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Rams vs. Buccaneers matchups: Will defense keep Tom Brady in check?

Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald runs on the field.
Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald will look to keep the pressure up on Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offense on Monday.
(Adrian Kraus / Associated Press)

Breaking down how the Rams (6-3) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3) match up heading into Monday’s game at Raymond James Stadium (5:15 p.m. PT — ABC; ESPN).

When Rams have the ball: The Rams offense is producing yardage — it ranks 10th in the NFL — but coach Sean McVay is eager to show the unit can score more touchdowns and finish games. Quarterback Jared Goff bounced back from a bad performance in a loss to the Miami Dolphins and was more efficient in a 23-16 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. He has passed for 13 touchdowns, with six interceptions. Goff’s 94.9 passer rating ranks 20th. The Rams are seeking to duplicate the balanced rushing attack they showed against the Seahawks, with Darrell Henderson, Malcolm Brown and rookie Cam Akers contributing. Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods remain Goff’s main targets but Josh Reynolds is coming off a career-best eight-catch performance. A key for the Rams will be the play of left tackle Joe Noteboom. The third-year pro has replaced injured Andrew Whitworth, the veteran anchor of the line. The Buccaneers’ front seven is stout and adept against the run and pass. The Buccaneers rank first in rushing defense and are second with 32 sacks. Outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul has 71/2 sacks. Edge rusher Shaquil Barrett and linebacker Devin White each have five, and former Rams lineman Ndamukong Suh four.

Rams numbers.
(Los Angeles Times)

When Buccaneers have the ball: Tom Brady, in his first season with the Buccaneers after 20 with the New England Patriots, continues to age well. Brady, 43, has passed for 23 touchdowns, with seven interceptions. The six-time Super Bowl champion rebounded from a poor performance against the New Orleans Saints and accounted for four touchdowns in a 46-23 victory over the Carolina Panthers. Brady is surrounded by playmakers. Running back Ronald Jones is averaging 5.1 yards per carry. The former USC standout broke off a franchise-record 98-yard touchdown run against the Panthers. Leonard Fournette, the fourth selection in the 2017 draft, backs up Jones. Antonio Brown, a seven-time Pro Bowl pick, joined the Buccaneers a few weeks ago, adding to a receiver corps that includes Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Scott Miller. Rob Gronkowski, and Cameron Brate give Brady a variety of tight end targets. Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey shut down star Seahawks receiver DK Metcalf, so it will be interesting to see how defensive coordinator Brandon Staley deploys Ramsey against so many potential game-breakers. Edge rusher Leonard Floyd had three sacks against the Seahawks. Brady has been sacked 14 times.

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When they kick: With kicker Kai Forbath on injured reserve, the Rams signed Matt Gay to compete with Austin MacGinnis. McVay has not said whether Gay, MacGinnis, or both would play Monday. Gay made 27 of 35 field-goal attempts last season for the Buccaneers. MacGinnis kicked in the defunct Alliance of American Football and the XFL. Ryan Succop has made 20 of 22 field-goal attempts for Tampa Bay.

Gary Klein’s prediction: East Coast trips do not bother the Rams, but it will be tough to maintain momentum against a legendary quarterback and a team full of Pro Bowl players accustomed to playing in the spotlight.

BUCCANEERS 27, RAMS 24


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