By Leo Haggerty


The week started with a Wednesday in person interview session at One Buccaneer facility.  Started with HC Bruce Arians then followed by TE Rob Gronkowski finishing with S Mike Edwards.  Below are their answers to my questions.

LH : First time in a dome with fans in over a year.  Do you expect any problems with communication?

BA : Yeah, I can’t wait to see the stadium. We do crowd noise all the time.  It’s all on the offense. We’re very, very capable of handling the noise so that won’t be an issue whatsoever.

LH : Dan Patrick asked Carson Palmer if he ever came to the coach with a play.  He said no, never.  Not my job.  Then he said Bruce Arians would have thrown me out of his office so fast it would have made my head spin.  Is that what would have happened?

BA : Well, no. Carson, we had a great relationship. Back then I was running the meetings and everything, so it was a little bit different, our relationship, than this one.  He came in wanting to know what we did. He had some ideas and we talked him out of it.

LH : Are the Rams the most complete opponent the Buccaneers have seen this season?

BA : I would say so. So far, yeah. They don’t have a glaring weakness anywhere. The kicking game’s excellent and so is the offense and defense. For us, it’s the travel. It’s the short week and getting used to a regular-season week and a heck of a challenge.

LH : What do you see from the Rams back end?

RG : A lot of guys that play together. They play hard. They’ve got a knack to get to the ball.  That’s what they love to do.  Make some plays. I would say that’s the type of defense that they are.  Go get the ball and try to make an interception. So, you’ve got to be patient. You can’t make mistakes because they’re a sound defense. They know where to be, they know how to get to the ball and they gang tackle pretty well too. When you do get the ball, they all come after you to get you down or to try and strip the ball from you.

LH : When we watch the Rams on TV, it seems that they run a lot of rub routes.  Are you seeing the same thing on film?

ME : Yeah, they run rub routes.  They run a lot of different things.  They like to take a lot of shots.  Like I said, they run stuff close to the ball.  They run a lot of intermediate routes and quick routes.  You have to be on top of it.

On Friday, got a second shot at talking with the Pewter Pirates coaches and players.  Talked with HC Arians again as well as QB Coach Clyde Christensen plus WR Scotty Miller. Here’s their responses to my queries.

LH : Is it important to do a walk-through at SoFi Stadium before the game or has that pretty much passed?

BA : No, it’s no big deal. It’s the same thing like going into Vegas last year. It’s louder than it used to be, probably, at the Coliseum and we’re ready for the noise. As far as the field itself, they’re all the same.

LH :  I know mistakes are bad but, for tryon, would you rather have mental mistakes or full speed mistakes?

BA : As long as it’s full-speed, good things sometimes happen. You try to eliminate as many of them as possible. But for him, good things can happen as fast as he goes.

LH :  How nice is it to know that weather won’t be a problem at SoFi Stadium?

BA : Yeah, that’s always a good thing. That’s always a good thing. I’m interested to see how this stadium actually works as far as being open-air or whatever it is. It’s beautiful, looking on film, that’s for sure.

LH : Winning soothes a lot of egos, doesn’t it?

BA : There’s no doubt about it. Just as long as we have Tom throwing the ball, nobody’s going to complain about who gets it.

LH : Your first tenure here it was all about the defense.  Now, it’s all about the offense.  What’s the big difference now at your end from a coaching standpoint?

CC : Yeah, I don’t know.  For us, it is just winning.  Find a way to win and it’s just a different style of winning but at the Super Bowl, when both are hitting on all cylinders, some of it was more perceived than reality.  From an offensive coaches standpoint, it is a little more fun winning this way than it was winning 9-7 and 9-3 and 6-3.  When you were taking a shower, you had to remind yourself that you won but winning is winning.  Winning is winning and those were some good years.  There were a lot of wins and winning them those ways were hard nosed.  The Alstott’s and the Dunn’s would grind it out.  Those were some hard wins and hard fought.  I like the two score wins where we’re in the 30’s.  They’re a little easier.  A nicer shower after the game.

LH : When you get in the red zone, you can put the size of a basketball team out there for receivers.  Your tight ends can go 6’6″ and 6’7″ and your wide receivers can be 6’5″.  Godwin is the short guy at 6’2″.  Does that pose a real problem for the defense?

CC : I think it does.  I think the key for us is to make sure that we’re running the ball well.  If we’re running the ball well, and you can’t pull people out of the front to cover, then one-on-ones are to are advantage. Any time we can get in one-on-one situations, it’s to our advantage.  I think we’re hard to match up with.  There’s five good receivers out there most of the time.  No, all the time. There really are and, when you do that, it’s a hard man match up for people.  Their size, they’re big guys.  I think they become more alive in the red zone. They’re good in the open field but, in the red zone, those are big old open targets to hit.  I think the key to all of it is that people have to respect the run.  We have to start getting some more plays from them.  It’s been a point of emphasis.  We need bigger plays out of the run game.  You know, we’ve run the ball efficiently but we have to pop some.  When they go coverage we have to pop runs and make plays in the run game.

LH : You’ve been around some really good quarterbacks.  Have you been around anyone better than Brady at pre snap reads?

CC : Yeah, you know, I’ve been pretty fortunate to be around some pretty darn good ones.  The great thing about veterans is that they’ve been around the league and have seen all the pictures.  They’ve been around.  They seen everyone’s picture.  They’ve seen all the Defensive Coordinators and all the defenses.  You’d have a hard time throwing something at them that they haven’t seen at some point.  So, you can throw them off for a little bit but, at the end of the day, a guy’s who’s experienced like that, and Peyton was the same at the end you know.  You just aren’t going to throw them something that they haven’t seen.  If you’re a rookie and it’s your first time and you’re seeing all these different pictures around the league and all the different things.  Yeah, I think that gives you a level of comfort that, you may get fooled for a while, he’s going to figure things out and give us a chance to have a successful play and that’s a great advantage.

LH : When you watch film, is there are any major changes in the Rams defense from last season to this season?

SM : From watching film, it seems pretty similar.  They switched defensive coordinators this year, but a lot of the same guys.  Obviously the two big ones, Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, are still there. Those are two great players that we’ve got to be aware of where they’re at, at all times. They play a lot of zone coverage. They’ve got a lot of good players and a good scheme, so we’re definitely going to have to bring it on Sunday.

LH : When the play calls for you to block a defensive lineman or a linebacker, what your mindset when that has to happen?

SM : I think the coaches try to keep away from me blocking a defensive lineman but, in some cases, that can happen.  What personnel group is in the game or we go hurry up.  My mindset is, really, just die a slow death.  I’m not going to win that battle against a dude that’s bigger than me.  Just fight and do whatever I can.

LH : You can’t coach size and you can’t coach speed.  Most of the other receivers are the size and you’re the speed guy that blows the top off the defense.  How important is that?

SM : Yeah, I wasn’t quite blessed with that size trait, but I was with the speed, so I’ve just got to use it to my advantage. That’s the one thing in my game that a lot of other guys don’t have so I really just use it to my advantage in all my routes and stuff like that.

LH : The game’s going to be played at SoFi.  That’s where the Super Bowl is at this year.  Does that add any importance to the game?

SM : Yes, it’s very important.  Hopefully, we’ll be there again later in the year.  It’s going to be fun.  I’m just super excited to get down there and see it.  I heard it’s beautiful and it looks that way when you see it on TV.  Two of the better teams in the league right now.  It’s going to be fun.

Los Angeles, behind quarterback Matthew Stafford’s four touchdown passes, downed Tampa Bay Sunday afternoon 34-24 at palatial SoFi Stadium.  The win moved the homestanding Rams to 3-0 and the top of the NFC West Division. The loss dropped the visiting Buccaneers to 2-1 and a game behind the surprising 3-0 Carolina Panthers in the NFC South Division.

After a scoreless opening period , LA posted the first points at 12:20 of the second stanza.  Stafford (27-of-38 for 343 yards and 4 TD) found TE Tyler Higbee (5 for 40 yards and 1 TD) in the right front of the end zone with a four yard aerial.  That capped a 14 play drive that consumed 8:05 and travelled 90 yards.  K Matt Gay booted the PAT and the Rams moved out to a 7-0 lead.

On their ensuing possession, TB answered at 4:03 of the second period.  WR Chris Godwin (1 for 2 yards and 1 TD) ran a jet sweep to pay dirt from two yards out.  That culminated an 81 yard drive that took 8:19 to go 81 yards.  K Ryan Succop made the PAT and the score was knotted at 7 each.

The Rams immediately took back the lead with 51 ticks left before halftime.  Stafford connected with WR Cooper Kupp (9 for 96 yards and 2 TD) on a rub route in the left corner of the end zone.  That finished off a 3:12 drive that took 10 plays to traverse 69 yards.  Gay was true with the kick and Los Angeles retook the lead at 14-7 going into the intermission.

LA quickly extended its lead at 14:02 of the third period.  Stafford hit WR DeSean Jackson (3 for 120 yards and 1 TD) in stride and #1 completed the rest of the 75 yard journey.  The drive only took 58 seconds to go 75 yards in three plays. Gay was good again and the Rams moved out to a 21-7 advantage.

The Pewter Pirates responded on their next possession at 9:57 of the third quarter.  QB Tom Brady (3 for 14 yards and 1 TD) burrowed the last yard to end a nine play drive that went 80 yards in 4:05.  Succup converted the extra point and TB creeped closer at 21-14.

Los Angeles countered at 7:23 of the third stanza.  Stafford found Kupp again this time just short of the end zone and #10 did the rest to complete 10 yard scoring play.  That put to rest a 75 yard drive that took seven plays in 2:34.  Gay was perfect and the Blue & Gold stretched their lead to 28-14.

After a poor Bucs punt, the Rams extended their lead at 3:09 of the third quarter.  Gay booted a 48 yard field goal that completed a four play drive that went seven yards in 1:15 and the Los Angeles lead went to 31-14.

Tampa Bay responded with 1:14 left in the third period.  Succop ended a nine play drive that took 1:55 to go 67 yards.  That cut the LA lead to 31-17.

The Rams responded on their next possession at 8:14 of the fourth quarter.  Again it was Guy splitting the uprights from 26 yards that finished a time consuming 8 minute drive that took 13 plays to travel 67 yards.  That moved Los Angeles to a commanding 34-17 advantage.

TB had one more score in them and that occurred with 1:10 left in regulation.  Brady (41-of-55 for 432 and 1 TD) located RB Giovani Bernard on a swing pass and #26 took it the final seven yards for the score.  That drive lasted 3:40 going 88 yards in 14 plays.  Succup hit the PAT making the final arithmetic 34-24 in favor of the Rams.

Next up for the Buccaneers is a trip to New England to take on the Patriots.