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How can the Rams beat Tom Brady and the Bucs on Sunday?

5 philosophical questions that need answers in Week 9

NFC Divisional Playoffs - Los Angeles Rams v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Rams hope that November goes a lot better than October. Head coach Sean McVay might be best served to find answers by reaching into his bag of philosophies.

On the field, October included bookend losses to the San Francisco 49ers sandwiched around a perplexing loss to the Dallas Cowboys and a win over a Carolina Panthers team that was in the process of a regime change. Off the field, L.A. running back Cam Akers was cast into trade limbo over what was reported as “philosophical differences”.

This caught my eye, enjoying philosophy as an amateur. But rather than wondering about Akers’ future (in reality or theory), the first thought that popped into my mind was “I wonder if those differences are metaphysical or epistemological?”

No explanatory response came from the the Rams offensive braintrust, but luckily, Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris was able to shed some light: It’s the system.

“We had a disagreement with Cam and our system,” said Morris this week. “He stepped away from the building a little bit, and now you’ve got to invite him back into the fold.”

Sean McVay’s offense is metaphysical, encompassing the natures of reality and abstract into fundamental concepts and creating foundational building blocks using time, space, and being. Akers, on the other hand, is epistemological. His actions are based in the belief and rationality of reality, using ability to reason and past tendencies to interpret knowledge into production.

Since that was so easily explained, and now that L.A. and Akers have seemingly kissed and made up, maybe other branches of philosophy can help cure the Rams 2022 doldrums, particularly in today’s game versus the Bucs. Welcome to Sunday morning Lyceum.

Defense — Cartesian Rationalism ( “I think, therefore I am”)

Answer: Use reason to create some cause-and-effect. Tom Brady struggles the longer he holds the ball, don’t allow him to do what he does best.

Brady likes to get the ball out quickly and Rams opponents are averaging 2.38 seconds before release against a league average of 2.74. If the pass rush cannot win right off the snap, they need to get their hands up and attempt to clog the passing lanes. It would help if Morris would scheme in an underneath spy, as he did it with Jalen Ramsey against the 49ers. Ramsey’s read and react skills were evident and he almost pulled off two interceptions. And finally, if you’re gonna play a safe shell zone concept, then do it. Too often opposing wide receivers run right by flat-footed L.A. defensive backs.

Offense — Telos and Techne (get back to cornerstone foundations by combining potential to reality)

Answer: Remember the offenses original philosophy, go back to things that worked in the past, open things up and get all the playmakers involved

Much of the struggle starts with blocking, where offensive line injuries have impeded cohesion and led to a lack of performance. It’s not just the players up front— the tight ends, wideouts, and running backs all deserve some criticism.

Matthew Stafford is clearly not comfortable. The offense is near the bottom of NFL rankings and while Stafford is completing 70% of his passes, his production is on pace to be the worst statistical season of his career, excepting injury years. He wants to sling it down the field and whether schematically, or forced by a lack of time, he’s not able to do that.

Tampa Bay plays a very aggressive defense, they crowd the line of scrimmage and blitz on 30% of plays. In the recent past the have been very good against inside running, but this year are vulnerable outside, giving up 132 yards per game at 4.8 per tote. If the Bucs follow the NFL’s trend to defend the Rams— sitting in deep shell coverage and forcing them to grind out drives, both inside and outside run game are called for. I am not talking about a “Ground Chuck” offense, just enough inside running to keep play-action flowing and forcing the defense to cover sideline-to-sideline.

Injuries have hit Tampa in the secondary, and while statistically mid-pack in pass defense, they are bottom-10 in defending the red zone and allowing third down conversions. Teams are trying deeper throws (8.1 yards of pass depth) against them. The Rams should follow suit.

Special teams — Ontological Parsimony (keep it simple as possible)

Answer: Don’t overthink things, you know, the old Occam’s Razor theory. When kicking, launch it through the end zone or punt towards the sideline.

The Rams best move is to have Matt Gay kickoff into the end zone. After booting touchbacks on 22 of 26 kickoffs in the first six games, last week Gay had two of three kickoffs returned by the 49ers for 66 yards. For the season, only five kickoffs have been returned, but the L.A. coverage unit has given up 138 yards, a 27.6 average— 30th in the league.

Punt coverage is better, but still in the bottom third of the league. Riley Dixon is averaging 46.7 per punt, but the coverage unit gives up 9.5 yards per return.

Brandon Powell hasn’t found much room as the primary returner, averaging 8.4 yards on punts and 19.2 on kickoffs. Last week, Russ Yeast had one return for 29 yards. Not sure if he was back deep because Powell was hurt or if the Rams are looking for a spark.

Coaching — Socratic Ignorance (it’s the NFL, you aren’t going too the smartest guy in room forever)

Answer: Show some humility and be willing to make needed changes.

It is painfully obvious that the Rams are not hitting on all cylinders. Sean McVay calls the plays and needs his feet held to the fire. Fans groaning goes unanswered for certain, but one, or more, of the coaching staff has to be willing to speak when McVay is flustered. A simple example is throwing the football to Cooper Kupp, late in the Niners game when running out the clock. He needs help with clock management.

Fans — Cynicism (living by the day in a stew of disillusion and pessimism)

Answer: The early season has been bleak, but all is not lost.

For all the Rams problems, they are far from being out of the playoff hunt, they are finally beginning to heal up, and eight of the ten remaining games should be considered winnable. It will be a slog if the offensive line cannot hold up, but L.A. is only two and a half games out the first wild card berth and one and a half games out of the West division top spot. Get on a nice run, or a couple of mini-runs and the Rams will be in line for a playoff charge.

Today is a must win, no matter how cliche it sounds. The two teams could easily combine for 100 passes, so it will be fun to watch. This game should get L.A. back in the win column, because although the Rams have struggled with offensive consistency, Tampa Bay and Tom Brady appear to be showing their age and in decline.