TAMPA, Fla. — Feast or famine may be the best way to describe the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense as the team prepares to face the Los Angeles Rams in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs Sunday.
The Bucs led the NFC in blitzes in 2021 with more than 310 on the season. That translated into sending an extra defender after the quarterback on nearly 41 percent of the defensive snaps in the season. Not surprisingly, the Bucs did lead the league in QB hurries, QB knockdowns, QB hits, and total pressures, according to SBNation.
But all the blitzing leaves an injury-plagued secondary on an island and Tampa Bay has been burned plenty of times, especially by the Rams earlier this season. In the Rams’ 34-24 victory over Tampa in Week 3, the Bucs gave up 343 passing yards and four passing touchdowns to Los Angeles in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score appeared.
Still, the Rams secondary isn’t shutting down opposing offenses either and with the NFL’s most potent passing attack awaiting them, there could be plenty of fireworks on Sunday. The Rams’ passing defense ranked 27th in pass attempts allowed, 22nd in passing yards allowed but did rank second in the NFL in passing touchdowns allowed.
Like the Bucs, the Rams rely on pressuring quarterbacks behind a stellar defensive line led by All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald. The do-it-all disruptor had 38 solo tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, and 25 quarterback hits in 2021 alone.
What could help Tom Brady more than anything may be establishing a semblance of a running game in this Sunday’s game. In the Rams’ victory in Week Three, the Bucs had no running game to speak of leading Brady to throw the ball more than 50 times and never able to establish long drives.
Complicating matters for the Bucs is the health of Leonard Fournette. If the star running back can contribute to running the ball successfully on Sunday, it will help mask the loss of Chris Godwin on the outside. But Fournette’s status for Sunday won’t be revealed until closer to game time.
Another problem for the Bucs will be the offensive line. The team could be missing right tackle Tristan Wirfs, center Ryan Jensen, and backup tackle Josh Wells on Sunday. Against a powerful defensive line like the Rams, that could be a huge hurdle for the Bucs to clear for a trip to the NFC Championship game.
Brady has not beaten the Rams as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but hasn’t lost to them in the playoffs in his career. He and the Bucs will get a stiff test from a very tough Rams team that has plenty of talent to oust the Bucs from the playoffs.
The NFC Divisional Round game is set for Sunday at Raymond James Stadium here in Tampa. Kickoff is set for 3:00 p.m.