INGLEWOOD (News4usonline) – The streak continues. The one thing that the Los Angeles Rams have been able to do exceedingly well since Sean McVay took over as the head coach is to protect the lead after halftime.
Going into their highly anticipated matchup against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at SoFi Stadium, the Rams were 39-0 when leading after halftime. That’s a lot easier to do when you have Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey on the defensive side of the ball.
Make that a perfect 40-0 after the Rams handed the Super Bowl champs a 34-24 defeat. Thanks to quarterback Matthew Stafford having a four-touchdown game to go along with the 343 yards he passed for, the Rams are now off to a 3-0 start to the NFL regular season.
“Really pleased with all three phases,” McVay said after the game. “You know, that’s a football team that’s, guys, you know, playing as well as anybody. It’s a big step in the right direction for us, but it’s just one game. And I was really pleased with it, but it really just means, hey, we’re 3 and 0. We got a great matchup next week that we’ll move forward to. We’ll enjoy this for the rest of the night and then come back, clean up the film and be ready to go, but a lot of great individual contributions. I thought it was a great team win.”
The Rams earned this victory the old-fashioned way. They played harassing defense. They did it with explosive offensive plays. They did it by making No. 12 and the Buccaneers work hard for everything they got.
The Rams won the game in the middle two quarters, outscoring Tampa Bay, 31-17.
Stafford’s 75-yard touchdown strike to DeSean Jackson on the Rams’ opening possession in their quarter, extended the Rams’ lead from 14-7 to 21-7. That may have been the straw to break the camel’s back.
“Coming out in the second half, it was huge to get that big play on a 75-yarder. It kind of electrified the stands, the fans, you know, the team. It was a real big one for us.”
The biggest challenge to McVay and Rams’ streak thus far is the man who has seven Super Bowl rings.
Brady landed his seventh Super Bowl win when he guided Tampa Bay to a victory against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. So, after giving up 24 points against the Detroit Lions in Week 2, the Rams defense knew it had to be on point against Brady and the reigning Tampa Bay.
That meant sure-handed tackling, stopping the run, and most important fact of all, slow down the Brady throwing machine at all cost. That included getting up in Brady’s grill as well. That strategy worked for the Rams in the first quarter when they held Brady and the Buccaneers out of the endzone.
The Rams defensive unit ranked No. 1 last season had a point to prove against Brady and the Buccaneers. Rams quarterback Stafford might as well played with a chip on his shoulder as well. Brady didn’t have receivers running around free in the defensive backfield as he did in his first two games.
At least not enough to find the endzone to hurt the Rams. Brady completed just one touchdown pass, and that came in garbage time. He was also sacked three times by the Rams, including being dumped by Donald on one play.
“It was a big play for us,” Donald said. “So you know, any time you [can] get to the quarterback and you know, you’re active and help the team…every sack is a big sack. But to get them out of field goal range that they ended up missing was big for us.”
After struggling early, Stafford got his groove going in the second quarter and looked like he was playing in his own Super Bowl, seemingly matching throw for throw with Brady.
Brady and the Buccaneers came into their matchup against the Rams scorching hot. In Tampa Bay’s first two games against the Dallas Cowboys and the Atlanta Falcons, Brady went wild, passing for nine touchdowns.
In those two games, the Buccaneers scored 76 points. Brady lit up the Cowboys with 379 yards and four touchdowns in a 31-29 win. He followed that outing with a five touchdowns afternoon against Atlanta in a 45-28 cakewalk.
The Buccaneers’ stiffest defensive test so far this season would be from the Rams, ranked No. 1 pass and overall defense in 2020. That was a year ago. The Rams came into this game back 11 spots (No. 12) from their landing spot a year ago.
A good indicator of how things went on the day for Brady and the Buccaneers was a drive in the fourth quarter. If the Buccaneers had a semblance of a chance to come back from a 34-17 deficit that hope faded when Brady erred on a pass on fourth-and-two, turning the ball over on downs to the Rams midway in the final period.
Stafford was off early in the game. He missed Jackson on a sure touchdown on a deep throw with less than two minutes left in the first half. Jackson had gotten a couple of steps on the nearest defender and would have had a walk-in touchdown if Stafford had gotten him the ball.
Stafford came back and was able to lead the Rams to a score anyway, connecting with Cooper Kupp on a 2-yard touchdown throw to give the Rams a 14-7 lead with 51 seconds remaining in the second quarter. When he hooked up with Jackson on that 75-yard pass-and-catch to open the third quarter that play knocked the wind out of the Buccaneers’ sails.
“He’s a great quarterback,” Brady said of Stafford. “He throws a ball well. Obviously, they made some big plays on us. They have a good group of skilled players. They have very good offense. We need to match them. Our offense needs to match those offenses when we play a really good offense like that.”
Featured Image Caption: After going scoreless in the first quarter, the Los Angeles Rams scored 31 points in the second and third quarters en route to beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34-24 at SoFi Stadium. Photo credit: Ric Stallworth/News4usonline