It all looked very favourable for the Los Angeles Rams heading into their Week 4 matchup at home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The West Coast team was unbeaten while their previous game at the Cleveland Browns showed how the offence can be supported by a strong defensive line, whose pressure to Baker Mayfield was the vital factor not only in the deciding minutes but throughout the whole game at FirstEnergy Stadium.
However, that defensive success didn’t show signs of sustainability on Sunday. In fact, it left the game to the secondary and that led to an implosion with the Bucs setting a franchise record in points scored in a 55-40 victory.
In a clash that saw the two offences’ air raids in good shape, the Rams unit may not have many reasons for positivity after such a display. The key word once again is sustainability, and a team that had only 28 yards on the ground and whose key back Todd Gurley has kept on disappointing doesn’t look like it’ll average anything close to the 40 points they scored on Sunday.
Missed chances in the ground game
You simply cannot win a football game allowing 55 points and the focus will reasonably be on their defensive struggles. And still, it has to be said that few coaches would make their QB throw the ball 68 times and not expect something similar to Jared Goff’s 3 interceptions. The Rams ran the ball only 11 times, one of which was by the wide receiver Cooper Kupp. Had Gurley gotten more than 5 carries, the offence could’ve had a much cleaner game and, who knows, maybe score more than forty points.
Last season, the Rams had the 4th-best turnover differential at +11, turning the ball over 19 times. Through four weeks of 2019 football, they’re 25th with -3, while Goff’s been picked off 5 times in his last two games.
The secondary was a mess
The defence truly deserves the biggest focus. There are two eye-opening facts – one’s just how efficient Jameis Winston was with his 41 passing attempts. He had only 13 incompletions, one of which a Marcus Peters pick six, but threw for 4 touchdowns. His 395 yards through the air was most since Week 6 last year (at Falcons). Ryan Fitzpatrick, for comparison, threw for 400 yards four times last year with the Buccaneers.
Chris Godwin also had a career day with his 172 reception yards, while Mike Evans caught a 67-yard pass from Winston for a wide-open TD. The Rams secondary was definitely a mess against an offence that at its best could utilize even more weapons than it did against LA.
But their effectiveness was a result not only of on-field performance. Ronald Jones rushed 19 times for 70 yards while the Bucs had 30 rushes, 19 more than the Rams. One wouldn’t say it did the job by seeing a 2.5 average per play, but it set up better situations for Winston. Sean McVay is known as a genius but he was outcoached by Bruce Arians on Sunday at home.
The secondary was even more shocking in the redzone as every such Tampa possession ended in a score. The Bucs managed to score a whooping 5 redzone TDs while the last of these drives ended in a Matt Gay field goal.
The question now raised is: Can the secondary defend anything if the defensive line isn’t able to put pressure on? Winston was not only sacked just twice but he dropped back just 9 times. The answer so far is no, and it should be a warning for the group.
Last year, Aaron Donald led the league in sacks with 20.5 and Todd Gurley was elite at running back. That gave Goff his confidence and turned him into a star. Thus far, if the opposing passer has time to throw the ball deep, the Rams defence is pretty weak; Goff, without a solid running game, is forced to throw too much.
After 4 games, the theme is simple – either the secondary has to improve at limiting the opponent’s passing game or the Rams hope that the defensive line is unstoppable for the remained of the season.
Next up come the Seahawks on Thursday Night Football and the front seven has the tough task to stop Chris Carson who is key to Seattle’s balanced offensive play selection. If they have their night, not only will they limit Carson but also maybe get to Wilson, whose weapons besides Tyler Lockett aren’t very impressive.