Rams defensive coordinator eager to scheme against Tom Brady

Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley claps during practice.
Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley has been waiting a long time to scheme against a Tom Brady-led offense.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

In 2000, the year Tom Brady began his NFL career, Brandon Staley was a high school quarterback in Ohio.

By the time he got into coaching six years later, Staley acknowledged having moments when he thought about what it would be like to scheme against Brady.

“Every day of my life I’ve been thinking about an opportunity like that,” Staley said.


Staley gets his chance when the Rams (6-3) play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3) on “Monday Night Football.”

It’s a showcase game for Brady, 43, and the star-studded Buccaneers offense. It’s also another proving ground for Staley, 37, a first-year coordinator whose defense is ranked second in the NFL and coming off another strong performance against the Seattle Seahawks.

Brady is in his 21st NFL season, his first with the Buccaneers, after winning six Super Bowls with the New England Patriots.

Fresh off a standout game against Seattle, the Rams’ Jalen Ramsey on Monday will face a Tampa Bay offense that features Mike Evans, Antonio Brown and more.

“Just the ultimate competitor, the ultimate leader, certainly the greatest quarterback of my lifetime,” Staley said.

Brady was the biggest star to sign with the Buccaneers during the offseason, but was only the first of a parade that followed. Former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski came out retirement and was acquired in a trade with the Patriots last April. Former Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette was added in September. And seven-time Pro Bowl receiver Antonio Brown joined the Buccaneers in October, adding to a receiving corps that already included Mike Evans, Scott Miller and Chris Godwin.

“When you look at their line, all the skill players and then Tom Brady leading the way, it is a nightmare,” Rams coach Sean McVay said.

Brady has passed for 23 touchdowns, with seven interceptions.

Two weeks ago against the New Orleans Saints, Brady had three passes intercepted in a 38-3 defeat. But he showed his trademark resilience in the next game, passing for three touchdowns and running for another in a 46-23 victory over the Carolina Panthers.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady passes against the Carolina Panthers on Nov. 15.
(Gerry Broome / Associated Press)

“There’s not going to be any look that you can give him that he hasn’t seen in some shape or form,” Staley said. “He’s extremely accurate. This guy is one of the most accurate throwers inside the numbers that’s ever lived.”

Rams defensive linemen Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers have played against — and lost to — Brady three times, including in Super Bowl LIII to end the 2018 season.

“He knows how to control the game,” Donald said.

Brady has been sacked only 14 times this season, a testament to good protection, pocket presence and his ability to execute quick passes.

“If he’s dropping back really deep, he gets a lot of rushers to rush up the field and he steps up,” Brockers said. “He definitely manipulates the pocket.”

This will be the third time that Rams quarterback Jared Goff will play in a game opposite Brady, a fellow Northern California native.

In 2016, Goff passed for 161 yards and a touchdown, with two interceptions, in a 26-10 defeat to the Patriots at Gillette Stadium.

Two years later in the Super Bowl, Goff passed for 229 yards, with an interception, in the Rams’ 13-3 defeat. Brady’s 29-yard pass to Gronkowski in the fourth quarter set up the only touchdown.

Playing opposite lockdown cornerback Jalen Ramsey, the Rams’ Darious Williams has intercepted four passes, including two Sunday in a win over Seattle.

“Obviously, all the respect in the world for him,” Goff said of Brady. “But I’m playing their defense and he’s playing ours.”

The Buccaneers defense also has star power, including former Rams lineman Ndamukong Suh, linebackers Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul, and cornerback Carlton Davis.

Last season against the Buccaneers, Goff passed for a career-best 517 yards but committed four turnovers in a 55-40 loss at the Coliseum. Barrett forced a fumble by Goff that Suh returned for a touchdown.

“They were able to apply a pretty good amount of pressure and they’re still doing a lot of pressure stuff,” Goff said of a defense that has amassed 32 sacks. “They’ve got a great front, they’ve got a great linebacker crew and they got great DBs. ... We’ll have our hands full, but we’ll be ready.”

Donald said the Rams defense would be prepared as well.

The seventh-year pro said the unit is one of the best he has been a part of with the Rams. He is reserving judgment, however, about whether it is the best.

“Let’s finish the season and see,” he said. “Right now, we’re doing some great things, some things that from a consistent basis that I don’t think I’ve been involved in.

“So, we just got to keep working, keep getting better and keep dominating.”