Highlights, Observations & Analysis From Rams’ Divisional Round Win Over Buccaneers

Originally published by RamsNewswire.com

The Los Angeles Rams traveled to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC divisional round, and although it wasn’t pretty, they eventually prevailed with a 30-27 victory to advance to the NFC Championship Game next Sunday.

This felt like two different games for the Rams as they came out firing, taking a 20-3 lead into the halftime locker room and then extending that to 27-3 early in the fourth quarter.

Tom Brady and the Buccaneers can never be counted out though, and it felt like the Rams did everything in their power to give the game back to them.

L.A. had four fumbles – two by Cam Akers, one by Cooper Kupp and one after a snap that Matthew Stafford wasn’t expecting went of his head. Matt Gay was also short on a 47-yard field goal, which literally never happens.

All of that allowed the Buccaneers to come all the way back and tie the game at 27 with less than a minute remaining. With no timeouts, the Rams did not sit on the ball and play for overtime though.

After taking a sack to start the drive, Stafford then found Kupp on a 20-yard pass and he was able to get out of bounds. The Buccaneers then came with an all-out blitz, and Stafford dropped in a perfect deep ball to a wide-open Kupp for 44 more yards to set up the game-winning field goal, and this time Gay knocked it through.

There were obviously a ton of highs and lows in this game, so let me start with the bad stuff before getting to what the Rams did right to allow them to go on the road and beat the greatest quarterback of all time to get back to the NFC Championship Game.

Clean up the mistakes

This goes without saying, but if the Rams want to win the Super Bowl, they simply cannot have any more games with four turnovers.

The craziest part of everything that unfolded is that Stafford, who has been criticized for his turnovers all year, was responsible for none of the four in this game!

In an odd way, the Rams making so many mistakes could end up benefitting them because now they will be more cognizant of taking care of the ball moving forward. Akers, who was responsible for two of those fumbles, took on a lead-back role for L.A. and if that is going to continue, he has to take care of the ball.

The first fumble he made, while unfortunate, was more tolerable. The second one, when the Rams were trying to run out the clock and needed just one first down to ice the game, was simply unacceptable. Regardless of the fumbles though, I thought the Rams leaned on Akers too much in that spot when they have a bruiser in Sony Michel who basically turned the team’s season around in the second half of the year.

Michel had just one carry on the day, so hopefully Sean McVay makes some adjustments moving forward to give him more work instead of putting all of the load on Akers.

Breakfast Club came through

Despite all the adversity the Rams faced, blowing a 27-3 lead and almost becoming the new Atlanta Falcons, Stafford and Kupp still made the big plays needed to win the game.

A lot has been made this season about the growing chemistry between the two, which was helped by them having breakfast together every morning in what they call the “Breakfast Club.”

And we saw that chemistry on full display in this one as Kupp finished with nine receptions for 183 yards and a touchdown, and the Rams needed every single one of those yards. None more than the final drive though, when Kupp found a way to get open despite the whole stadium knowing the Rams had limited time to work the ball down the field.

Also, Stafford deserves a ton of credit for finding him despite an all-out blitz being in his face.

The Rams did a million things to try to lose that game, but when it mattered most, Stafford and Kupp came through to ensure that didn’t happen. As has been the case all season.

New additions continue to be worth it

OK, this is now actually a weekly column because the Rams’ midseason acquisitions continue to come through week in and week out.

Odell Beckham Jr. had another solid game, getting going early. Although he did not score another touchdown, Beckham made some big third-down catches and finished with six receptions for 69 yards.

And Von Miller, how about Von Miller?!

Everyone tried to say the Rams gave up to much for him, he’s washed, etc.

But in his last six games, Miller has seven sacks, 11 tackles for loss, 10 QB hits, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

And it feels like all of those plays came at important times, just like in the second half when he came up with a strip-sack of Brady to momentarily halt their comeback attempt.

Both of those guys continue to be absolute game-changers for L.A., proving their strategy for accumulating talent works.

Unsung heroes

Part of what has made that strategy work though is that the Rams have found quality talent either late in the draft, off the streets or in free agency. And some of those guys came up big to win this game.

Nick Scott, who has been absolutely exceptional filling in for Jordan Fuller and Taylor Rapp, came up with a big first-half interception of Brady.

Joseph Noteboom, who was filling in for Andrew Whitworth, an irreplaceable player for this Rams team, dominated Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul all day. If it wasn’t for the broadcast mentioning it, no one would have known the Rams were playing with a backup left tackle.

Kendall Blanton caught a touchdown pass! You probably don’t even recognize that name because he only had four receptions on the season.

The list goes on and on and on. The Rams’ ability to identify talent and then develop it is second-to-none.

Up next for the Rams…

Alright ya’ll, here we go.

Now that the Rams have advanced to the NFC Championship, their opponent will be a very familiar foe in the San Francisco 49ers, who went into Lambeau Field and beat Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

That means the Rams will be hosting the game at SoFi Stadium, which will be a Week 18 rematch.

The Rams’ struggles against the 49ers are well-documented at this point, losing six straight to their division rivals, so even though it’s a home game, this will be no easy task for L.A.

As I’ve been saying all season though, the NFC West is just different, so it’s not surprising to see the last two NFC teams standing be from that division.

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