Matthew Stafford Wanted Big Games. Against Tom Brady’s Bucs, He Got One.

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Matthew Stafford claimed he wished these moments.

Right after 12 seasons at quarterback in Detroit, the place his most significant platform was the once-a-year Thanksgiving afternoon match and his performances performed next fiddle to Television viewers’ turkey dinners, Stafford, 33, questioned to be traded. He wanted to participate in versus high quality level of competition in game titles that mattered.

Towards the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Stafford acquired that opportunity. Billed as a possible preview of the N.F.C. championship sport and contested in entrance of famous people like Mike Tyson and Jason Sudeikis, Stafford faced the ferocious pass hurry that fueled the Bucs’ Tremendous Bowl earn last period and Tom Brady, arguably the greatest quarterback of all time.

Stafford outshone them all. The Rams defeat the Buccaneers, 34-24, thanks to his potent arm and intelligent decisions, along with a stout functionality by Los Angeles’s protection. Granted, Stafford’s exhibiting — 343 passing yards, four touchdowns and zero turnovers — arrived against a secondary handicapped by accidents.

But in entrance of additional than 73,000 enthusiasts, Stafford showed he could make the throws required to make enjoying a Super Bowl at house in SoFi Stadium this time a reality. Afterward, he downplayed the significance of the get.

“Every time we go out there it is a huge 1,” Stafford stated in a postgame news conference. “It was a huge obstacle for us but it was great for us to go out there and perform our video game.”

His flatline response was a stark distinction to the ballast from both of those groups major into a activity players identified as a barometer to decide their standing in the league. Both had been undefeated, seen as amongst the most effective in the meeting and the N.F.L. When they satisfied final November, Brady and the former Rams quarterback Jared Goff tried a mixed 99 passes and racked up 592 yards in the air as the Rams scarcely won a shootout, 27-24.

Their 2020 seasons diverged. Tampa Bay gained 8 of its previous nine online games en route to the Super Bowl. The Rams, bitten by irresponsible perform from Goff, wasted the exertion of the league’s top-ranked defense towards the finish of the time and exited in the divisional round of the playoffs.

But the Rams did not have Stafford final year, and his participate in offered glimpses of what Mentor Sean McVay’s offense could attain with a quarterback able of putting the ball everywhere on the subject.

Stafford completed a 75-yard landing move to DeSean Jackson, the veteran receiver, in the 3rd quarter, and linked on two landing passes to receiver Cooper Kupp and just one to restricted end Tyler Higbee. Right after the scoring toss to Jackson, whom Stafford experienced skipped connecting with two times earlier in the activity, McVay grew to become so excited that he sprinted down the sideline to greet Jackson in a stadium tunnel.

But possibly Stafford’s most significant throw did not instantly account for any details.

Halfway into the 3rd quarter, Brady orchestrated a 75-yard touchdown push to minimize Los Angeles’s lead to 21-14. Experiencing 3rd-and-10 from the Rams’ 25-property line, Stafford fired a pass to receiver Robert Woods for 20 yards, converting on a important play instead of supplying the ball again to Brady with an prospect to tie the rating.

A few performs afterwards, Stafford related with Jackson for a 40-yard catch and operate to established up Kupp’s second touchdown, a 10-property capture.

The Rams often unsuccessful in extensive-yardage scenarios last season in part due to the fact they lacked an explosive deep menace at receiver and simply because Goff struggled when defenses did not have to have to regard the operate or engage in-action. Now, with Stafford at the helm, McVay can unleash a wide variety of engage in phone calls he could not in 2020.

“As an offense, you often don’t want to be stagnate,” Kupp explained of the unit’s layout with Stafford. “Our job as an offense is to not be caught executing the exact factor in excess of and around all over again but be equipped to have answers off it and make things glance the identical but be diverse.”

Continue to, the Buccaneers performed competitively, taking into consideration how quick-handed they were. Receiver Antonio Brown was not obtainable immediately after screening beneficial for the coronavirus this 7 days. Go rusher Jason Pierre-Paul also did not participate in mainly because of hand and shoulder injuries.

The secondary missing cornerback Jamel Dean in the first quarter to a knee damage, a blow to a place team that had presently been depleted with starter Sean Murphy-Bunting on wounded reserve. McVay and Stafford exploited all those absences early as receivers slipped past coverages and powering defenders with simplicity.

Brady, a California native who experienced hardly ever performed an N.F.L. match in Los Angeles, concluded with 432 yards and a single touchdown move. He also rushed for a rating. The Rams’ defense strike Brady five occasions and sacked him 3 periods, like a tackle by Aaron Donald that forced a fumble that the Buccaneers recovered. Even though at instances it gave up chunk plays, Los Angeles’s defense frequently rallied to ball carriers for tackles and eventually limited Tampa Bay to only 35 rushing yards. Brady led the team with 14.

“They played the kind of sport they required to play,” Brady claimed. “If we’re likely to be a team like that, we have to play well in all phases.”

Stafford and the Rams enter a crucial extend of the schedule, facing two N.F.C. West rivals, the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks, in Weeks 4 and 5. All those matchups will issue for playoff seeding in the new 17-activity typical time. Right after that, Stafford will be the one making certain that he and the Rams have even even bigger games in which to enjoy.