A year ago, Tom Brady got a change of scenery after 20 seasons in New England and won a Super Bowl with Tampa Bay.
This year, Matthew Stafford, who played his first 12 NFL seasons in Detroit, is trying to duplicate Brady’s feat with his new team, the Rams.
On Sunday, Brady and the Buccaneers visit Stafford and the Rams at SoFi Stadium. The Bucs and Rams are the only two teams in the NFC that were in the playoffs last year and are 2-0 entering Week 3 this season.
This is the Buccaneers’ first road game this season. Tampa Bay enters the game riding a 10-game winning streak, dating to last season’s Super Bowl run.
The Buccaneers lead the NFL in scoring with an average of 39.5 points per game and have scored 30 or more points in each of their past nine, becoming the first team in NFL history to do that. The Rams are second in the league with 30.5 points per game.
“Every game is important, but there are games that definitely feel more important and I would say this is one of those games,’’ Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski told reporters this week. “You kind of have that bitter taste. They came in here and beat us in the last couple minutes on a game-winning field goal [last season]. They’ve got a very solid team. They’re 2-0, so there is a lot more hype. I kind of gets the jitters going with games like this. It’s going to be a good one.”
Both Brady and Stafford are playing well. Brady leads the NFL with nine touchdown passes and has led the Bucs to TDs in 7 of their 10 trips into the red zone. Stafford has thrown five TD passes in two games and has a passer rating of 127.0.
The Buccaneers may have difficulty extending that 30-point streak against a stout Rams defense that finished first in the NFL in both points and yards allowed in 2020, and is led by defensive tackle Aaron Donald and cornerback tandem Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams.
Tampa Bay has talent on its defense, with edge rusher Shaquil Barrett and interior linemen Devin White and Vita Vea, but has allowed 27 points per game this season along with 342 passing yards per game.
One challenge the Buccaneers face is COVID-19 related. Receiver Antonio Brown tested positive Wednesday, making him a question mark for the game because he will need two negative tests 24 hours apart. Though Brown is second on the team with 138 receiving yards, Tampa Bay is deep at receiver, with Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson behind top targets Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.
For the Rams, Stafford’s favorite target has been wide receiver Cooper Kupp, who has 16 receptions for 271 yards and three TDs through the first two games. Kupp works out of the slot a lot, which means facing Tampa Bay corners Ross Cockrell and Mike Edwards.
“They just kind of have a system that works really well for them,’’ Bucs cornerback Carlton Davis told reporters of the Rams’ passing attack. “They’re confident in their plays and how they run them. It’s a lot of quick throws, getting the ball out of the quarterback’s hands, giving it to the playmakers and allowing them to make plays. That’s what makes them dangerous, they get the ball to their playmakers and allow them to play the ball.”
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