The Los Angeles Rams hosted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday in what was the biggest game of Week 3. Two of the NFC’s juggernauts went head-to-head and the Rams came out on top, 34-24. Let’s get to yesterday’s 10 takeaways.
1. Slow Start on Offense
It was pretty clear that there were some early jitters with both teams. The two offenses started three and out and both quarterbacks missed deep shots. For a Week 3 game, this was a big one and it showed early on.
With that said, this is the third straight game that the Rams offense has essentially disappeared for almost an entire quarter. Thankfully the defense was able to step up and get a couple of stop. However, against the Bears it was the second quarter, against the Colts it was the third quarter, and yesterday it was the first quarter. The offense isn’t going to score every possession, but if there is one early concern for me, this is it.
2. Matthew Stafford Quiets the Critics
Heading into this game, the talk was Matthew Stafford vs. Tom Brady. Stafford had never won the big game or been in many games of this magnitude at this point of the season during his time in Detroit. As mentioned above, the jitters were pretty obvious early in the game. Stafford sailed a ball high on Kupp that should have been intercepted.
However, once Stafford got going, he could not be stopped. On the Los Angeles Rams offense’s third possession, he went a perfect 8-for-8 as they drove 95 yards and capped it off with a touchdown to Tyler Higbee. The touchdown marked the first of six straight scoring drives. We saw what this offense was capable of and they legitimately could not be stopped.
Matthew Stafford finished with 343 yards and four touchdowns. It’s impossible to sit here and say that “this is the reason why the Rams traded for Stafford.” Jared Goff won this game last year. However, it’s obvious how much Stafford elevates the offense and he finally showed that in a good situation, he can win the big one. There will hopefully be much bigger games ahead.
3. Defense Proves Itself Against a Good Opponent
To add to that, the Rams defense has gotten nothing but criticism from some of the fanbase through two weeks. This is despite not allowing 20 points against the Colts or Bears. The defense was on pace for that once again, but a garbage time touchdown put the Buccaneers over the mark.
Tom Brady threw for 432 yards. However, yards aside, this defense makes plays where it matters – on the scoreboard. The Buccaneers went three-and-out on their opening two drives and punted four times. The defense remains perfect on stopping fourth down conversions. This is a league that has rules dictated towards the offense. If you watch the Chiefs, Packers, or other top contenders, the Rams have the best defense of the group.
4. Rams Defensive Line Dominated
The Buccaneers have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. The interior is one of the best in the league and with Tristan Wirfs at tackle, it’s very difficult to get pressure on Brady. However, the Los Angeles Rams defensive line did just that. Aaron Donald and co. got home and made Brady uncomfortable.
Brady was sacked three times which is not easy to do. He’s arguably the toughest quarterback to sack because the offensive line is so good and he tends to get the ball out so quickly. However, on top of the three sacks, Brady was hit five times and pressured frequently. It was a good performance up front.
5. Kenny Young Bounces Back in a Big Way
Last week, Kenny Young was ejected after coming into contact with an official. That sequence started the disaster that was the end of the third quarter and the Colts took the lead. However, Young responded very well on Sunday against the Buccaneers. He was without question one of the best players on the defense.
Young finished his day leading the Rams with 10 tackles, three of loss. The Rams linebacker also added a sack and a forced fumble. Young is often forgotten as an asset in the Marcus Peters trade. He’s developed well and proven himself as the best linebacker on the roster.
6. DeSean Jackson is Officially Welcomed to LA
DeSean Jackson wasn’t involved at all in the Los Angeles Rams gameplan during the first few weeks. However, against the Buccaneers, Jackson was unleashed. Jackson and Stafford finally connected on the deep ball and he finished with three receptions for 120 yards. Coming into the game, Jackson has played in nine games against his former teams. In those contests, he had 39 catches for 836 yards and five touchdowns. Jackson is the master of the revenge game.
With that said, it took three opportunities and a blown coverage for Stafford and Jackson to finally connect. Stafford underthrew Jackson on the first two opportunities. The first one was simply under thrown, and a little more either would have resulted in a touchdown or pass interference. The second miss occurred due to Stafford not being able to step into the throw. Once these two find their range, it’s going to be a scary connection.
7. SoFi Stadium Was Rockin’
Los Angeles has gotten a lot of criticism for not showing up for their teams. There were times at the Colosseum in which away fans took over the stadium. However, that was not the case on Sunday against the Buccaneers. On the broadcast, it was loud. The fans were having an effect on the game. On the first possession, the Buccaneers took a false start penalty on 3rd-and-1.
The atmosphere at SoFi was right up there with the return to LA and the game against the Chiefs in 2018. The Rams had home field advantage and that’s not something that away teams have had to experience in the past. Rams fans should up and it paid off.
8. Sony Michel Holds Down the Rams Backfield
Last season with Cam Akers, the Los Angeles Rams running backs combined for 40 yards rushing against the Buccaneers. Michel finished with 67 yards on 20 carries. While Michel averaged just 3.4 yards per carry, he had a couple of strong runs throughout the game.
This is still Darrell Henderson’s backfield. However, Henderson and Michel could become a very good two-headed monster in the backfield. Both players complement each other well. Once Michel get more comfortable in the offense and Henderson gets healthy, we’ll likely see more of a two-man backfield.
9. A Special Feeling With This Team
Prior to the season, there was an excitement with the Los Angeles Rams. When Stafford his Van Jefferson against the Bears, that excitement continued. However, it was just the Bears. The Rams have now beaten the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the defending Super Bowl Champions, and outplayed them handily.
It’s hard to explain, but there is just a special excitement with this team. Aaron Donald is hugging Stafford after the game and saying, “I love you, man.” Cooper Kupp and Stafford have a QB-WR connection that isn’t seen very often. The offensive line and defensive lines are playing very well. We knew before the season that this team was capable of special things. This win just confirms it and it’s going to be exciting to see where they go.
10. The Rams Are For Real
The Los Angeles Rams didn’t just beat the Buccaneers. The Rams outplayed and outclassed the Buccaneers by a wide margin. Until two minutes remaining in the game, the Rams were leading by three scores against the supposed top team in the NFC. In 1999, the Rams knew they were for real after a 42-20 win over the San Francisco 49ers. When the Rams made the Super Bowl in 2018, it was a 38-31 win over the Vikings that gave them the confidence moving forward.
This win had playoff implications if the Rams are tied with the Buccaneers late in the season and going for the only first-round bye. The Rams got a win that will give them confidence and got a win that they very much needed. The narrative would be a lot different had the Rams called short.
This win against the Buccaneers is only going to give the Rams an insane amount of swagger moving forward. Stafford has the monkey off of his back and has won the big one. For the third time under McVay, the Rams are 3-0, but this feels much closer to 2018 than 2019.