TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A lot has changed for the Buccaneers and the Rams since the first time they met this season back in week three. For starters, in the span of the 120 days between meetings, both teams have some different personnel.
For the Bucs, they will be without wide receiver Chris Godwin and running back Ronald Jones on offense, but now have cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting back, who was out with his elbow injury for round one. Then for the Rams, they’ve been busy stacking their roster with the additions of linebacker Von Miller and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. They also have running back Cam Akers back from his Achilles injury.
“They’ve added some more pieces and they run the ball well,” Bucs Head Coach Bruce Arians said. “They’re running the ball more than they did back then. Defensively, they’re playing as good as anybody in the league right now.”
“Well they added a guy named Von Miller,” Bucs Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich said. “They’re just good at what they do. These guys have an awareness. They always play good defense there. They’re playing well right now. Obviously, we know the guys up front that attack the quarterback are trying to get to the quarterback. They’re just good at all three levels. They understand what they’re doing. They’re well-coached and they just have exceptional players. They have exceptional players that know how to play this game — a couple of guys that will have gold jackets on when they’re all said and done. We have to prepare. This team beat us the last couple of times they’ve played us, so we’re just trying to prepare and get ourselves ready to roll.”
With so much time between meetings and a different venue this time, there’s only so much you can take away from the first game. Bucs quarterback Tom Brady isn’t really comparing the two, but still says there are things they learned about certain match-ups and players’ tendencies.
“I think all of these games are a little bit independent from one another,” Brady said. “Yeah, we played them earlier in the year, but it’s a very different team we had, and I think a little bit of a different team they had too, so they’re each their own individual type of game. They’re going to require their own individual performance and stuff. I think the point is it doesn’t really matter what happened in (September) when we played them last. It’s really about this game and what we learned from the last game. Any time you know your opponent, I think that always gives you a little bit of understanding of kind of what they do well, things you wish you would’ve done. But it’s a very talented football team — obviously one of the great teams in the NFL — really good offense, tremendous defense, really well-coached, great specialists. It’s going to be a very, very difficult game for us.”
For Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski, he said this week that sometimes losing to a team earlier in the season can be beneficial for the second meeting with so much on tape to correct. For them, it was a slow start, only scoring seven points in the first half, and committing 7 costly penalties.
“We were definitely struggling a little bit when we went out there,” Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski said. “I would say we’re a little different team now than we were at the beginning of the year and same to them. They’re playing great football right now. They’ve got a lot of great players and they’re playing very well together. So what we’re going to have to do is play sound football. We’re going to have to get the yards that we can get, play penalty-free football and I would say at the beginning of those games it was just us not making the plays. They’ve got a good defense but in order to move the ball on them, you’ve got to make the plays and we definitely weren’t making the plays the first time we played them.”
The crowd noise was also a factor when they played at SoFi Stadium, as their first full capacity road game since the 2019 season. The Bucs are hoping the crowd will work in their favor this time around with the home field advantage Sunday.
Kick-off between the Rams (14-4) and Bucs (13-5) is set for 3:00 p.m., with a spot in the NFC Championship game on the line. You can watch live on Your Officials Bucs Station.