Enemy Profile: Rams

November 24 – Buccaneer Magazine has scouted Tampa Bay's next opponent of the 2001 regular season-the 8-1 St. Louis Rams. Which player matchup will be the one to watch? Want a prediction and some interesting tidbits? Read what the Bucs players had to say about the Rams. Find out what to expect when the Bucs and Rams clash on Monday night.

OPPONENT: St. Louis Rams

WHERE: The Dome at America's Center in St. Louis Missouri

SPREAD: Rams by 10

WHERE THE RAMS STAND:: 8-1 Record. The Rams are in sole possession of first place in the NFC West Division.

HEAD COACH: Mike Martz (0-1 vs. Bucs head coach Tony Dungy).

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Mike Martz

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Lovie Smith

SPECIAL TEAMS COACH: Bobby April

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Buccaneers LB Derrick Brooks vs. Ramss RB Marshall Faulk. Faulk is argulably one the best running back in the NFL right now and Tampa Bay will have a tough time slowing the Rams' speedy and elusive back. Faulk has rushed for 627 yards and 5 touchdowns this season. He is averaging 5.5 yards per carry and is a dominant back on astroturf, which is what the Rams play on at home. Faulk is a threat on the ground and in the air. Faulk is leading the team in receptions with 47 this season and has 401 yards and three touchdowns. Brooks will play a big part in stopping Faulk, but he hasn't been himself this season due to a nagging foot injury. Faulk is fast and Brooks has the speed to keep up with him, but Brooks' foot injury has slowed him down a bit. Brooks is one of the best tacklers in the NFL and leads the Bucs in tackles with 59. Brooks and Co. will need to wrap Faulk up every time he gets his hands on him. Faulk and the St. Louis offense thrive off of making people miss and mistackles.

HOW THE BUCS RANK IN THE NFL:

OFFENSE: OVERALL: 21st RUSHING: 29th PASSING: 10th

DEFENSE: OVERALL: 8th RUSHING: 15th PASSING: 7th

HOW THE RAMS RANK IN THE NFL:

OFFENSE: OVERALL: 1st(T) RUSHING: 6th PASSING:1st (T)

DEFENSE: OVERALL: 4th RUSHING: 4th PASSING: 10th

BUCS DEFENSE MUST CREATE TURNOVERS: Rams QB Kurt Warner has one of the best arms in the league, but he is also known to make mistakes in the St. Louis pass-happy offense. Warner has thrown 17 touchdowns, but has also thrown 13 interceptions. Tampa Bay's defense has come up with 16 interceptions this season and will need to come up with as many as possible in order to hang with the Rams' explosive offense.

WHICH WAY WILL THE BALL GO?: Rams QB Kurt Warner is great at spreading the ball around in coach Mike Martz's offense. Warner has completed 43 passes to WR Isaac Bruce, 42 passes to WR Torry Holt and 47 to RB Marshall Faulk. One blown assignment can result in disaster for Tampa Bay's defense, and the Rams count on defenses making those mistakes.

RAMS REVAMPED DEFENSE: Last season, the Bucs offense put 38 points up on the Rams defense, which was one of the worst in the NFL. Since then, the Rams lurred Bucs linebackers coach Lovie Smith away from Tampa Bay and hired him as their defensive coordinator. As it turns out, Smith has made the Rams defense a more than respectable one and Tampa Bay appears to be missing Smith on their defense. The Rams defense is only allowing an average of 16 points per game and is ranked 1st in the NFC this season. Tampa Bay will certainly need to score more than 16 points in order to come away from St. Louis with a much-needed win.

HEY! I THINK I KNOW THEM: When the Rams hired Love Smith as their defensive coordinator, it did not take him long to bring some Bucs players with him. So when you're watching the game on Monday night, you will likely recognize the following players on St. Louis' defense. DE Chidi Ahanotu, LB Don Davis and DE/DT Tyoka Jackson. You will also recognize WR Yo Murphy, who the Rams use as a kick returner. That's a total of four former Bucs players and one former Bucs coach.

BUCCANEERS IN PRIME-TIME: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a combined record of 9-12 in prime-time games (Sunday, Monday and Thursday night games). The Bucs are 9-5 at home and 0-7 on the road. The Bucs have posted a 4-4 record on Monday Night Football. The Pewter Pirates are 4-1 at home and 0-3 on the road. Ironically enough, Tampa Bay's last Monday Night Football appearance was in December of last year when the Bucs defeated the Rams, 38-35.

BUCS SOUND OFF ON THEIR UPCOMING OPPONENT

SS John Lynch on Tampa Bay's season being on the line: "There's concern that our season is on the line," said Lynch. "We don't have much room for error. If we're not going to run the table, we're going to have to come darn close. It starts this week. The flip side is this is a tremendous opportunity for us. A team of this ilk and the way they're playing right now could really catapult us with a win."

Lynch on what type of memories will come back when playing in the dome the Bucs lost the NFC Championship Game in 1999: "I looked at the itinerary today and we're staying at the same hotel," said Lynch. "A lot of memories will come back. Although the end product was very disappointing, there were a lot of great things that came from there. We're going to go in there and try to avenge ourselves from that loss, but more importantly, we're trying to save our season."

Lynch on what the Bucs defense can do to stop the Rams explosive offense: "I don't know," said Lynch. That's the question. You have to tackle. They get their skill players in space. You have to be physical with them. That's a start."

Lynch on making the Rams pay for turning the ball over: "The one thing is they're turning the ball over," said Lynch. "When we get turnovers, we get them with the idea of turning them into scores. If not, our offense has to put touchdowns on the board. We have to make them pay for their mistakes."

Lynch on the brewing rivalry between the Rams and Bucs: "We both want to beat the heck out of each other," said Lynch. "We have a tremendous respect on both sides. But when you have that respect and you compete as hard as we have against each other, it doesn't necessarily mean everyone is going to like each other. It shows on the field and it's nothing we're going to shy away from. In fact, we embrace it."

Bucs RB Warrick Dunn on if he's is looking forward to playing on astroturf: "I look forward to getting a win," said Dunn."

Dunn on playing on Monday Night Football: "To get back on track, we need a big win," said Dunn. "This is the right atmosphere, the right setting and the favorites for the Super Bowl. I think it's a time to make a statement and go play well."

Bucs LB Derrick Brooks on stopping the Rams offense:"We can't afford to give up big plays to this offense," said Brooks. They thrive off of big plays and we can't allow them to get too many of them."

Brooks on the Rams and Bucs brewing rivalry: "They play like one of the best offenses in the league," said Brooks. "We'd like to think we're one of the best defenses in the league. We like the idea of two teams going against each other with their product."

Brooks on not allowing the Rams offense to get the big play: "We got to play fast, physical and play every play," said Brooks. "We got to make them one dimensional. They like to run the ball, and we've got to make them throw it. They're going to hit some passes, but we can't let a 5-yard route turn into an 80-yard touchdown. Whenever they catch it, we got to hit them. And then we'll see where we are in the fourth quarter."

Brooks on losing the NFC Championship Game in 1999 to the Rams on the road "We felt like we were the better team after we lost that ballgame," said Brooks. "But at the same time, I've moved on past it. We've got to move past it in order to win this game on Monday."

Brooks on winning this week "We need to this win to get back to .500," said Brooks. "We've got to win to stay in this race. That's the only incentive we need at this point."

WR Frank Murphy on whether or not he will be returning kickoffs against the Rams "I have no idea," said Murphy. "I'll just be at practice everyday working hard and whatever happens, happens. That's coach's decision. If he puts me back there, I'm going to do the best I can for the team. If not, I'm still going to do the best I can."

WR Keyshawn Johnson on winning Monday night "We're just taking one game at a time," said Johnson. "And, we'll see what happens from there. If you win every single game, there's a chance you'll make it into the playoffs. If you lose two of the next seven games, then you'll probably be out of it. You have to just wait and see what happens."

WR Keyshawn Johnson on what Tampa Bay's offensive identiy is "I don't know what our offense is based on," said Johnson. "I don't even know what the offense is based on. I don't know what we're trying to do. I don't know what our identity is."

Head coach Tony Dungy on playing on Monday night "It's going to be fun Monday night," said Dungy. "There's no question about it. We're playing the Rams, but winning is what creates the fun and that's what we've got to do. The last two times we've played them, there have been real high stakes and the games have come down to the last possession, I wouldn't be surprised if it comes down to that again."

Dungy on Rams RB Marshall Faulk"When they have Marshall Faulk playing, they're as tough to defend as any team I've seen in a long, long time," said Dungy.

Dungy on whether the Bucs will run the no-huddle offense against the Rams "That's not something we've contemplated," said Dungy. "But nothing is out of the realm of possibilities. We're going to do whatever we can to win."

Dungy on preparing for the Rams "The St. Louis Rams have the best record in the league," said Dungy. "They're a lot of things on the line and I think we'll have a great week of practice and be ready for the challenge."

FLYNN'S FINAL: If I'm defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, I'm showing Tampa Bay's defense the film from the 1999 Championship Game and the film from the New York Giants at St. Louis Rams game from earlier this season. What do both games have in common? Tackling, tackling and more tackling. In 1999, the Bucs weren't given a prayer of beating the Rams, but Tampa Bay's defense had a near-perfect game tackling and came up just short to the Rams, 11-6. The Giants played well earlier this season had a near-perfect game tackling. Like the Bucs, the Giants came up just short and lost to the Rams, 15-14.

Much has changed since the championship game. Tampa Bay's defense has not shown any signs of returning to their 1999 form and their offense is as inconsistent as ever. Some things haven't changed. The Rams offense is as explosive as ever. They are putting up an average of 31 points per game this season. And their defense is able to stop opposing offenses more often than not.

Tampa Bay will have to establish some sort of running game if they have a chance of beating St. Louis. The Bucs haven't been able to do this all season long, so what makes us think they will do it now? If St. Louis can make Tampa Bay one dimensional, the Bucs will get rolled out of the dome.

Here's the difference between the Rams offense and the Bucs offense. St. Louis has several receiving threats and a potent rushing attack. The Bucs have two receiving threats in RB Warrick Dunn and WR Keyshawn Johnson, and a non-existent running attack.

Tampa Bay will need to be turnover free the defense will have to create scoring opportunities for the Bucs. Hopefully Tampa Bay knows field goals will not beat many teams in this league, and they certainly won't beat the best offensive team in the NFL.

FLYNN'S PICK: Rams 36 Bucs 20


Copyright 2001 Buccaneer Magazine/BucMag.com

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