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NFL Marquee Matchup

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  • NFL Marquee Matchup

    NFL Marquee's Andrew Perloff breaks down this week's Monday night gameTampa Bay Buccaneers (1-4) at St. Louis Rams (3-2)
    Monday, 9:00 p.m. EST (ABC)
    Edward Jones Dome (66,000) </SPAN> Setting The StageWhen the NFL started bandying about the idea of making the Monday Night matchup flexible to avoid dud games, they had this one in mind. What was supposed to be an epic battle of offense vs. defense with key ramifications in the NFC playoff race has turned into a matchup between a decent team and a bad one.

    The Rams are coming off a miracle win in Seattle that helped them keep pace with a Seahawks team everyone assumes is poised to take over the NFC West. Meanwhile, the Bucs turned to an unlikely hero, quarterback Brian Griese, to lead them to their first win of the season in New Orleans.

    But despite early bumps in the road for both teams -- especially the Bucs -- these teams still excel in their specialties. St. Louis' offense is quickly climbing back to the top of the rankings, while Tampa Bay's defense remains stingy.

    BreakdownSizing up St. Louis
    The Rams were down 17 points with about six minutes left in their big showdown with the Seahawks. A 2-3 record and deep hole in the divisional standings seemed certain. But Marc Bulger is not one to feel pressure. He calmly rallied his team to force an overtime period and won the game 33-27 with a perfect 52-yard strike to Shaun McDonald.

    Bulger jumped to the league lead in yards (1,426), attempts (180) and completions (120), and has brought back some of the pizzazz to a Rams offense that has cooled off the past couple of years. Credit coach Mike Martz for inserting some new blood into the offense, including WRs McDonald and Kevin Curtis and rookie RB Steven Jackson.

    McDonald and Curtis have filled that vital role of third receiver that used to be taken by Az-Zahir Hakim. Jackson is a complete change of pace from Marshall Faulk and offers the big-play capability Faulk no longer has. With his 6.9 yards-per-carry average, Martz will look to get Jackson involved against a Bucs D that hasn't been great against the run.

    Faulk can still be a dangerous weapon as well, although he's disappeared in about half of St. Louis' games. The last time Faulk faced Tampa Bay, he was held to just nine yards on six carries, so maybe this is a good time to give Jackson more looks. Don't forget to give some credit to the defense for the comeback against Seattle. After letting up 306 yards and 24 points in the first half, they allowed just 85 yards and three points in the second.

    The defense's biggest star is also its most controversial. Defensive end Leonard Little has three sacks on the season -- including a huge one on Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck in the fourth quarter -- while dealing with a very public court case stemming from his April 24 arrest for driving under the influence. Little pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in a traffic accident that killed a woman in 1998.

    Little seems to be able to avoid the distractions of his trial and perform. The Rams will need him to lead the rush against Bucs QB Brian Griese, who definitely can be rattled.

    Sizing up Tampa Bay
    If anybody can stop the Rams' passing game it's Tampa Bay. Last week, they Bucs held New Orleans' Aaron Brooks to just 106 yards, and they're the only team in the league holding opposing passers to a completion rate under 50 percent. For the most part, the loss of veteran stars Warren Sapp and John Lynch hasn't adversely affected the D. They're getting less pressure on the quarterback now that teams don't have to worry about Sapp and can focus more on defensive end Simeon Rice. Those gaudy pass-defense numbers will take a dive fast if they can't get in Bulger's face on Monday night.

    Tampa Bay's problems have been on offense, where it ranks 25th overall and 31st rushing the ball. Brian Griese makes his first start as a Buc after rallying them to a 20-17 win over New Orleans last week. They picked the right week to go with Griese, since he's done some of his best work on Monday nights. His first start ever came under the lights against Miami, and he threw for 270 yards and three TDs. He also had one of his only good games as a Dolphin in a win over San Diego last season on a Monday night.

    Griese will need help from his running backs, which have a chance to shine against a Rams' D that ranks 29th in stopping the run. Tailback Michael Pittman has looked adequate in the two games he's played since returning from a league suspension that kept him out of the first three games. His presence certainly helped last week when he converted a few key third-down plays in the fourth quarter. The Bucs tried Mike Alstott at tailback for a few plays last week, but didn't really give the big back a chance to punish the Saints D.

    WR Joey Galloway is still at least a week away from returning after suffering a groin injury in Week 1. In the meantime, wideout Michael Clayton is emerging as a No. 1 receiver, although the Bucs still don't have much of a vertical passing game. Clayton, a 6-4 rookie out of LSU, has 23 catches for 301 yards and a TD. Veteran Tim Brown has 17 catches, but is only averaging 7.2 yards per catch.

    Special Teams Breakdown
    The Rams have improved tremendously in all aspects of special teams as the season has gone on. Martz says having all his linebackers and defensive backs healthy has been the difference. A 39-yard punt return in the closing minutes by Shaun McDonald was huge in the win over Seattle.

    Bucs punt returner Tim Brown has done little besides making fair catches and probably should be replaced. But at least kick returners Torrie Cox and Frank Murphy have done a nice job. Key MatchupRams QB Marc Bulger
    • Sixth-year pro, 6-foot-3, 215
    • Stats: 120 completions, 181 attempts, 1,426 yards passing, seven TDs, five INTs
    • Bulger's poise was impressive last week. After throwing for just 52 yards and two INTs in the first half, he put up 273 yards and three TDs in the second half. The Rams are starting to look like the Greatest Show on Turf again, and a lot of the credit for that goes to Bulger. But this is the toughest pass defense he'll see this season. He'll have to be accurate this week as the Bucs try to cut off all the slants and over-the-middle pass patterns the Rams love so much. Tampa Bay CB Ronde Barber
    • Eigth-year pro, 5-foot-10, 184
    • Stats: 26 tackles, 0 INTs
    • Barber is having an outstanding season and he'll have to be at the top of his game against the Rams' high-flying attack. When you're going against the Rams, CBs don't catch a break, since starting WRs Ike Bruce and Torry Holt are both difficult to stop. Barber has always had a knack for coming up with big plays. His fumble return for a touchdown against the Saints was the eight of his career, and his two TDs on the season actually leads the team.

    The OutcomeTampa Bay has a three-game win streak over the Rams, but these aren't the same Bucs that won the Super Bowl two years ago -- or even the same team that finished last season 7-9. Despite Griese's success in past Monday night games, don't expect much offense out of the Bucs. Their defense will keep the game close early, but eventually Bulger will hit a groove and come up with enough big plays for a comfortable win. St. Louis 24, Tampa Bay 13

    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

  • #2
    Re: NFL Marquee Matchup

    So what do you guys think about Brian Griese? Can he make a difference for the Bucs? There were able to beat the Saints with Griese in. The Rams lost to the Saints. It seems to me that these teams may not be as far apart as their records seem to say.


    • #3
      Re: NFL Marquee Matchup

      theres some reason he is 3rd string.


      Related Topics


      • RamDez
        Five Keys to the Game - Tampa Bay
        by RamDez
        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.
        -10-17-2004, 10:38 AM
      • DJRamFan
        [Bucs] Manic Monte
        by DJRamFan
        By ROY CUMMINGS [email protected]
        Published: Oct 17, 2004

        ST. LOUIS - Hang around Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin long enough and you get the feeling that if you could somehow tap into him, you'd discover an alternative energy source.
        Kiffin is the human equivalent of the silver ball in a pinball machine. He's not walking or even running through life; he's bouncing through it like the sheared end of a downed power line.

        ``You know how it is when you get so worked up that you can't even get the words out to speak? That's Monte,'' safety John Howell said. ``And he's like that all the time, every day.

        ``He's like that at practice, he's like that before games. He's like that when he's getting ready to turn on the tape machine for us to watch film in a meeting. He just eats, sleeps and breathes this stuff.''

        Kiffin definitely eats and breathes football. Whether he sleeps it or not is up for debate. After all, Kiffin doesn't sleep much, especially during weeks like the one leading into tonight's game at St. Louis.

        ``Around here, your motor is always running high,'' defensive backs coach Mike Tomlin said. ``But during weeks like this, when you're taking on the `Greatest Show on Turf,' it runs a little higher.

        ``It's only natural because it's always a playoff-like atmosphere when we face the Rams. You just can't help but get up a little more, so for Monte, it's a few more cups of coffee, a few more hours looking over tape each night.''

        The overtime and extra caffeine have paid dividends in the past. Since 1999, when the Rams' high-wire act first debuted, the Bucs have kept St. Louis from matching its gaudy average point output three times.

        Only three other teams - New Orleans, San Francisco and the New York Giants - can make that claim, but none of them have done it while twice playing on the Rams' turf, including once during an unforgettable playoff game.

        The date was Jan. 23, 2000. At stake was the opportunity to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XXXIV. Few gave the Bucs much of a chance. After all, the Rams had the homefield edge and all that offensive firepower.

        Through 16 regular-season games and one playoff game, they had produced an average of 33.8 points a game, never scoring any less than 21.

        Against Kiffin's defense, though, the Rams didn't reach the end zone until late in the fourth quarter and scored just 11 points - which was still enough to win the game.

        The victory, of course, launched the Rams toward their first Super Bowl title - they beat Tennessee, 23-16 - but it also launched a rivalry between the Bucs and Rams.

        During the years it has raged - this will be the fourth ``Monday Night Football'' meeting - it has been a classic matchup of offense vs. defense. ...
        -10-17-2004, 05:05 PM
      • MauiRam
        Three things: Rams-Buccaneers
        by MauiRam
        By Nick Wagoner

        ST. LOUIS – Three things to keep an eye on in Sunday’s game between the St. Louis Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

        Keep it simple

        There’s nothing fancy about it but week in and week out, winning the turnover margin is the single biggest factor in shaping the outcome of games all over the league.

        No team knows that better than the Rams. In their six wins this season, the Rams are plus-17 in turnover margin. In their eight losses, they’re minus-seven.

        We’re not exactly splitting the atom to say it would serve the Rams well to win the takeaway battle against the Bucs, but it certainly could take on more meaning against a team like Tampa that has been so adept at taking the ball away in 2013.

        The Bucs are third in the league with 29 takeaways and they’re plus-11 in margin for the season. Much like St. Louis, Tampa Bay has a pronounced advantage in the category in its four wins. The Bucs are plus-11 in their quartet of victories.

        As always, the first priority for both teams will be to win the turnover battle. The one that does will likely walk away with a win.

        Keep it simple, part two

        The blueprint for the Rams since losing starting quarterback Sam Bradford to a season-ending knee injury has had two easy to understand steps. The first is the aforementioned turnover battle. The second is winning the ground game.

        In other words, stopping the run on defense and running effectively on offense.

        Tampa Bay is 22nd in the league in rushing and 24th in yards per carry at 3.9. Since losing Doug Martin to injury, the Bucs have leaned heavily on Bobby Rainey but his production has been hit or miss.

        Meanwhile, the Rams' run defense has made great strides in recent weeks. They’ve climbed to 12th in the league in that category, allowing 105.43 yards per game.

        On the other side, the Rams' offense has run it well when facing average to bad rush defenses and struggled against elite units save for Seattle. The Bucs qualify in the average category, allowing 109.64 rushing yards per game, 15th in the league.

        Tampa’s run defense has sagged in recent weeks, and the Rams should be able to get the ground game rolling again. If they can slow Tampa’s rushing attack and keep their own run game humming, it would go a long way toward a victory.

        Focus on finishing

        The Buccaneers are 30th in the league in scoring offense, averaging just 16.8 points per game. They also rank near the bottom of the league in total yards per game.

        Still, Tampa Bay has found a way to play a number of close games. The reason? The Bucs have been one of the best in the league at keeping opponents out of the end zone and holding them to field goals or no points at all.

        The Bucs are eighth in the league in red zone defense, allowing...
        -12-21-2013, 09:51 PM
      • RamWraith
        Bucs offense falls just short in loss to Rams
        by RamWraith
        By Jeremy Rutherford
        Of the Post-Dispatch
        Tuesday, Oct. 19 2004

        It wasn't Steve Young and Jerry Rice out there Monday night, but the Tampa Bay
        duo of Brian Griese (No. 8) and Michael Clayton (No. 80) looked pretty sharp in
        the Bucs' 28-21 loss to the Rams.

        Griese, making his first start at quarterback for the Buccaneers, completed 27
        of 40 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns. Clayton, the Bucs' heralded
        rookie receiver, hauled in eight catches for 142 yards.

        That anemic Tampa Bay offense that Buccaneers fans have watched all season
        played its most productive game. The 21 points and three offensive touchdowns
        were the most in six games for the Bucs (1-5).

        "We're not chopped liver," Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden said. "We're going to be
        better. I think the last three weeks we've played better offensively. It's just
        too bad that we don't get more out of our drives."

        Tampa Bay, which came into the game with the No. 25-ranked offense in the NFL,
        totaled 332 yards against the Rams.

        But the Bucs' undoing was two missed field goals by Martin Gramatica - from 35
        and 48 yards - and a costly fumble by Michael Pittman that resulted in the
        Rams' go-ahead touchdown.

        Adam Archuleta returned it 93 yards for a 21-14 Rams' lead.

        "We can't turn the ball over like that," said Griese, who completed his first
        nine passes Monday. "I thought we had a chance even at the end of the game."

        Griese threw an ill-advised interception in the end zone with 5 minutes 42
        seconds left in the game with the Rams leading by the final margin.

        Otherwise, the Bucs were a lot more effective than anyone anticipated.

        Griese played in relief of Chris Simms (shoulder) last week. He completed 16 of
        19 passes in a 20-17 win over New Orleans. His nine-for-nine start Monday gave
        him a stretch of 25 completions on 28 attempts.

        "He runs around, he makes plays, he made some great audibles, threw some timely
        beautiful passes on third down," Gruden said. "I don't know what I don't like
        (about Griese), that's a better question."

        And what's not to like about Clayton, who caught four of Griese's first nine
        balls, one for 44 yards. That set up a 5-yard touchdown pass to Pittman, giving
        the Bucs' a 14-7 lead.

        Clayton is "going to be a great player in this league," Gruden said. "He
        ignited us and made some big plays and was special."

        The Bucs thought they had made another big play at the end of the game. A long
        pass to receiver Tim Brown that set up the offense deep in Rams territory was
        ruled a fumble by...
        -10-19-2004, 01:13 PM
      • DJRamFan
        [Bucs] Barber takes career, season scoring lead
        by DJRamFan
        Published October 11, 2004


        NEW ORLEANS - Cornerback Ronde Barber traversed some familiar terrain Sunday, helping boost the Bucs to their first victory of the season and running into the record book.

        Barber's 18-yard return of a Deuce McAllister fumble in the second quarter not only gave Tampa Bay the momentum with a 13-7 lead, it marked the seventh time in the regular season (and eighth overall) No.20 has been seen racing into the end zone with a defensive touchdown.

        Barber also leads the Bucs this season with two touchdowns. Tim Brown , Bill Schroeder , Michael Clayton and Ken Dilger have one.

        Sunday's touchdown, triggered when end Greg Spires stripped the ball, also moved Barber one ahead of linebacker Derrick Brooks for the franchise record.

        "Me and Derrick have had a running competition for a couple of years now, and we keep saying to stay even with each other," Barber said. "But I told him I'm leaving him (behind) now."

        Across the locker room, Brooks wasn't buying it.

        "It's like that old rabbit and turtle," he said. "You jump out of there. And before you know it, you take a rest, and that turtle is going to catch you." But he added with a smile, "As long as we're scoring them, that's all that matters."

        Barber agrees.

        Last week, he talked about the lack of big plays by the defense. But that changed Sunday with pivotal plays such as Brian Kelly 's interception at the Bucs 17 that squelched a fourth-quarter drive with Tampa Bay guarding a 20-14 lead.

        "Whatever it takes," said Barber, who returned an interception 30 yards for a touchdown against New Orleans on Dec.23, 2001. "I'm just proud of how we all hung in and got a win."

        STEPPING UP: Linebacker Jeff Gooch was thrust into action when leading tackler Shelton Quarles left the game in the first quarter with a quadriceps strain. But Gooch picked up where Quarles left off, leading the Bucs with nine tackles.

        "We count on Shelton Quarles to do a lot in this defense," Gooch said. "And when I came in, I didn't want there to be a drop-off at all.

        "I wanted it to seem like Shelton was not even missed."

        Gooch is no stranger to the Bucs, having played for them from 1996-01 then spending the previous two seasons with Detroit.

        "It makes you feel good to be a big part of a big win," he said. "It feels really good especially because I was here before and part of building this team. Any time you get a chance to come back and help out again, that's huge."

        LONG DISTANCE: Martin Gramatica equaled his third-longest field goal...
        -10-11-2004, 01:25 PM