In one of the most enjoyable games to watch in a couple of years, the LA Rams used some breathtaking plays to set the tone against the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 3. In case you missed it, full game highlights can be seen here.
It was a solid no-sweat victory for the LA Rams, with the final score 34-24 being a bit misleading due to a garbage-time touchdown by Tampa Bay. But even in blowout games, there are often a few plays during the game that shift the direction it heads.
On 3rd down and two yards to go at the Bucs six-yard line, with the game was still scoreless early in the second quarter, center Brian Allen snapped the ball to LA Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford. He quickly fired a short screen pass high into the air, barely over the hands of Buccaneers outside linebacker Shaquil Barret to the waiting arms of tight end Tyler Higbee. Higbee soared vertically to catch the ball and proceeded to shift and shake his way into the end zone with a little help from some blockers.
Even though it was early in the second quarter, this touchdown and the fact that it was a successful third-down conversion was monumental. After driving almost the entire length of the field, and needing two yards for a first down, if Stafford didn’t deliver an incredible pass in the tight window he needed to, a field goal would’ve ensued and the Bucs would’ve given up a 90-yard drive for only three points.
Capping off such a long drive with a touchdown was imperative at this juncture of the game. A championship-level offense converts in that situation. A top-tier quarterback delivers at that moment.
The Raider Rule
Later on in the quarter, with the Rams leading 14-7 right before halftime, the Bucs were charging down the field. On the Rams 39 yard line, right outside the projected field goal zone, defensive lineman Aaron Donald ripped and roared past TE Rob Gronkowski on his way to Brady, who was in the pocket, cocking his arm back for a throw. Instead of the ball being released, it was knocked loose. A forced fumble.
The live ball was then caught by Tampa Bay RB Giovani Bernard, who ran for what appeared to be the first down. However, due to the game being inside the halftime two-minute warning, the game’s officiating crew looked at the play again and ruled that the ball couldn’t be advanced, due to it being a forward fumble that was advanced by an offensive player who was not the original player.
The Bucs momentum had suddenly vanished on the drive. A few plays later, they lined up for a 55-yard field goal that missed wide right, and Rams head coach Sean McVay seemed very happy to go into the break on that note.
After letting WR Josh Reynolds go this off-season, the Rams signed Desean Jackson for significantly more money. He was seldom used in his first two games. However, in a blink of an eye, this game was flipped on its head by Jackson. After the break, the Rams opened up the second half by receiving the kickoff in the second half. After two plays went nowhere, the Rams scored on a beautiful pass from Stafford to Jackson, who was absolutely wide open on his way to a 75-yard touchdown that was exhilarating. 56 seconds to get seven points. Unbelievable.
As a Bucs defender, it must’ve been… deflating. With the Rams now leading 21-7, the game wasn’t over by any means, especially considering only one minute of the second half had been played, but from this point forward, the Rams had enough momentum, and talent to finish off the Bucs.
Thanks to Stafford coming through under pressure, Aaron Donald making a timely contribution, and Desean Jackson finally introducing himself to Rams fans, the rest of the game wasn’t a struggle. With such an exciting game, there are at least twenty other plays that could be discussed that are on par with these examples. What an incredible start to the Stafford era.