Great Versus Great

November 17th, 2020

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BY IRA KAUFMAN

This is the week Byron Leftwich earns his keep.

If the Bucs shred the stingiest defense they’ll face during the regular season, Leftwich’s stock figures to soar among the owners and executives who will be looking for new head coaches in 2021.

“The defense has definitely been the strength of our team,” Sean McVay said after the Rams downed the Seahawks 23-16 on Sunday.

For an offensive-minded head coach like McVay, that’s a heck of an acknowledgement.

Toughest test upcoming for Byron Leftwich, writes Ira Kaufman.

But it’s true.

From Aaron Donald up front to Jalen Ramsey in the back, the Rams have the pieces to play smothering pass defense.

New defensive coordinator Brandon Staley learned well under Vic Fangio in Chicago and Denver. His first year running this group could hardly be more impressive. Los Angeles ranks No. 2 in scoring defense and No. 2 in total defense, so Tom Brady will be watching film until his eyes bug out.

The Bears play good defense — the Rams play great defense.

Just ask Russell Wilson, who was hounded all afternoon. Los Angeles sacked one of the league’s most mobile quarterbacks six times and put another 12 hits on Wilson as Seattle was held under 27 points for the first time this season.

Leonard Floyd led the way, dropping Wilson three times. Donald wasn’t even a major factor, but you can bet he’ll have the full attention of Tampa Bay’s offensive line this week.

If the Bucs can’t handle Donald, they’re in for a Stormy Monday.

“We’re going to keep coming out every week and earning our respect,” Floyd said after the Rams shut down the NFL’s highest-scoring team.

There’s no reason to think the Bucs lack the weapons to challenge a very talented defense.

Heavyweight Clash

Wilson is terrific and he has some very good receivers, but his offensive line is soft and the Seahawks average only 24 rushing attempts per game. Their leading rusher? Russell Wilson. That kind of says it all.

Tampa Bay’s ground game has been erratic, but Ronald Jones may have just rediscovered his mojo. He broke open a close game in Charlotte with a 98-yard burst and Bruce Arians has done a nice job keeping Jones upbeat through any adversity.

It appears Antonio Brown is now fully integrated into a passing attack that is overflowing with stellar targets. If Brady is well protected, he’ll find Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Brown and Rob Gronkowski time and again.

Ramsey just shut down D.K. Metcalf, a tall order, but he can take away only one guy. That would seem to favor the Bucs in this prime-time matchup, but the Rams may have found another elite corner in Darious Williams, an undrafted free agent claimed off waivers from Baltimore in 2018.

“The Hammer?”

All Williams did on Sunday was intercept two Wilson passes and deflect another throw in the end zone. And don’t forget about the pick-6 he registered in the opening quarter, only to have it nullified by a holding penalty against Floyd.

“The message is that we can get to the quarterback, we can cause a lot of stress on the quarterback,” said Floyd. “We’re looking forward to going to Tampa, man, and just building off this.”

Brady can’t wait, either. He’s spent two decades wrecking game plans carefully designed by defensive coordinators.

Even with the no-show loss to New Orleans, Tampa Bay is averaging 31 points in the past five weeks, so this has the look of an intriguing matchup under the lights. “Brandon Staley and this defense … I’m a believer,” said Troy Aikman, who worked the Rams-Seahawks game for FOX.

Let’s see what Leftwich pulls out of his toolbox for this one.

I’m guessing it’s Ronald Jones, AKA The Hammer.

30 Responses to “Great Versus Great”

  1. Augsut 1976 Buc Says:

    Time to get the ball out quick and control the flow. And pound the Rock. There is no way they can approach this game like the Bears and the Saints if they want to win. We hope common sense prevails. To to adapt Mr Leftwich. If the Bucs can score 31-35 they should win. But that will not happen if they let the Rams dictate. They have to dictate on offense. We will see. GO BUCS!!!!

  2. Bucsfanman Says:

    We have yet to see our best offensive football. I just hope it’s not another “let down” game in primetime.
    Stay with the plan and don’t abandon the run game. This will be a good test.

  3. DavidBigBucFan99 Says:

    Three times he faced really good defenses and 3 times he struggled in having a consistent offensive game plan. He calls very few screen plays or toss sweeps both which can limit aggressive defensive fronts. He keeps calling predictable runs up the middle and takes the ball out of our #1 runner and inexplicably putting it in the hands of the dancing koala bear. I’d rather have Keyshawn Vaughn getting the ball if he’s going to do that. If Brady doesn’t start taking the tops off of defenses by connecting with guys open deep then they’re going to start shutting down the intermediate passes and run lanes as well effectively shutting this offense down.

  4. Roy T. Buford Says:

    Whether it’s BL or BA really calling plays, I’ll never quite understand why they line up with an empty backfield on 2nd or 3rd down and 2 or 3 yards. Never quite understand why go with lower probability and longer pass plays on 3rd down. Some may argue it’s trust in QB and receievers, but I’d not buy into that one. They could easily be 8-2 with just mixing it up a little better.

  5. Roy T. Buford Says:

    @Bucsfanman…at the very least, the odds are they will finally have a good prime time game. I feel better that it’s here, and not having to fly out to LA.

    What stinks most is a short week after LAR before taking on the champs. At least that one is here too.

  6. FLBoyInDallas Says:

    The Bucs struggle against strong defenses. All of their losses have come against the two best defenses they’ve played this year, the Saints and Bears. The Rams’ defense is even better than those two teams.

    I don’t like this game for the Bucs. They don’t match up well against teams that can pressure the QB and defend the pass. The Rams are at the very top of the league in those defensive categories.

    I hate to say it, but the Bucs have a better chance of beating the Chiefs than they do the Rams. Hope I’m wrong.

  7. Defense Rules Says:

    So if I understand this right Joe, the Seahawks are bad (as in 6-3 record?) because they average “only 24 rushing attempts per game”. Meanwhile the Bucs are averaging a whopping 24.6 rushing attempts per game, so we’re apparently good. Bucs on the season are rushing on 38.1% of our plays. Not sure I’d consider that ‘good’. More like ‘abysmal’ when you have 2 stud RBs like RoJo & Fournette.

    Rams run defense has given up 871 yds rushing in 9 games (96.8 YPG average) & ranks #5 in run defense. But they’ve only given up 7 rushing TDs in those 9 games. They were blistered in their first 4 games (124 rushing YPG average) BUT … they’ve been very stout in the last 5 games (75.4 YPG).

    Bucs run defense has been the reverse of that (because of the loss of Vea?). We’ve given up 766 yds rushing in 10 games (76.6 YPG average) & rank #1 in run defense. We only gave up only 292 total rushing yds in the first 5 games (58.4 YPG), BUT … in our last 5 games since losing Vea we’ve given up 474 rushing yds (94.8 YPG).

    Looking at those trends, I’d say that the Rams run defense RIGHT NOW is actually quite a bit better than ours. Their pass defense is certainly performing better than ours. IOW, our OFFENSE will have its’ hands full going against a VERY GOOD Rams’ defense UNLESS Bucs’ offensive coaches find a way to exploit some Rams defensive weakness.

    Their biggest defensive weakness? The Rams’ OFFENSE turning the ball over at very inopportune times (sound familiar?). In their 3 losses they’ve made 7 TOs (over 2 per game average); in their 6 wins they’ve only made 6 TOs (1 per game).

    Rams’ 28-17 loss to the Dolphins 2 weeks ago was a classic example of how Turnover Differential kills you. Fins had 145 TOTAL yds in offense AND 2 TOs to the Rams 471 TOTAL yds of offense, yet the Fins won because the Rams’ offense turned it over FOUR times (a fumble return for a TD & a punt return for a TD certainly helped put the Fins up 28-7 in the 2nd qtr). Apparently the Bucs aren’t the only ones who do ‘stuff’ like that.

  8. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Turnovers, Penalties & Special teams….

    May come down to that Monday.

    Just think of it….last year we hung 55 points on this team at their house…..something must have changed with this defense.

    We must run & we must protect…..period.

  9. JustBucNwin Says:

    Heavy formations with our TE’s, quick throws, and run the damn ball!

  10. #1bucfan Says:

    If Brady has time to pass we will win this one but if Brady is under consisten pressure then we are in for a long long night. This game will be won on the trenches boys let’s go Bucs

  11. Danny C Says:

    This has the makings of an Antonio Brown break out game. Let’s face it, Ramsey is going to shut down Mike and Darious Williams will likely take on Godwin leaving Brown with their 3rd DB.

    Antonio Brown 7 catches 167 yards and 2 TD’s

  12. First Down Tampa Bay Says:

    Ali Marpet will be the key to this game. If he is able to play, that would go a long way towards getting a win. Marpet absolutely shut down Donald last year, so his availability is definitely something to keep an eye on.

  13. 813bucboi Says:

    BL will have the offense humming…..no need to worry about the call plays…instead, worry about the execution and penalties…..

    we cant let goff go 13 for 13 like we did with teddy….

    bowles needs to have the defense ready to go….

    GO BUCS!!!!!

  14. Mike Says:

    Bucs can win this one, but they need to run the ball effectively to open up play action. I expect them to run more 2 TE sets and more max protect. Gronk should be a factor in this game as well as Rojo.

  15. Defense Rules Says:

    Attaboy 813bucboi, focus on the Bucs’ defense. Hopefully we can hold the Rams to just 2 pts so Succop’s FG at the end of the game wins it for us 3-2. Just kidding obviously; I’m sure our defense will get 1 Pick-6 to give us another 7 pts on top of that.

    You seem to have a LOT more faith in BL (and BA) than I do when it comes to game-planning, play-design and play-calling. I’m rooting for you to be right obviously, but recent history isn’t on your side when it comes to the Bucs’ offense going against strong defenses.

    The good news is that the Rams’ offense isn’t a high-scoring offense, although they do put up a lot of yards (their 395 YPG average is higher than the Bucs’ 368 YPG, but the Rams seem to have trouble punching it in at times when they sniff the end zone). They’ve scored 13 TDs passing & 14 TDs rushing, but only 10 FGs in their 9 games (216 pts total … 24 PPG). Bucs have 23 TDs passing & 10 TDs rushing, and have 20 FGs in our 10 games (296 pts total … 29.6 PPG). Succop’s been money in the bank, but I’d much rather see our offense finish drives with TDs instead. It’ll be interesting to see how the 2 offenses do against these two top defenses.

  16. Ftmyersbuc Says:

    If todd bowels comes out with soft zone against this team after watching what the dolphins did to jared goff with thier starting left tackle, i will seriously question his competency and the other coaches lack of character to call him out.

    On offense you better pound the rock and stop the 7 step shotgun dropbacks this game. Hell let brady roll out 3 to 5 times this game. Put gronk or brate in as a fullback if your Gonna run up the gut every 1st down too.

  17. Señor Harry in Costa Rica Says:

    Defense Rules, good job on stats. I was going there until I read you post. might I add that against the WEAK #32 ranked Seahawks’ defense, Goff was sacked 3 times and threw for ZERO TDs even though he threw for 309 yards and 73% completion.

    The irony is that even tho Seattle’s defense is #32 overall, the hawks’ run D is #4, and there passing D is abysmal averaging 353 yards per game, yet the Rams scored on 3 rushing TDs and had 3 RBs with at or above 3.8ypc – but still had NO passing TDs.

    Bottom line is the Rams Offense sucks.

    If the Bucs can find a way to score, and they should with all the weapons they have, the Rams cannot possibly keep up. The matchup of our offense versus the Rams D (#5 against the run and #2 versus the pass) is very intriguing

  18. SlyPirate Says:

    3 Things of Concern:
    1. MNF. Bucs are terrible when the bright lights are on.
    2. This game matters. Bucs laid an egg when NFC South was on the line. This is for a wild card.
    3. Coaching. McVey is an awesome offensive coach. We saw what Patton did against Bowles.

    I’m not optimistic about the Bucs’ chances in this one.

  19. Buczilla Says:

    I’m with ya Ira, if we stick with the run, we can pound the Ram’s smallish front 7 into submission. Goff is a destitute man’s Matt Ryan and he will fold if we can get a decent amount of pressure on him. I’m feeling brave and I think that we clobber these dudes by at least 20 points.

  20. Defense Rules Says:

    Senor Harry … I agree with your ‘bottom line’, but the key word in that last para is ‘IF’. Against the Saints’ defense, our offense was woeful, largely because of poor coaching IMO (5 rushes in a game … setting the NFL record … is ludicrous). Against the Rams defense we MIGHT actually match up better (non-division opponent?) but our Bucs’ offense MUST get on-track early-on. If we fall behind too early, BL & BA turn to the pass option quickly, and that’ll play right into the Rams’ hands.

    RUN THE FRIGGIN BALL using a BALANCED ATTACK. We’ve got the weapons & the beasts in the trenches to git ‘er done, running AND passing. A little creativity on offense might help too, as well as some better S/Ts play (our coverage has to improve). And for heaven’s sake, DON’T TURN THE BALL OVER.

  21. Alanbucsfan Says:

    Donald was double and triple teamed against Seahawks- that makes him a major factor.

  22. 813bucboi Says:

    DR

    the saints offense went thru bowles and the defense like a hot knife thru butter….it was 28-0 before we knew it….thats why we ran the ball 5times…the defense couldnt stop a nose bleed….

    MAKE A FRIGGIN STOP….WRAP UP WHEN TACKLING….

    bowles coming out aggressive might help too…..

    GO BUCS!!!!!

  23. Señor Harry in Costa Rica Says:

    @DR, we are on the same page. This is a huge game just as the Saints game. It is prime time – MNF – which should bring playoff intensity. The Saints brought that intensity and it was so disappointing that the Bucs clearly did not. THAT is what I want to see on MNF – that the Bucs are ready to bring that extra intensity.

    @813, I get your point, that does not mean you abandon the run game. For no other reason than you need to give your D a rest. Point is, BL contributed to the overall nightmare; but it was just that and overall effort, or lack of one. Coaches, players, a total team NON-effort

  24. JimbobBucsFan Says:

    Among Byron Leftwich, Tom Moore, Tom Brady and Bruce Arians there might be too many chefs in the kitchen at the same time.  BA needs to orchestrate things so that come game time TM is the wise elders supporting from the rear, BA is making the big picture decisions, BL is calling the game play by play and TB is the field general making the last second decisions. I know I’m stating the obvious.

    The last game against the Panthers was the first time I liked the play calling throughout the whole game.  After ten games it is time to finally let our offense’s identity emerge.   Let it gell and stabilize.  Only then can Brady function consistently.  Only then will fine tuned, micro-second execution flow naturally for Tom.

    We can overcome the Rams’ great defense with a well thought out attack.  We can outscore them if we just execute our game coherently.  The play off version of the Bucs should truly show itself now. 

  25. D1 Says:

    Tampabaybucfan,

    The rams defense is way different than last year’s. Better and new coach and the team is aggressive at the front with corners who can shut down anyone on the outside. There’s no putting up 55 on them this year.

    On the bucs side, last game was the first game with a mostly healthy Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Gronk is up to speed and there’s ab. Evans and Godwin probably haven’t had a healthy week of practice until last week and Godwin has a broken digit.

    Rojo has gained a lot of confidence in his running style and Brady threw some quick passes that haven’t been seen here until last game. The line will be looking good with marpet back in at guard.

    Defense wise, I hope Bowles forgets trying to find new and exciting zone coverages and just pressures the QB and sorts out the problems with flats coverage. We’re getting killed assignment wise in the hook/curl to flats zones.
    I’m not sure why it’s a problem week after week but it’s not hard to fix it especially for a mastermind such as Bowles.

  26. D1 Says:

    Defense,

    You make some excellent points. I’d add this on the o side. Reduce the number of 3rd downs. Meaning get more first downs on first and second because we had a good amount of 3rd downs to convert. Rams are good in coverage and it’s tough to keep drives alive if you are relying on converting 3rds. The Panthers we could get away with it but the Rams. ..Rather not bank on it.

  27. orlbucfan Says:

    From what I’m reading, the game will come down to Bucs defense vs. Rams offense. That should not be a contest. Our defense is the better one. Go Bucs!

  28. unbelievable Says:

    Ugh, I wanted us to draft Floyd sooooo badly in 2016.

    Instead Licht trades the pick away and instead drafts a cornerback who is too short, too slow, and got burnt in college everytime he faced a WR who was NFL-level talent.

    And then on top of that he uses the extra 4th rounder we had to move up and select a frickin kicker in round 2!

    How was he not fired for that?!? Unreal. All is food now but man that had to be one of our worst drafts ever. Definitely up there in Gruden and Dominick territory.

  29. unbelievable Says:

    *All is good now

  30. unbelievable Says:

    @orlbucfan-

    I’d say it will come down to our O-line vs. their D-line, and our D-line vs. their O-line.

    The winner in the trenches will win the game. Hopefully we can pressure them the way the Dolphins did.

 

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