After a huge win against the Seahawks, the Rams find themselves with another opportunity to rise up in the NFC playoff ranks. They travel to Tampa Bay to play Tom Brady and the Bucs. Beating Brady would not only allow the Rams to have a stronger foothold in the NFC West but it would be the first time in franchise history the Rams would best the greatest quarterback of all time. To do that they need to slow down the Bucs’ high-flying offense and conversely need to figure out the Bucs’ equally fast-paced defense. The key to the game is pressure, the defense’s ability to deliver it, and the Rams’ offense to handle it. The former shouldn’t be difficult to achieve but the latter could be a real problem all night.
Brandon Staley’s defense is one of the best in the league at generating pressure and last week they sacked Russell Wilson six times. This week might be against Tom Brady, but the good news is he’s not nearly as mobile as Chef Russ. Their line might be better than Seattle’s but Aaron Donald and Leonard Floyd alone should be able to get to Old Man Brady. Even if they don’t record six sacks just knocking Brady down early and often should be enough to keep him off rhythm and stopping that Tompa Time offense.
Last week rookie Terrell Lewis showed he was worth the hype as well and if he can keep up that momentum the Rams will finally have that third pass rusher they’ve craved for two years now.
The big fear for the Rams’ defense is when the pressure fails and Brady can get the ball off, particularly when Gronk is going up against the Rams’ paltry linebacking corps. Ideally, Jordan Fuller would likely help out Samson Ebukam, Kenny Young, or Micah Kiser, but unfortunately, the secondary will have their hands full against the Bucs’ deep pool of speedy receivers.
They are without Taylor Rapp for 3-4 weeks so that makes life even harder for John Johnson, Darious Williams, and Troy Hill. That is why pressure is paramount and what helps is that the Bucs’ offense, while dynamic, is also undisciplined so the refs might play a hand in slowing Brady as well.
Offensively, the Rams will have their hands full. Todd Bowles has quickly built one of the best defenses in the league. They too generate a tremendous amount of pressure and for the Rams’ offense, that’s a problem. The last time the Rams were up against a defense that brings a lot of heat they wilted in the humidity of Miami.
Stopping Shaq Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Lavonte David will be a lot more challenging with the injury to Andrew Whitworth last week. Joe Noteboom is now tasked with protecting Jared Goff‘s blindside, and he has struggled a bit since being drafted out of TCU. Granted, the Rams now have a better rushing attack so the offense isn’t as predictable, but this is a tough assignment in his first start of the year.
Goff was swallowed whole by the pressure Miami generated three weeks ago and if the line can’t give him time, he will once again crumble. This also means Sean McVay has to go with the same type of balanced attack he implemented against Seattle.
The schedule doesn’t get much easier from here but if the Rams beat Brady and then get revenge against the Niners they will be 8-3 going into week 13’s showdown with the Cardinals. There is no room for error given how cluttered both the NFC West and the NFC is as a whole. Last week showed what the Rams are capable of when they’ve got it together. It seems they’ve gotten back to what works offensively while getting stronger defensively especially in the second half of games. The Rams can beat Tampa but they just need to be able to handle the pressure.