By Joe Torosian
I don’t practice Santeria, I ain’t got no crystal ball…even though this game’s in Tampa… it’s not too tough to call…
The Rams will beat the Buccaneers this Sunday, 22-17.
If they come out knocking heads—I think they could win by two touchdowns.
(Remember: I don’t have to be right. The Rams just have to win. This is the definition of: “When you got wine, you don’t need bread!”)
We all know Tom Brady. We know what Brady can do, and we also know he can throw seven picks, his team can win, and it will all be Matthew Stafford’s fault. It’s how The Mob/Horns Up community works these days.
Brady’s Brady, and as the old saying goes, “He’s been on TV more times than Leave It To Beaver.” But he’s not indestructible, he’s not infallible, and the team around him is banged up. And the Rams shouldn’t concern themselves with what Brady might do to them, but with what they’re going to do to Tom Brady.
That is an absolute mindset they have to have. And after playing TB12 twice as a Buccaneer, I believe they do.
The Rams need to go for the throat and attack. Yes, of course, the attack has to be balanced, but they need to be aggressive because the Buccaneers secondary (though improved) is not great.
They need to attack? I know that sounds like a Troy Aikmanism, “Duh!”
(Aikmanism 101: Late in the fourth, down by three: “This field goal has to be made!”)
Here’s where it gets tricky. Everyone is trying to frame Stafford as some glorified game manager. But he wasn’t brought to LA to be Jared Goff. He was brought to LA to make aggressive, high-risk throws for high reward results. With Goff, there is no ability to go for the throat. With Stafford, it is possible to slash a defense from ear to ear.
But the building narrative by the unwashed/sports-bar fan and the lazy media is, “You don’t want Stafford to throw more than 30 times a game.”
I want Stafford throwing as many passes as necessary to get this win. You don’t want Jared Goff throwing 30+ times, but that restriction should not apply to Stafford. Each quarterback has different DNA.
The Mob/Horns Up crowd seems incapable of discerning the difference between arm-punt interceptions and whiskey-tango-foxtrot interceptions.
Stafford has been picked off 17 times. At minimum, six of those picks have been arm-punts.
An arm-punt is a pass on third & long that goes 50-yards downfield and is intercepted. That’s all. The opposing team doesn’t get a return or a chance to block the kick. So if your quarterback launches an arm-punt from his own 45 and is picked off 50-yards downfield, the opposing team takes over at its 15. Now the defense is in position for a three & out.
Yes, Stafford has had several WTF (Whisky-Tango-Foxtrot) interceptions—not absolving him of these. But all of Goff’s picks were of the WTF variety. You didn’t get many arm-punts from Goff because Sean McVay, in the end, never let him go downfield. On third & 17, Goff threw a hitch or bubble screen to either Cooper Kupp or Robert Woods.
Goff had to be managed, but Stafford needs to be turned loose for the Rams to win tough games. Stafford, at times, does force the ball. There are times he doesn’t surrender on a play when he should. This stems from carrying a franchise (Detroit) on his back for 13 years. That kind of pressure—to always make a play—can leave you with a crooked spine or thought process.
Think of Stafford as having PTDS—Post Traumatic Detroit Syndrome. It lingers, it can flare up, but it can be overcome.
Fans need to get comfortable with Stafford letting it rip. You’ll likely get 15 to 17 interceptions over the course of a season, but you’ll also get something in the neighborhood of 41 touchdown passes, a division title, and a playoff victory.
The Rams have a shot in Tampa on Sunday because of Stafford.
1.)—Don’t stress Andrew Whitworth not playing. Joseph Noteboom has been better than adequate filling in the last two seasons. On top of that, Noteboom is a free agent at season’s end. He’s going to want to look good in this audition. By the way, he was a 3rd round pick in 2018. This is his time.
2.)—Stress a dude named Vita Vea. He had a subpar game against the Rams in Week 3, but that was also guard Austin Corbett’s best-graded performance of the year. The interior part of the offensive line was playing much better earlier this season but has struggled of late. That is a concern. If Vea and Ndamukong Suh (who is fading) can get pressure up the middle, that could be the ball game.
The good news is Stafford is mobile enough to roll out of the pocket. It’s not optimal, but possible.
3.)—Don’t stress the Buccaneers pass rush. It was ranked 26th overall by Pro Football Focus. They’ve got great names, but those are yesterday’s names. Also, Stafford’s thrown 14 touchdown passes to one interception against the blitz this season (just read that this week).
Tampa’s run defense has been good, but not of late. The Rams should be able to run the ball, and that’s what you should expect. Cam Akers has fresh legs and Sony Michel to share the load. Effective is all the running game needs to be.
4.)—Stress Tom Brady getting time. The Bucs offensive line has been excellent, but with Tristan Wirfs (#6/84 PFF) likely out at right tackle and Ryan Jensen (#13/39 PFF) less than a hundred percent at center Brady becomes vulnerable and shouldn’t have time to throw. Aaron Donald and his amigos should be all over him.
But if they’re not, and Brady has time—then stress, stress big time.
5.)—Don’t stress Tampa Bay’s running game. It’s there, it’s been effective at times…but with all the injuries, James Wilder might be suiting up this week. Couple this with the condition of the offensive line, and Brady’s job gets more challenging.
6.)—Stress if you see Jalen Ramsey defending anyone other than Mike Evans. Stress if Travin Howard doesn’t get at least 40 snaps in this game. Against the 49ers, he got 47, against the Cardinals just 30—but the contest was a blowout. Howard should be the one matching up with Rob Gronkowski.
7.)—Don’t stress Nick Scott and Terrell Burgess starting at safety. Neither is a significant drop-off from Taylor Rapp and Jordan Fuller. And many of us believe Burgess should have been playing all along.
8.)—I would like to stress that Week 3 is in the long-gone-bye. These are different teams now, and the Rams are beginning to enjoy the full dividends of bringing in Odell Beckham Jr. and Von Miller.
9.) Stress about Stafford having time. Occasionally the offensive line can go to sleep. If Stafford can get the minimum amount of time…the Rams receiving corps will be a nightmare for the Bucs DBs. Kupp, OBJ, Van Jefferson, and Tyler Higbee…pick your proverbial poison.
Days of Future Past:
The Rams and Buccaneers have met 27 times, and the Rams lead the series, 18-9.
They’ve played twice in the NFC title game…With real odd scores.
1979-80: Rams 9, Buccaneers 0.
1999-2000: Rams 11, Buccaneers 6.—This game was played on 1/23/2000…This Sunday’s game will be played 1/23/22.
Note: The Buccaneers have never scored a touchdown against the Rams in the playoffs.
Note: Tampa’s starting quarterback in the 1979-80 playoff game wore #12—Doug Williams.
Tampa’s starting quarterback on Sunday will wear #12—Tom Brady.
(Winners in Bold)
Bills-Chiefs—Buffalo scares me, KC doesn’t.
Bengals-Titans—Tennessee is the Luca Brasi of the NFL.
Rams-Buccaneers—Tampa doesn’t have the horses…and dead pirates tell no tales.
49ers-Packers—Frisco’s not nice, Green Bay’s susceptible to the run. The Rams need a third crack at the 49ers. Call it a, hunch! (Ba-dum-chi!)
Joe T. is the author of “Tangent Dreams: A High School Football Novel” … “Temple City & The Company of The Ages” … “The Dead Bug Tales” … “The Dark Norm” & “FaithViews for Storm Riders”… “Sin Virus”…all available through Amazon.com.
Follow Joe on Twitter @joet13b