Five Keys to the Game - Tampa Bay
Saturday, October 16, 2004

1. Rams’ coach Mike Martz said an emotional win must be viewed the same as an emotional loss. With that said, it is St. Louis’ job to maintain an even keel after its stunning comeback win in Seattle last Sunday. If the Rams can keep their focus on the next game, instead of worrying about the past, it would go a long way toward their fourth win.

2. Traditionally, Tampa Bay’s defense has been one of the league’s best, especially against the run. This year, though, the Buccaneers are stout against the pass, ranking second in the league in passing yards allowed, but struggling some against the run. The Rams need to pound away at the few weaknesses Tampa Bay has defensively and open things up for quarterback Marc Bulger.

3. Bulger has shown a propensity in recent weeks for the spectacular finish. If he continues to play well in close and late situations, his confidence and his team’s confidence in him will continue to grow. A big part of that is avoiding turnovers and against Tampa Bay’s talented cornerback duo of Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly, that is easier said than done.

4. Tampa Bay quarterback Brian Griese will make the start for the Buccaneers. Griese, the former start for the Denver Broncos, has plenty of experience, but is still growing accustomed to Jon Gruden’s offense. The Rams have an opportunity to exploit the slow-footed Griese, who is far less mobile than most of the quarterbacks they have faced this year. St. Louis could use a few sacks and some quarterback pressures early to set the tone and get the Buccaneers’ offense off balance.

5. The Rams’ defense might have found a groove in the second half against Seattle, allowing just 85 yards in the second half. Of those yards, 41 came on one play. St. Louis appears to be mixing up packages and disguising blitzes better than before and the play against the run was downright dominant in that second half. If they can continue to improve and use the confidence they gained with their performance in the second half, Tampa Bay will have trouble scoring. The Buccaneers’ offense doesn’t feature many deep threats because of a slew of injuries, giving St. Louis a prime opportunity to make stops and create turnovers.