Since 2001, the ultimate rule in going against Tom Brady is getting to Brady himself.
The Los Angeles Rams now get that opportunity in Week 3 in the nationally televised showdown with the NFL record holder of Super Bowl wins at SoFi Stadium.
Raheem Morris was immediately asked on Wednesday, September 22 what it’s like to game plan against the seven-time Super Bowl champion and a QB who has 232 career victories.
“Scared to death,” Morris jokingly told the L.A. media, which drew laughs.
Then, Morris got serious by describing Brady as the “ultimate competitor” and “we’ve got a lot of respect for Tom in what he’s been able to do at both places he’s been at.”
Aaron Donald added this statement to the media on Thursday, September 23: “He’s just playing good football. They’re protecting him well, he’s getting the ball out of his hands and the guys around him are making plays — and that’s what you got to do to make plays in this league.”
But the ultimate question: How do the Rams get to Brady for this contest?
To get to TB12, the Rams have to go after someone not named Brady first.
Based on evaluation of Tampa Bay’s first two games this season, here are three Bucs players who are worth testing and attacking in the effort to rattle the legend under center.
Left Tackle Donovan Smith
While the blindside protector Smith has shown his nasty streak against the Dallas Cowboys, he’s had a mixed start to the year.
The 6-foot-6, 338-pounder has allowed five quarterback pressures and one sack through two games. But on the lone sack he surrendered, it resulted in a fumble against speed rusher Dante Fowler of the Atlanta Falcons.
This is a result of when a tackle’s hips are not squared on a defender and ends up bending at the hips awkwardly. Fowler uses his speed, arm extension and an arm under technique to win the battle. That play also left Brady without a blocking back.
Best case scenario is the Rams can plug their fastest DL option or Donald to test Smith. Don’t be shocked if Morris sends his fastest defenders, or top outside linebacker pass rusher Leonard Floyd, up Smith’s alley this game.
Right Tackle Tristan Wirfs
Wirfs has this claim via Pro Football Focus.
However, Gregg Rosenthal of the NFL Network noted that Wirfs has had a rather slow start this season. He also came close to allowing this sack seen below.
Also, while Wirfs wasn’t considered the closest lineman on this sack of Brady, Marlon Davidson still knives his way up Wirfs’ side for this Brady sack. A DL stunt like this can be effective for the much quicker Sebastian Joseph-Day of the Rams, who had his breakout game against Indy.
Wirfs also doesn’t have a good history with elite rushers like Khalil Mack seen below.
Of course, who can forget this?
But in all seriousness, Wirfs will likely draw Donald in solo matchups. And in looking back at the Rams/Colts game, “A.D” did his most damage up the right side of the offense captured below.
Also, NFL Network’s Brian Baldinger shined a light on the Carson Wentz shovel pass that was intercepted near the 1:10 mark of this video. But what “Baldy” points out: Donald, aligned to the right of the Colts’ formation, disrupts the play to force the rare pick.
Wirfs is a lineman worth trying to exploit to get to Brady.
Running Back Ronald Jones
In the fourth quarter, Deion Jones comes in on a blitz and literally goes unscathed to Brady for the sack, seen near the 10:45 mark of the highlight video.
The root of the confusion is the Falcons drop their WDE into coverage, making the strongside OLB Jones the fourth rusher. Jones, however, is caught off guard by Jones’ rush.
If Jones is the lone blocking back in the backfield, he would be a great player to test on blitzes to see if he can consistently pick them up.
You hear “stop Brady” all the time to beat his teams.
Well, you can only stop him by going through his line of protection and finishing with the sack or forced takeaway. And these three guys I’ve mentioned have clearly had mixed results in pass blocking this season.
All three are worth testing and attacking for this Sunday inside the “Rams House.”