Some games, coaches use the old adage “throw the tape away”, and last week's second half against the Niners should definitely fall into that category. The Rams looked like two completely different teams in that game and they will look to take what they did in the first half and extend that over four quarters this time around.
This Sunday, the Rams will face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the fourth consecutive season, as they head back out to Florida for the first time since the NFC Divisional round match-up between the two teams. The last time Tampa defeated the Rams was back in 2019, the year before Tom Brady joined the team and Jameis Winston and co. put up 55 on the Rams, and this time the Bucs (-3) are favored to win by a field goal, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.
Since Brady joined, the Rams are 3-0 against the Bucs, dominating every game against a quarterback that is considered the greatest of all time at the position. With both teams below .500 at the moment, this game is pivotal, a tilt that could make or break the postseason aspirations for both squads.
There is no question, this is a “must-win” for both sides, so a desperate approach throughout the game will create a very entertaining ball game. Here are 3 reasons the Rams will come out on top, as well as 3 ways they could drop their second consecutive contest:
3 REASONS THE RAMS WILL WIN
1) 3-0 AGAINST BRADY AND BUCS
As mentioned above, the Rams have not lost to the Buccaneers since Brady took the reigns at quarterback. And, while it is a team game, the way Los Angeles matches up with Tampa is what has made these contests so one-sided in terms of the victor. In each game between the two, Brady has attempted an average of 52 passes per game, which is way too much for a team that prides themselves on balance with a running back as punishing as Leonard Fournette.
Not only is Brady averaging over 50 attempts against the Rams since joining Tampa, but he’s only completed 61.4 percent of his passes on average, 5 percents lower than his overall completion percentage since becoming a Buccaneer. Therefore, the Rams clearly have some sort of method of attack defensively that gives the GOAT fits, which has been key in each of the three straight wins.
When the Rams win Sunday, expect for the defense to give Tom Brady a tough time once again.
2) AARON DONALD HAS HIS WAY
So far this season, we have yet to see a game where Aaron Donald completely takes over, but I believe that ends this week. The past two games against the Buccaneers, Donald has had a total of 2 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, and a forced fumble, as Tampa has struggled to block one of the greatest defensive players ever in the past.
Tampa Bay’s offensive line has struggled this season, both in pass protection as well as run blocking alike. If the Rams want to win this game, they’ll need their superstars to step up to the plate and dominate the football game. Aaron Donald will have his first massive game of the 2022 season, which WILL result in a Rams win.
3) STAFFORD PLAYS MISTAKE FREE BALL
Now, this goes for about any team in the NFL, but it’s simply one of the keys to victory this week, Stafford cannot throw any interceptions or fumble the ball away. The Buccaneers offense has been, simply put, not good, so giving them any sort of good field position or extra possessions only increases their odds of a breakthrough.
Last week, Stafford did a solid job of taking care of the ball and, although the Rams lost, the fewer the turnovers the more likely the Rams are to win. The Buccaneers have not forced a turnover since week 4, and have forced 9 this season. More than half of those takeaways came in a single game back in week 2 against New Orleans, as Tampa forced 5 turnovers that day.
During Tampa’s 3-game skid, they have forced zero tunrovers, so there is clearly a recipe out on how to defeat this squad. When the Rams win this Sunday, expect for quarterback Matthew Stafford to play mistake free football.
3 REASONS THE RAMS MAY LOSE
1) RUN GAME IS NON-EXISTENT YET AGAIN
Throughout Sean McVay’s tenure as coach, this season’s run has been by far the worst by a substantial margin. Through 7 games played, the Rams have the least amount of rushes in the entire NFL (147 attempts), as well as only 479 rushing yards, good for dead last in the league as well.
There have been very few signs that things will change for the better in terms of the running game for the Rams, so if they get shut down once again it will be no surprise. However, if they can just show Tampa that they are capable, then that will open up the passing game for L.A. and Stafford. If not, the offense becomes one-dimensional which, in turn, makes the Rams attack extremely predictable.
If the Rams lose their second consecutive game, expect for the run game to have zero traction in all four quarters.
2) DEFENSE FAILS TO CAPITALIZE ON TAKEAWAY OPPORTUNITIES
Through the first two games this season, the Rams defense got out to a blazing start in terms of taking the ball away, amassing 7 total takeaways through week 2. However, since then, the defense has only forced a single turnover, a glaring issue for a defense with big-time players at every level.
Last week, Jalen Ramsey had an opportunity for an interception that he could not come down with, as well as a forced fumble on a vicious hit that fell right into the arms of a 49ers receiver. Sometimes, there is luck involved in recovering a fumble due to the randomness in which a football bounces, but dropped INTs are something that I’m sure coaches are stressing cannot happen.
If the Rams lose this week, expect the defense to have yet another turnover-less contest. DraftKings Sportsbook has the over/under at 42.5 points and a low-scoring game could favor the Rams.
3) O-LINE TAKES A STEP BACK, SOMEHOW
In the first half against the 49ers, the Rams offensive line actually held up pretty well against a tough front four. However, in the second half, the jailbreak that Stafford had become accustomed to seeing when he drops back reared its head once again.
The Buccaneers are down perhaps their best pass rusher in Shaq Barrett, as he suffered a season-ending achilles tear in their last game. With that being said, the line still must perform no matter who’s on the other side, and Bucs defensive tackle Vita Vea can wreck a game regardless of who lines up beside him.
The protection/run blocking the offensive line puts forth this Sunday will make or break whether the Rams win or lose, so they must show some sort of progression. If the Rams lose this week, expect the offensive line to look outmatched yet again.