The Los Angeles Rams defeated the reigning Super Bowl Champions easily on Sunday. The 34-24 victory by L.A. cemented their status as NFC and Super Bowl contenders for the 2021 season. After asking all week if quarterback Matthew Stafford and coach Sean McVay could keep up with the high-powered Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense, the pair did so with ease on Sunday afternoon.
Here are five key takeaways from Sunday's victory:
1. DeSean Jackson is back
With his 75-yard touchdown reception on Sunday, Jackson now has the second-most 50-yard touchdown receptions, only two behind Jerry Rice, and has the most receptions of 75+ yards, with nine. Jackson allowed McVay and Stafford to expose the clear way to beat the Bucs defense: attack vertically. With the threat of Jackson flying up the seam, from the slot, it was very hard for the Bucs defense to stay committed to the crossing action from receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp underneath.
2. The Rams have the best defense in the NFL
When you have two of the best to ever do it at their respective positions in Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, a lot of pressure gets put on other players. Guys like Sebastian Joseph-Day and Leonard Floyd have to pick up the pass rush weight while David Long Jr. and Darious Williams have to pick up the coverage duties due to NFL teams avoiding Donald and Ramsey so much. Even so, Donald was able to split double teams against one of the best offensive lines in the NFL and Ramsey thrived against an extremely quick and talented skill group in Tampa Bay. The Bucs averaged 39.5 points in their first two games, and the Rams held them to 24. It was an elite performance by the L.A. defense.
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3. Tyler Higbee is legit
One of the newer “quick hitter” type plays we have seen in the NFL is tight end screens. Born mostly from tight ends Travis Kelce and Robert Tonyan, they work the same as a running back screen but with a much larger player rumbling down the field. McVay included some of those screens for Higbee into his game, and Stafford has shown a willingness to target him in the red zone. With Higbee securing his first touchdown of the season on Sunday, he's currently on pace for a 600-yard, six touchdown season. Behind a dangerous trio of wide receivers, that is more than you can ask for.
4. Sony Michel could be RB1, if needed
Obviously, the Rams would rather have Darrell Henderson and Sony Michel both healthy simultaneously. However, with some unknown surrounding Henderson’s injury status moving forward, Michel proved he can still be the top option on the ground for a contending team. Michel provided 20 carries and 67 yards in a game where McVay needed Michel to establish the running game for Stafford to have his full array of play-action plays available. Michel passed his L.A. test with flying colors.
5. The Bucs forgot to run the football
While Tom Brady is one of the most accurate throwers of the football, and Tampa Bay trailed for the majority of this game, they abanded the run game entirely. But the reason the Rams are so fundamentally sound from their offensive point of view is because of their willingness to run the football. The running game and the play-action passes are heavily utilized in McVay's scheme. In a primetime game against one of the best teams in football, your coach stuck to his game plan. Bruce Arians, however, has two adequate running backs, and only let them touch the ball a combined nine times. Brady had the team’s only rushing touchdown. The Rams stuck to their guns, on both sides of the ball and are 3-0 because of it.