The Los Angeles Rams secured their first playoff win inside their new state-of-the-art venue SoFi Stadium on Monday night. The 34-11 defeat over the Arizona Cardinals also marked quarterback Matthew Stafford's first playoff win of his 13-year career.
Rams players were full of grins and smiles following the game that punched their ticket to advance to the NFC's Divisional Round in which they'll hit the road and face the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The style in which Bucs quarterback Tom Brady orchestrates his offense doesn’t provide equal parallel's to what the Rams just saw from third-year passer Kyler Murray. Instead, Brady consistently beats teams with his superior football acumen and his seven Super Bowl titles illustrate that.
Rams' All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who recorded one sack and three tackles for loss against the Cardinals, didn’t flinch when asked after the game what it means to now shift their focus on last year’s champion.
“It’s a new year,” Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald said. “I respect what he did in the past, but it’s a new year.”
McVay, speaking with reporters Tuesday via a videoconference, followed Donald's viewpoint on the future Hall of Fame passer.
“I think it’s tremendous respect, but not fear,” McVay said.
Sunday's game between the Rams and Bucs will be the team's second meeting this season after squaring off in late September. Having already gotten a taste of the savviness Brady brings to the table, the Rams are confident in where they stand in the early-going preparation.
“He recognizes exactly what’s going on,” McVay said of Brady. “I think the best way is try and influence and affect, move him off his spot, be able to win with your rushes."
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The Rams were moderately successful in their Week 3 meeting against Brady, beating the Bucs 34-24. The Rams held him to one passing touchdown, though Brady did at times find the weak spots in the defense, completing passes at a 74.5% clip for 432 yards.
But this go-around features a different look for the Rams. Von Miller, one of the Rams' few mid-season acquisitions was not yet into the fold. Miller has logged six sacks across his last five games and if Bucs left tackle Tristan Wirfs isn’t able to play as he nurses an ankle injury, the Rams' edge rushers would figure to have a large impact on pressuring Brady.
Miller, like many other of his teammates and coaches, said he has the ultimate respect for Brady, who enters Sunday's showdown holding a 35-11 postseason record.
“Tom sees the whole field, and we all know about Tom in the playoffs,” Miller said. “He’s incredible, man. “We’re going to have to play our best ball to have a chance. But if we can play our best ball, I like our opportunity.”
Entering the weekend's Divisional Round, L.A. has registered six wins over their last seven games. Plus, the momentum builder that is Monday night's game, slaying their NFC West rival by four possessions as they take another step forward in the process of presumably reaching Super Bowl LVI.
“I certainly think you can take a lot of confidence from it,” McVay said referencing Monday’s win over Arizona. “I think our guys also know that what they did last night won’t have anything to do with what we need to do on Sunday in Tampa.”
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