Things didn't go all that well the last time the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took on the Matthew Stafford-led Los Angeles Rams in Week 3 of the 2021 season.
In a 34-24 loss on the road, Tampa Bay's offense was sluggish out of the gate and its defense allowed six scoring possessions in a row from the beginning of the second quarter into the fourth — not even a 432-yard day from Tom Brady, mostly compiled in the second half, was enough for the Buccaneers to catch up.
In fairness to the Bucs, tight end Rob Gronkowski and cornerback Jamel Dean exited the game due to injuries and weren't able to contribute amid the attempt at a comeback. Edge rusher Jason Pierre-Paul and cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting weren't available, either.
Tampa's leading pass-catcher during the game, running back Giovani Bernard, suffered a knee injury in the final minutes of the contest, putting a bow on what was a bad day for Bruce Arians and Co.
Ideally, for the Buccaneers, their Divisional Round matchup with the Rams won't go the same way. Injuries remain a factor, but if offensive linemen Tristan Wirfs and Ryan Jensen, running back Leonard Fournette, and cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting are cleared to play — Jensen, Fournette, and Murphy-Bunting are expected to — the starting lineup will be healthier than it was throughout Week 3.
The Bucs' offense, despite being without Fournette, receiver Chris Godwin (injured reserve) and Antonio Brown (released) as of late among other injuries throughout the year, has been in a groove aside from two games ever since the loss to Los Angeles as well.
However, even if Tampa Bay is in a position to better combat Los Angeles than it was earlier in the season, this isn't the same Rams team the Bucs faced in Week 3, either.
Los Angeles realized its Super Bowl window is open before the trade deadline, which led to acquiring edge rusher Von Miller to pair with defensive lineman Aaron Donald and outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, creating one of the most fearsome defensive fronts in the NFL. Miller has compiled six sacks and 15 tackles for loss in nine games since.
The Rams also signed star midseason free agent Odell Beckham Jr. following the wide receiver's release from the Cleveland Browns, a week after trading for Miller. The timing of Beckham's signing couldn't have been better as the Rams lost receiver Robert Woods for the year due to a knee injury, and Beckham has caught six touchdowns in nine games as a No. 2 receiving option behind All-Pro Cooper Kupp.
Aside from the Green Bay Packers, the Rams pose the biggest threat to the Buccaneers on the NFC side of the postseason bracket this year given their surplus of talent, particularly on offense, firing on all cylinders with Stafford thriving within head coach Sean McVay's offense. There aren't many teams in the NFL who can match scores with Tampa on a regular basis, but Los Angeles is undoubtedly one of the teams that can.
It hasn't been a perfect season for the Rams, with a handful of losses that stand out on the schedule including two to San Francisco and a two-possession defeat at home against Tennessee. And earlier in the year, there were some games that ended in a score that was too close for comfort against lesser teams, such as narrow wins over Indianapolis, Seattle and Detroit.
However, look no further than the Wild Card round when the Rams made the high-flying Arizona offense look completely dysfunctional while taking advantage of the Cardinals' defense every step of the way in a 34-11 victory — with its talent and ability to gameplan, Los Angeles can hang with any team that remains in the playoffs.
Tampa Bay is capable of fending Los Angeles off, especially with home-field advantage on the Buccaneers' side this weekend. But it won't be easy, at all.
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