Matthew Stafford, Rams prove the hype is real in win over defending champion Buccaneers


The Bucs (2-1), whose defense has struggled against the pass this season, could not marry their coverage with the rush. Injuries were a factor, being down two of their top three cornerbacks and edge rusher Jason Pierre-Paul . But lack of communication was an even bigger issue.

On several occasions the Bucs failed to make the proper defensive checks when the Rams went with three-receiver sets to one side of the formation, including on the first two touchdowns. There also was a breakdown on the long score by Jackson.

"When I turned around, I just saw the ball in the air," said cornerback Ross Cockrell. "What I do know, as a defense we prepared for (Jackson) and knowing that he was a deep threat, an explosive threat. We'll have to work on that."

Privately, some Bucs said the Rams did not do anything to catch them off guard. The teams were familiar with each other, having played last December, so many of the calls and concepts were familiar to them. The biggest difference, according to one staff member, was the presence of Stafford.

"Matt is a little riskier; he'll take chances," the person said. "Jared was safer with the screens. The thing you see is that they're playing with more confidence with Matt back there."

It's debatable with comes first, confidence or success. With the Rams and Stafford, there's no need for discussion. The correct answer is … both.

"I don't want to rehash all the years I was there (in Detroit) to be honest with you," Stafford said. "But I just know that I feel grateful to step in the huddle with the guys that I have, both the guys up front that are playing at the level that they're playing at right now and the guys around me in the skilled positions. I'm enjoying every minute of it and trying to make the most of it and seeing where it will take us."

If he has his way, it will take him right back to SoFi Stadium in February -- site of Super Bowl LVI.