Tony Softli December 22, 2013
Today in St. Louis, the Rams host the Tampa Buccaneers. Two talented teams with adequate records are fighting to finish the season with the arrow pointing up, sending them into the offseason preparing for 2014. Both teams have lost key players, with youngsters having to grow up in a hurry with live reps and developing each and every week with production.
Across the league, offense scontinue to storm scoreboards and rack up yards with record-setting results. In Week 15, fans where entertained with 763 points scored. It seems as though the rule changes have worked, as quarterback (largely) can’t be touched and “defenseless” receivers have forced defenders to back off, creating more opportunities for the big play. Of the NFL games played last week , six games combined for over 800 yards, and teams scored 30 points or more and lost. There were 90 touchdowns scored last week, prompting the most simple question of all: Where is the defense?
This afternoon, the Rams’ and Bucs’ defensive units will aim answer the challenge. Both groups are extremely talented and productive. Statistically, the Buccaneers are playing better than St. Louis. They bring in the 13th-ranked defense, allowing only 344.5 yards per game, while the Rams rank 21st with 362.9 yards allowed per contest. Tampa Bay also ranks 15th in both rushing (109.6) and passing (234.9) defense, but ranks third in the entire league in turnover margin (plus-11) with 21 interceptions.
Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who keys the Bucs’ personnel on that side of the football, is having another Pro Bowl season with 14 tackles for loss and eight sacks. Linebacker Lavonte David boasts 125 tackles – 90 of which are solo – five interceptions and third-down production that just jumps off the film. Second-year Alabama product Mark Barron also makes a lot of noise on the back end of the defense with 88 total tackles (70 solo) to accompany veteran cornerback Darrelle Revis, whose recovery from ACL surgery last season hasn’t prevented him from still shutting down receivers with blanket coverage.
As for the St. Louis D, it’s close in several categories. A 12th-ranked rushing defense works in unison with the 17 forced fumbles (tied for first in the NFL) and 42 sacks on the year. Defensive end Robert Quinn and his 15 sacks are earmarked for Hawaii, and possibly Defensive Player of the Year honors. Rookie linebacker Alec Ogletree and team captain James Laurinaitis, while focusing on the win column, are battling for the most tackles on the team. (The Georgia alum currently leads the way with 134 total tackles.) Meanwhile, second-year cornerback Trumaine Johnson leads the squad with three interceptions.
Can the Rams’ rookie running back combination of Zac Stacy and Benny Cunningham run the ball on a young, talented and salty defensive front in a matter of hours? Every week in the NFL is totally different, but the Rams hope that their attitude and competitive nature from last week’s domination of New Orleans can carry over and ensure a similarly satisfying home finale.