The victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was a huge statement from the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams are moving on to a third matchup this season against the San Francisco 49ers.
Before we move on to that matchup, lets take a deep dive into some takeaways from the recent victory over Tom Brady and the Buccaneers
1. Matthew Stafford Proves Doubters Wrong
Matthew Stafford finally did the near impossible in achieving his first playoff victory against the Arizona Cardinals. Stafford not only got the monkey off his back in terms of a playoff wins. However, he proved that the Los Angeles Rams steep investment into the quarterback was worth it.
Stafford followed up the strong performance in Los Angeles by out dueling one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. He did this on the road against a very good Buccaneers defense. The 33-year-old quarterback threw for 366 yards and two touchdowns, while also adding another score on the ground.
After some up and down play in the second half of the season, the doubters were loud and clear in their criticism. The heavy number of doubters had deemed numerous times that the investment into the veteran quarterback was way too heavy for a player with no playoff victories.
Fast forward to the current situation, and Stafford not only is silencing the doubters, but outplayed the likely 2021 MVP. Head coach Sean McVay wanted Stafford in Los Angeles badly, and his confidence in the quarterback is showing its results.
In his first season in Los Angeles he not only set numerous records, but has the Rams on the cusp of a Super Bowl appearance. Say what you will about the quarterback, but it should come with praise at this point.
The Los Angeles Rams are in position to have home-field advantage in not only the NFC championship, but also the Super Bowl. It is time to discuss the quarterback in elite company. That “crazy” investment was worth it in the end.
2. Los Angeles Rams Need To Clean Up Turnovers
The Los Angels Rams went into halftime with a 20-3 lead. That should have been an even larger deficit had running back Cam Akers not fumbled the ball in the red zone. The almost costly fumble would end up being one of many the Rams would spill into the hands of the Bucs on Sunday.
The turnovers are troubling. Even star receiver Cooper Kupp was stripped and lost one to the Bucs in a game the Rams almost gave away. Of the four offensive fumbles, the Rams lost all four.
Protecting the ball will be key for the Rams as they take on one of the toughest defenses in football this weekend, in the San Francisco 49ers. Akers has now fumbled three times in his last six games going back to Arizona last season in Week 17.
Whatever McVay is telling the Rams this week or using in practice to mend this issue will be key to victory this weekend.
The Rams should have handled the Buccaneers much easier than they did. Facing off against a team that has already beaten them twice this season in the 49ers, the Rams must emphasize holding on to the ball this weekend if they want to advance to the Super Bowl.
3. The Los Angeles Rams defense is Frightening
Like Matthew Stafford before him, outside linebacker Von Miller had been seen as an investment that was too steep. The linebacker took some time adjusting to the Los Angeles Rams after a midseason trade from the Broncos. A change of scenery can always take some time to adjust.
Miller has turned it around and has had a sack in both playoff games so far. In fact his six total tackles in the Cardinals victory was tops among the entire defense.
Miller was not the only stud on defense, the entire defense was in the face of Brady on Sunday.
Brady did go over the 300-yard mark, but only threw one touchdown. A huge chunk of that yardage came late as the Buccaneers mounted their comeback.
This defense is getting hot at the right time as they welcome the 49ers back to Los Angeles for a round three matchup of these hotly contested rivals. The Rams defense must continue to step up as they welcome a 49ers offense that has had their way with the Rams this season so far.
4. Cooper Kupp is a Problem
Kupp nearly broke multiple records in what was an historic season. It was expected that his dominance would continue into the playoffs. This has indeed been the case for Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp.
The Buccaneers secondary will have nightmares about the performance they allowed to Kupp. Kupp clinched the game late with a deep pass from Stafford and tortured the Buccaneers secondary all day. Even with a fumble lost, he still almost went for 200 yards receiving with a touchdown.
When you have someone as targeted and talented as Kupp, the expectation is that teams will focus heavily on the receiver. The Buccaneers did this numerous times on Sunday and still could not stop him.
Cooper Kupp played a significant role in the Buccaneers victory. He will continue to be the most important player for this Rams offense as they look to finally overcome the 49ers.