Blowing Up The Rams’ Formula

September 22nd, 2016



The Bucs set an impressive standard for running the ball in 2015, a standard they must replicate Sunday if they intend to take advantage of a ramped-up opening-day crowd.

This game belongs in the meaty hands of Tampa Bay’s offensive line, which has been stellar in pass protection but subpar in opening up holes.

With Denver and Carolina looming dead ahead, Tampa Bay must take care of business against the Rams, who are 1-1 despite ranking last in total offense. Los Angeles hasn’t scored a touchdown and Case Keenum is under center, so Rams coach Jeff Fisher has no intentions of winning a shootout.

Center Joe Hawley

Center Joe Hawley

The visitor’s formula for victory is to force Jameis Winston into mistakes and capitalize on short fields to spring an upset.

The Bucs can’t allow that to happen — and the best way to win the home opener is to avoid 3rd-and-long situations and keep one of the NFL’s premier defensive lines off balance.

“Obviously, our running game hasn’t been where we want it to be,” said Bucs center Joe Hawley. “We want to get our running backs to the second level. Last week, it was hard to get the run game going …it was hard to play catchup.”

Memo to Hawley: the Bucs went nowhere on the ground in Arizona before the score got out of hand.

Sharp Decline

Tampa Bay gained 27 yards in 12 first-half carries against the Cardinals, and the Bucs are averaging only 3.6 yards per rushing attempt on the season — a huge dropoff from last year’s 4.8 average.

Even if Doug Martin sits this one out with a tender hamstring, the Bucs have to show commitment to a ground game that helped Winston enjoy a very productive rookie season.

But Sunday’s matchup isn’t about Winston, who figures to rebound from a poor performance in Glendale. The Bucs have won exactly one game — ONE — in the past five years when they run 20 or fewer times.

“We’ve got to do a better job up front of sustaining the line of scrimmage,” said right tackle Demar Dotson. “We’ve got to come off the ball and be more physical. We’ve got to get back to last year, when we were more physical across the board.”

Speaking of physical, here comes Aaron Donald, who is starting to generate comparisons to a certain former Buc defensive tackle who happens to have a bust in Canton.

“Aaron Donald’s one of the best players in the league,” Hawley said. “You can’t let up against him.”

The best way to slow Donald and company is to establish a credible ground game that makes Winston’s play-action passes more likely to freeze the defense.

Heavier Load

With Robert Quinn looking like the defensive end who registered 19 sacks in 2013, the Rams have a scary pass rush. The Bucs can’t expect one lineman to handle Donald by himself, but you can’t double everyone and Los Angeles has the talent across the front to make Tampa Bay pay.

“[Robert] takes a lot of pressure off us,” said Rams defensive end William Hayes. “He’s going to demand a double team and Aaron is going to demand a double team, so that’s going to leave a lot of people 1-on-1. That opens up a lot of things.”

Most of all, it opens up a path for victory.

The Bucs can’t afford to lose this game, period. I know the Rams beat Seattle last week, but they always play the Seahawks tough.

Keenum isn’t Matt Ryan or Carson Palmer, and Tavon Austin will never be confused with Julio Jones or Larry Fitzgerald. Tampa Bay’s defense will do its job Sunday or Mike Smith has a major problem on his hands.

With or without Martin, the Bucs have more overall talent than the Rams. What Tampa Bay can’t afford is another loss in the turnover battle and placing Winston in difficult situations.

Charles Sims and Jacquizz Rodgers may have to carry a heavier load Sunday, but the real weight of this matchup is on the shoulder pads of an offensive line that needs to recapture its 2015 form.

15 Responses to “Blowing Up The Rams’ Formula”

  1. Negative Jeff Says:

    The Bucs are NOT more talented than the Rams overall. Bucs have the better QB here, that’s it. 23-10 Rams will be the final score. Look what happened when the Bucs played a good defense. Everyone on the offense turned into a bunch of chumps. This very well could happen again.

  2. Negative Jeff Says:

    The Bucs are NOT more talented than the Rams overall. Bucs have the better QB here, that’s it. Look what happened when the Bucs played a good defense. Everyone on the offense turned into a bunch of chumps. This very well could happen again.

  3. Doctor Stroud Says:

    According to a recent story, Jeff Fischer is using laughter to get the Rams to score more touchdowns in preparation for the upcoming game against the Bucs: “Tight end Lance Kendricks said Fisher had players stand in the end zone with a ball and told them “this is where you’re supposed to be” as part of the attempt to laugh instead of cry about the offensive shortcomings.” Let’s hope that the Bucs have the last laugh.

  4. Bucnjim Says:

    The Bucs have not faired well against any physical team since the year before Kiffin left. Even in his last year we were getting trucked right up the middle by teams with good offensive lineman and RB’s. That is the main reason these no name back up QB’s have looked like pro bowlers against us. They just take a simple page out of a HS playbook and basically play keep away. Run dink dunk move the chains and do it again. There will not be many chances for turnovers because the Rams will be content just winning the field position battle until either their D scores or gives them the ball already in field goal range.

  5. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    From what I have seen thus far……a game plan of short passes…screens, slants along with a heavy dose of Brian Anger should do the job against a team with no offense.

  6. Tampa Tony Says:

    Rams offense will get on track against this soft d. And with America’s turnover machine I may have to drink a lot this weekend

  7. Stpetebucsfan Says:


    This post makes perfect sense. The D simply has to do their jobs but our strength is now our Oline. If we’re going to beat the Rams the strength of our team has to have a good game.

  8. Stpetebucsfan Says:

    Oops..apologies IRA…agree with your post.

  9. orlbucfan Says:

    DK needs to call a short game. Lord, he’s got the players even with Martin hurt. Screens, passes out of the backfield, reverses, just short stuff. Make the TEs catch the ball. Fisher is a proven, playoff caliber HC. Teams relocating don’t faze him. Also call a few bootleg options. Go Bucs Sunday!!

  10. Buccfan37 Says:

    This game as a Bucs win when reading the comments seems very much up in the air. I can’t disagree.

  11. Stpetebucsfan Says:

    orlbucfan and TBBF

    Agree with your ultimate strategy but I might mix in a couple of bombs early to set that strategy up. We now have a reputation for going deep. That’s just awesome. If we toss a couple deep even if we can’t complete them it will keep the safeties honest and open up the underneath stuff you guys are calling for…and I agree with both of you.

  12. Mike Johnson Says:

    Correct IRA. La knows they are not gonna score a lot offensively. But if there Defense can create turnovers in our territory, they figure they can score a touchdown and 3 or 4 field goals to beat us. Our Key this Sunday will be Jameis accuracy. If he throws more than 1 or 2 interceptions? We will be done.
    Our O line will have to be ready. Cause the Rams D is coming! This game will be even more physical than the AZ game. A low down nasty attitude on our part will be useful.

  13. BigStinky Says:

    The Rams are going to score their first touchdown of the season on Sunday against us. I just hope we leave it at that, if they score more than 20 points we are probably going to lose. If JW plays like he did in Atlanta we will be able to score more than 20, but the pressure may be too much for him. After that Arizona game though, looks like every game is going to be a struggle.

  14. Craig Says:

    I still would have picked Aaron Donald over Mike Evans.
    And Luke Kuechley over Mark Barron
    Now THAT’s a defense!

  15. Dave Pear Says:


    Now that I know the winning Lotto Numbers from last night I should have picked them.