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Matthew Stafford was a touchdown thrower and had 343 yards passing as the Los Angeles Rams beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34-24 at SoFi Stadium.
Stafford scored touchdowns on tight end Tyler Higbee, and wideout Cooper Kupp in the first half. DeSean Jackson was then hit with a 75 yard touchdown pass by Stafford. Kupp connected with him again in the third quarter.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady completed 41-of-55 passes for 432 yards. He was able to catch 10 passes that day.
Wideout Chris Godwin also scored a touchdown rushing, while Brady added another. From 10 yards, Giovani Bernard passed the touchdown.
Both teams started the game together with five drives that ended in punts. Six of the next seven drives resulted in touchdowns.
The Rams scored touchdowns on four consecutive drives, before scoring field goals on the next two to keep out the Bucs.
Tampa Bay's 10-game winning streak dating back to last season was also broken by the Rams' victory. After a Week 12 loss to Kansas City Chiefs in Week 27, the 2020 Bucs won four consecutive regular-season games and then won four playoff matches.
The Rams improved to 3-1, while the Bucs dropped to 2 to 1.
Rams QB Matthew Stafford: 27-of-38, 343 passing yards, 4 TD
Rams WR DeSean Jackson: 3 catches, 120 yards, 1 TD
Rams WR Cooper Kupp: 9 catches, 96 yards, 2 TD
Rams TE Tyler Higbee: 5 catches, 40 yards, 1 TD
Buccaneers QB Tom Brady: 41-of-55, 432 passing yards; 3 carries, 14 rushing yards, 1 TD
Buccaneers WR Mike Evans: 8 receptions, 106 yards receiving
Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin: 6 catches, 74 receiving yards; 1 carry, 2 rushing yards, 1 TD
Stafford Dissects Bucs Defense
After making the NFC Divisional Round last season, the Rams had high expectations for this year. They also acquired Stafford in a trade from the Detroit Lions.
They're meeting them very easily so far.
L.A. defeated the Chicago Bears 31-14, before beating the Indianapolis Colts 27-24.
Stafford is to be commended for the Rams' best hours of this season.
As noted by Stafford-Kupp, the 12-year-old veteran was a key player in the Bucs' defense.
This connection was made during a 15-play, 95 yard scoring drive to give an early 6-0 edge.
Higbee was able to catch a high Stafford pass from Higbee and ran into the end zone six yards away on third-and-3.
Kupp scored his fourth touchdown of the season on the Rams' next drive:
Kupp caught seven passes for 108 yards and one touchdown in Week 1. He also had nine receptions for 163 yard and two touchdowns in Week 2. Kupp is enjoying a great season. It's difficult to see him slow down. Kupp now has 25 receptions, 367 yards, and five touchdowns.
Matt Harmon from Yahoo Sports shared his thoughts on the Stafford-Kupp pair:
Stafford and Jackson were not as successful as they should have been, with the pair missing three deep targets in the opening half.
However, the fourth time proved to be a charm as Stafford hit Jackson for 75 yards, giving him a lead of 20-7.
Jackson gets credit for creating lots of separation
Stafford found Jackson again for an explosive play on his next drive. Jackson hit the deep threat for 40 yard to establish 1st and goal at the 10-yard mark. Kupp was able to catch a 10-yard pass one play later for his second score.
The Rams finished the night with two field goals, before the Bucs scored a touchdown late in the game.
Although the NFL season is only three weeks old, Stafford looks like the NFL MVP right now after defeating the defending Super Bowl champions.
Buccaneers Defense Struggles to Win 3rd Straight Week
Super Bowl LV's dominant 31-9 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs was anchored by Tampa Bay's defense by the Buccaneers.
This unit is made up of a group of confident and bold playmakers who have dominated one the greatest offenses in football's history, led by Patrick Mahomes, a Super Bowl MVP and regular-season MVP.
The defense returned all 11 starters, plus Todd Bowles as defensive coordinator. High expectations were set yet again for 2021. However, the unit is not what it was in 2020.
Dak Prescott, the Dallas Cowboys quarterback, threw for 403 yards with three touchdowns in Week 1. However, the Bucs offense was able to score just enough points for a 31-29 victory.
The Atlanta Falcons dropped 25 points to Tampa Bay in Week 2. They had scored 23 points combined in Weeks 1 & 3. The defense returned in the fourth quarter with two pick-sixes. However, Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan still managed to dominate the Bucs with 300 passing yardage.
Stafford was almost flawless in Week 3. Although the Bucs offense did well, it was unable to defeat L.A. without an A+ effort. The defense allowed no room for error and the offense lost.
The Bucs are dealing with injuries, it is true.
Jason Pierre-Paul, outside linebacker, was injured in the shoulder and hand. Jamel Dean, cornerback, was injured in the knee and left the game midgame. Sean Murphy-Bunting was already on injured reserve after sustaining a dislocated elbow.
The secondary was shorthanded and placed the responsibility on the pass rush to reach Stafford on Sunday. But, as Bruce Arians (h/t ESPN's Jenna Laine) noted, that didn't happen.
Stafford was only dismissed once. This year, the Bucs have had no more than one sack per match. In their postseason of 2020, they had 10, a record that is unmatched in the league.
There are serious concerns about Tampa Bay's defense at the moment, and Jon Ledyard from Pewter Report highlighted the seriousness of the problem:
The Bucs defense faces a potentially "get-right” game against the New England Patriots next Sunday. Their offense scored just 13 points on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.
But, Tampa's defense must perform better against elite competition. The Bucs have not passed these tests yet, but there is plenty of time for them to do so.
Brady will be making his first return to New England since leaving the Patriots as a free agent during the 2020 offseason.
The 44-year old, who has won nine AFC titles as well as six Super Bowls over his 20-year tenure there, will be leading the Bucs in Sunday Night Football matchup at 8:20 p.m. ET at Gillette Stadium.
At 4:05 PM, the Rams will host the Arizona Cardinals in town for an NFC West match.