four touchdowns. And once again, he throws zero interceptions and does not fumble the football. The Rams offensive leader was poised and assertive in handling the the game and once calibrated, showed off power and accuracy on his throws.
Sony Michel did in fact run as the starter in this game due to the injury to Darrell Henderson Jr. He recorded 67 yards rushing over 20 attempts for a 3.4 yard average which is not bad considering the defense he was up against that includes Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh up front. He had a longest run of 15 yards and also put forth a solid job in pass blocking. Rookie Jake Funk took snaps as the second back in Sunday’s rotation and had one carry for six yards.
Cooper Kupp continues to be the engine that makes this passing game run but the spark was provided by DeSean Jackson. Kupp had nine receptions for 96 yards and two touchdowns. Jackson started the game by getting behind the defense twice in the first quarter but was left with incompletions due to an under throw on one and Stafford getting hit on the second. And just when you thought that would be enough for the Bucs defense to make the needed adjustments and maybe the Rams had missed the chance, Stafford and Jackson start the second half by hooking up on a 75 yard touchdown pass to put the Rams up by two scores. It was an imperfect game due to a couple of drops but an excellent show by the what could be this years best receiving corps in all of football.
After only registering one catch in week two against the Indianapolis Colts, Tyler Higbee made an immediate impact in this game by scoring the games first touchdown and putting the home team up. He was used on short passes and screens with success and demonstrated strong hands and tough running. Higbee finished with five receptions for 40 yards and a touchdown.
The offensive line gave up only one sack to one of the leagues top pass rush defenses and provided pass protection for Stafford to go through his reads and for receivers to get down field to attack the deep area. The time and space afforded in the pocket resulted in four passing touchdowns for the offense. Andrew Whitworth had a heads up play recovering a fumble and Brian Allen continues to secure the middle of the line.
The leading rusher for the Buccaneers was Tom Brady with 14 rushing yards. Now, this is not Lamar Jackson with 100 yards rushing, the leading rusher was Brady who took off with it due to pressure three times and still did not reach 15 yards total. Ronald Jones totaled 11 yards and Leonard Fournette had eight yards. Aaron Donald got home for a strip sack. The key to the game was to stop the run and throw Brady off his timing and this group was a large part of that success.
Again we point to the run stoppage and the defenses ability to obstruct Brady’s timing with pass rush and the linebackers. Inside linebackers Kenny Young and Troy Reeder worked well from sideline to sideline and did a good job limiting production by tight end Rob Gronkowski. Edge players Justin Hollins, Leonard Floyd, and Terrell Lewis contributed to the rush by adding two sacks and contained the run game by securing the edge.
The secondary allowed 432 yards passing but only one touchdown that occurred in the late fourth quarter when the game was decided. That bend don’t break performance may be as good as it gets against the passer that is referred to as the greatest of all time. Darious Williams and David Long Jr. did a good job of keeping the ball in front of them but Mike Evans recorded 106 yards and Chris Godwin 74 yards while taking what the defense was giving them. Jalen Ramsey was attacked to an unusual degree but stood his ground from the star position covering screens, interior passes, and helping with run defense and pass rush. No interceptions were had this time around by this group.
Taylor Rapp and Jordan Fuller were tested by Brady but did not give up the over the top big play. Chunk plays were given up in the intermediate area when Tampa Bay was able to hit in the zones or when Rapp was a step behind on man coverage. Fuller intercepted Brady twice in their last meeting but was unable to come away with any on this game.
No errors were committed by the special teams in this game which is important given the blunder that occurred on punt team that resulted in a seven point gain for the Colts in week 2. Instead, the punt game was stout, pinning two inside the twenty. Rookie Tutu Atwell secured the ball on returns and kicker Matt Gay hit two of two field goals with a long of 48 yards.
The high grade contributions by each group resulted in an extension of the Rams undefeated record to 3-0. Next week LA will be up against another undefeated team in the Arizona Cardinals. If the team can sustain this level of play the question of how far this team can go will get louder and louder.