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Will Goff go off against the Buccaneers?

All eyes on the offense this week, and we'll have plenty of notes about that side of the football as the Rams prepare to host the Bucs.

But first, I'd like to draw your attention to something that simply isn't supposed to happen.

Take out the Week 17 game against the 49ers in 2017 – as we always do – when the Rams had clinched and were resting starters.

Los Angeles hasn't lost to a non-playoff team since Week 2 of Sean McVay's first season. And that Washington group is the only sub-.500 team to defeat the Rams in two-plus years. Since then, when the Rams really turned the corner and the winning culture took root, they've reliably beaten the teams they were expected to beat.

The other regular season losses? They've been to opponents like the 13-3 Vikings of 2017, the 13-3 Eagles of 2017 who won the Super Bowl, and the 13-3 Saints of 2018 who hosted the Rams in last year's NFC Championship. On average, teams who've defeated McVay's Rams in the regular season have gone on to win 10.86 contests.

In the sport of "Any Given Sunday," there are no gimme games (unless you're playing this year's Dolphins, I guess). And this Sunday is no exception. Tampa Bay absolutely could march into the Coliseum and topple Los Angeles.

In fact, the Bucs are the perfect illustration of this NFL truth. They're one goal line stand away from being 0-3; they're one chip shot field goal away from being 2-1.

In aggregate, though, the Bucs don't look like a playoff team. And history tells us, it takes a playoff team to run with the Rams.


The Rams face another former No. 1 overall selection at quarterback this week in Jameis Winston. If you're scoring at home, that's three of them in the first four weeks of the season (Cam Newton and Baker Mayfield).

According to star researcher Jake Temme, a win would make the Rams just the third team in the last 20 years to start 4-0 while facing that many No. 1 overall picks at quarterback, joining the 1999 Patriots and 2016 Broncos.

As the top selection from 2016, Jared Goff already has a sterling track record against his peers. He's 7-1 career against No. 1 picks, with his only defeat versus Carson Palmer at the end of Goff's rookie season.

Goff's Been Off

Despite the 3-0 record, it's been a lackluster start to Year Four for the Rams signal-caller. By any measure, he's underachieved relative to his standard and that of Pro Bowl quarterbacks. His touchdown rate and yards per attempt are down, his interception rate is up, and he's fumbled three times.

Does he need better offensive line play? Yes.

Is life easier in the calm of the Coliseum than the din of the Dawg Pound? No question.

Could he benefit from a more run-heavy game plan? Perhaps.

But while there are certainly things everyone can do to help Goff achieve in the way we've become accustomed to, I'd assert that it's time for Jared to elevate the play of the other 10 Rams around him. That's what franchise quarterbacks do.

The Rams offense has been imperfect in three wins to date. It's incumbent on their most important player to start concealing those blemishes.

Win the Toss, Take the Football

Perhaps nothing is more confounding than the first half blues Los Angeles has endured.

The Rams have yet to score a touchdown in the first quarter, and have amassed just 22 first half points.

One thought?

Take the football first.

The Rams have had great success starting on defense. In three games, they've come up with two takeaways and allowed zero points. By deferring, there's the added benefit of receiving the third quarter kickoff.

But for change's sake, if they are fortunate enough to win the coin toss on Sunday versus Tampa Bay?

Take the ball. Start on offense. Put it in the end zone. And put this narrative to bed.

(Same difference: Bucs win the toss and defer.)

The Los Angeles Rams return to the Coliseum this Sunday to host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Early Down Success

It's not just early game success we're looking for this week, but specifically early down success.

Inspired by this week's Coach McVay Show, Ted Nguyen of the Athletic dove into the Rams struggles against the Lions/Bears/Patriots model.

One major takeaway was how off-schedule the offense has been as a biproduct. In 2018, they averaged 6.53 yards per play on first and second downs, which ranked second in the NFL. They're averaging 5.09 yards per play on early downs in 2019, which ranks 24th in the league.

If you were to focus on one primary indicator for Week 4, I'd monitor what distances the Rams have left to cover on third downs. If it's fewer than four yards, great. If it's five or more, could be trouble.

The Buc Stops Here?

Unsure what to make of this Bucs defense? You're not alone.

On the plus-side, they've been phenomenal against the run despite facing Christian McCaffrey and Matt Breida in the early schedule.

Tampa Bay also has the best pass rush win rate in the NFL and sack leader Shaq Barrett.

So how could they possibly fall victim to 300-yard passing performances from a wounded Cam Newton and rookie Daniel Jones making his first career start?

After fielding one of the worst pass defenses in history in 2018, Bruce Arians declared those issues "totally fixed" this summer.

Perhaps not.

Can Goff and the Rams capitalize after failing to do so against a depleted Browns secondary in Week 3?

Doubling Donald

Opposing offenses have taken it to another level when it comes to doubling Aaron Donald. ESPN data indicates the most dominant defensive force in the game has seen at least two blockers on 72 percent of his pass rushes as a defensive tackle this season, up from a stunning rate of 64 percent a year ago.

As my colleague D'Marco Farr pointed out this week, "What are they thinking on the other 30 percent?!?"


The brilliance of Donald is being leveraged by Wade Phillips, Joe Barry, and new defensive line coach Eric Henderson, as not only is he aligning everywhere to avoid those doubles, but Dante Fowler, Clay Matthews, and Michael Brockers are thriving in one-on-one situations all around him.

The Checklist

Lastly, through my Rams-tinted shades, I see an abundance of reasons to be optimistic that this 3-0 team hasn't even approached its potential.

Look at all the entirely reasonable things that have yet to happen in 2019:

A non-offensive touchdown. The Rams had 11 of them between 2017-18.

A special teams splash play. About time for a blocked punt, is it not?

A Robert Woods touchdown. He was robbed versus the Saints.

Todd Gurley hasn't made a play in the passing game. Neither has Gerald Everett. Shoot, Josh Reynolds doesn't have a reception of any kind.

Aaron Donald hasn't forced a fumble. None of the Rams corners have an interception. I could go on.

Point being, there are a ton of great things ahead for the Rams individually and collectively, based solely on their firmly established track records.

Perhaps Week 4 is the day.

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