The Los Angeles Rams advanced to 3-0 Sunday after a decisive 34-24 victory over Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In what is good news for Rams fans, the game was actually more lopsided than the box score would indicate due to an extremely late scoring drive by Tampa Bay.
Now that the Rams are sitting pretty at the top of the NFL Power Rankings, it’s time to analyze a few key takeaways from a momentous win for the boys in blue and yellow.
Takeaways From Los Angeles Rams Week 3 Win
Stafford, Stafford, And… Stafford
If you’re still on the fence, let me assure you — quarterback Matthew Stafford is the real deal. Against one of the toughest defenses in the league, Stafford posted a completion percentage of 71.1%, threw for 343 yards, four touchdowns and posted a quarterback rating of 134.0. While the initial debate seems silly in retrospect, the prospect of surrounding an already heralded quarterback with a multitude of weapons at his disposal has proved major dividends for the team. Stafford accumulating nine touchdowns in his first three games is the most in Rams’ franchise history since Kurt Warner in 1998 — a season in which Warner went on to win it all against the Tennessee Titans.
Stafford also has more yards and less interceptions than Warner did at that point in the season. Although quarterback Jared Goff is proving with the Detroit Lions (despite their woeful record) that he is no flash in the pan, having a quarterback that can make proper defensive reads on a dime, maneuver within the pocket, and make accurate deep throws has made all the difference this year for the Rams compared to seasons past. And while Stafford is spreading the ball around aplenty to the likes of Robert Woods, Tyler Higbee, Van Jefferson, etc. It is his potent chemistry with Cooper Kupp that has heads rolling. Kupp is currently the league-leading receiver, with 25 overall receptions, 367 yards, and five touchdowns only three weeks into the season.
During the offseason, the Rams’ front office attempted to load Stafford with as many additional weapons as possible to maximize his chances for success during his first stint in Los Angeles. Still, many NFL fans across the board derided the Rams’ decision to sign veteran receiver DeSean Jackson, mainly because of his age (34) and lengthy injury history.
In short, they were wrong. Jackson proved on Sunday why his tremendous speed and deep-threat potential make him an ideal fit for Stafford. Jackson managed to rack up 120 yards on only three receptions on Sunday. In quite possibly the pinnacle play of the game, Stafford hit Jackson on a 75-yard touchdown pass early in the third quarter. Jackson even made history on Sunday, tying only Hall of Famer Lance Alworth for most career touchdown receptions over 75 yards (9). With receiver Cooper Kupp already leading the league in virtually every statistical column, the fact that Stafford also has Jackson to lean on in clutch moments like this is a huge plus for a team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations.
Another player that proved his salt on Sunday was running back Sony Michel. While most of the Rams’ damage to the Bucs came through the air, Michel performed admirably in the place of injured tailback Darrell Henderson. Michel didn’t torch the stingy Bucs’ run defense by any stretch of the imagination, but his 20 carries for 67 yards (with a long of 15 yards) proved crucial to the Rams’ success. He also added three receptions for 12 yards.
But the real value Michel provided was in his pass blocking. In addition to the impressive play by the offensive line, Michel spent the majority of the game correctly picking up reads and allowing Stafford ample time in the pocket to perform to the best of his abilities. Michel’s well-rounded game on Sunday is undoubtedly causing head coach Sean McVay and company to reconsider naming him the official starter going forward. Although Henderson has been very impressive in his own right, Michel seems to fit the Rams’ offensive dynamic like a glove.
The Mighty Rams O-Line
Essentially everyone (Rams’ fans included) worried before the season that the Rams’ offensive line would not be up to snuff this season. Diehard fans were even ready to go at Rams’ general manager Les Snead’s head for not drafting a single offensive lineman in the 2021 draft, especially after the departure of stalwart center Austin Blythe to the Kansas City Chiefs in the offseason. But so far, the Rams’ offensive line has been more than impressive — and the unit proved as much against the likes of Vita Vea, Lavonte David and the rest of the Bucs.
Stafford has been allowed substantial time in the pocket all season long, allowing him to do what he does best– decipher defensive arrangements at a clip and make accurate throws. To top it all off, the Bucs threw plenty of blitzes at the Rams, to which they only allowed 1 sack the entire game. In fact, the offensive line has only given up one sack in each of their three games this season. To the surprise of many, center Brian Allen has stepped in admirably in the starting center spot. Prior to the season, Allen was mostly known as the first NFL player to test positive for COVID-19. Also, longtime left tackle Andrew Whitworth has shown no signs of slowing down despite this being his 16th year in the league.
Going Forward for the Los Angeles Rams
While it is much too early to roll out the ticker-tape for the Rams, the team has looked immensely impressive in its first three games. As long as the offense continues to deliver at a striking clip, the Rams can compete with the likes of any. In Week Four the Rams will host the Arizona Cardinals at So-Fi stadium — another undefeated team and a division rival. The Cardinals game will require the best out of the Rams, featuring not only an imposing defensive front with Chandler Jones and recent addition J.J. Watt, but quite possibly the best secondary the Rams have gone against this season. But a win over the Cardinals would be huge, not only affording the Rams the top spot in the NFC West but also further boosting the team’s confidence as well.