The Tampa Bay Buccaneers travel west to face the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. The matchup is a battle of two undefeated teams and an early meeting of two likely contenders in the NFC.
Last season, the Rams left Florida with a 27-24 win late in the month of November. Los Angeles has won five of the last six games against the Bucs, dating back to when the Rams played in St. Louis.
Here are three keys to the game for the Bucs to come home with a win:
1. Stay hot in the red zone
Tampa Bay has made 10 trips to the red zone through two games this season, which is tied for the most with three others. Once inside the 20-yard line, the Bucs have scored a touchdown 70% of the time on those 10 red zone drives. Meanwhile, the Rams only score a touchdown in the red zone 55.6% of the time, so far this season.
One big reason for the success in the red zone is of course the connection between quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski, who's caught four touchdowns in two games. All four scores were made once in the red zone.
And it's not just Tampa Bay's offense that's had success in the red zone. Defensively, the Bucs have limited opponents to scoring touchdowns only 50% of the time. If Tampa Bay can continue to stay hot in the red zone on both sides of the football, it could bode well for the Bucs.
2. Try to contain wide receiver Cooper Kupp
This will not be easy to do considering the Bucs are already without Sean Murphy-Bunting in the secondary.
Kupp has become Matthew Stafford's top target through two games. He leads the Rams with 16 catches for 271 yards and three touchdowns. His 16 receptions are tied for first in the league, while his three touchdown catches for tied for second.
Even if it means focusing on Kupp and allowing other receivers like Van Jefferson or Robert Woods to make plays, disrupting Kupp will be important for the Bucs on defense.
"He does a lot of things for them – inside, outside, short, deep, you can't pinpoint where he's going to be or where he's going to go," Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said about Kupp. "They've got a lot of great receivers. Woods is great, Jefferson's good... They've got a lot of speed out there and they have a lot of experience."
3. Limit Aaron Donald and protect Tom Brady
Somehow, someway, the Bucs limited Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald to no tackles, no sacks, no quarterback hurries, and no pass breakups last season when the Bucs
That was just the third time in 112 career games Donald did not record a tackle. If it seems unlikely that will happen again on Sunday, that's because it is.
"He's such a good football player that you just feel fortunate," Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich said. "Obviously, you try to do things from a gameplan standpoint, but when you talk about a player of that caliber, you don't know if we're fortunate or lucky or what we try to do worked."
Donald already has 10 tackles and one sack through two games this season and is hungry for more. Still, Tampa Bay has done a solid job protecting Brady this year. The Bucs were one of just two teams not to allow a sack in Week One.
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