coleryan Posts:21290 Followers:24
On 12/17/2013 06:14 AM in NFL

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at St. Louis Rams

Check back all week as this thread will be updated on a regular basis with information on this game and a free pick by gameday!

The Tampa bay Buccaneers are not going to the NFL post season, but they are playing very well to end out the season. The St. Louis Rams are in the same situation and they are off one of the biggest wins of the season as they demolished the New Orleans Saints in their last outing. Now they will have to regroup and try to match that intensity when they host the hard charging Buccaneers. Read More

  • Last 7 Days Record: 2-3-0
coleryan Posts:21290 Followers:24
12/17/2013 03:02 PM

On Sunday, the Rams offensive line kept Kellen Clemens free and clear from sacks. He was only hurried four times, and wasn't hit at all. Little wonder he completed 14-of-20 pass attempts for 158 yards and two touchdowns.

Runing back Zac Stacy was also the beneficiary of the improved line play, compiling 133 yards on 28 carries for a very nice 4.8 yards per attempt.

And this is an offensive line that's taken on several iterations since the beginning of the season.

So how did the Rams offensive line get to this point?

- A new left tackle

Free agent signings haven't gone especially well for GM Les Snead, but the addition of Jake Long has been a success. The former first overall pick struggled through injuries before coming to the Rams. As the season's gone on, he's recaptured most of his Pro Bowl self.

Pro Football Focus has Long as the highest graded offensive lineman on the team, at 25.7. That number also makes him the fifth-highest graded offensive tackle in the NFL. His 14.8 grade from PFF as a run blocker leads all regular starting tackles.

He's gotten better as the season's gone along too. Over the last seven games, Long has allowed just two sacks, two hits and six hurries. He allowed four sacks, two hits and 16 hurries through the first seven games. The Rams haven't had this kind consistency from a blind side protector since Orlando Pace.

- Middle men

The middle of the line has been the weakest spot for the Rams all season. But it's gotten better since moving Rodger Saffold to the inside and with Tim Barnes taking over for the injured Scott Wells.

Wells was efficient in pass protection, and two and a half games is still a small sample size for Barnes. However, the Mizzou product has allowed just two hurries in 155 snaps. He's also been an improvement as a run blocker, albeit still with a negative grade of -2.4, which does best Wells' -8.3 grade.

Saffold's move to the middle in place of Harvey Dahl has been a ray of light ... for the running backs. He's now made five starts at the right guard spot, including against a pair of the league's toughest defensive lines (Arizona and San Francisco). Saffold's allowed just three hits and four hurries as a guard. His run blocking has graded out positively too, except for Week 14 against the Cardinals. Also notable is that Saffold has yet to incur a penalty as an interior lineman.

Not bad at all for a guy who had never played guard before.

- Meet Joe Barksdale

Picked up as a castoff last season, Barksdale found a home as the incumbent right tackle after taking over for an injured Saffold in Week 2. His play has improved with time. Barksdale has allowed just one sack in his last seven games. His run blocking grades have been so-so, -6.1 overall thanks to a couple games, but his pass blocking has been solid.

It looks like the Rams have found a right tackle and a winning combination for its front five, except ...

- Change is coming

Saffold is due for unrestricted free agency. His ability to play guard as well as left and right tackle makes him an attractive target in a league suffering through a tackle shortage. It would be nice if the Rams could bring him back, but he struggles to play a full 16-game season and might find more lucrative offers than what the cap-strapped Rams can give him.

Barnes is an exclusive right free agent in 2014, which virtually guarantees that he'll be back, as long as he continues to play well, as an affordable part of the depth chart. He's earning a shot at the starting center job next year, but he'll compete with Barrett Jones for that.

Chris Williams, the starting left guard, signed a one-year incentive laden deal. Williams earns the lowest grade of the bunch, and the Rams will probably be in the market for two new starting guards if he and Saffold both leave. Shelley Smith has had plenty of playing time as a backup/platoon. He's also a free agent after this season.

Long is signed through 2017 on a $34 million contract, with just $16 million guaranteed. At 28, he should have a few good years ahead of him, at least, but the Rams would be wise to start thinking about an eventual replacement.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 2-3-0
coleryan Posts:21290 Followers:24
12/18/2013 04:22 PM

They call 49ers running back Frank Gore the "Inconvenient Truth."

But it also has been a fitting description for the unenviable task defenses have in stopping Gore, 30, a punishing running back who continues to produce at an age many begin to decline.

Gore enters Sunday's matchup with the Bucs just 69 yards shy of the seventh 1,000-yard season of his nine-year career. Since 2006, San Francisco's all-time leading rusher has the league's most all-purpose yards (11,797). Bucs cornerback Darrelle Revis labels Gore "one of the top two, top three backs in the league."

"He's got the heart of a lion, heart of a champion," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "He competes like a maniac, takes care of himself. He's kind of a mystical man, too. I say that because he's got a connection, spiritual connection that not everybody has. He just sees things; very insightful."

Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said while the 49ers have many stars on offense, from quarterback Colin Kaeper­nick to tight end Vernon Davis to receiver Anquan Boldin, the focal point will be Gore.

"They can say he's getting old all they want. He can still run the ball the same," McCoy said. "If we can slow that guy down, then we can start worrying about everybody else. It's not to downplay anybody else because they have a great offense. But that guy, he makes things run."

Gore, a 5-foot-9, 217-pound former University of Miami star, isn't the biggest or fastest back in the league. But Bucs coach Greg Schiano sensed Gore was something special when he recruited the Coral Gables High star about 15 years ago when Schiano was an assistant at Miami.

"He's an incredibly tough-minded individual," Schiano said the four-time Pro Bowl player. "He's going to bring it every down, and he plays with pain and all those things. That's what leads to his longevity. As an athlete, he's got tremendous vision, balance, is very, very explosive. His high school tape was legitimately sick."

The 49ers are a run-first team, ranking sixth in the league with 133 yards per game. Their passing attack averages a league-low 178.3 yards (2.5 fewer than the No. 31 Bucs).

Schiano said Gore runs behind the best offensive line Tampa Bay has faced, defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan pointing out San Francisco uses bigger personnel groupings (two backs and two tight ends) more than anybody they've played. Sheridan also said the 49ers are crafty in their schemes, making defenses move a lot before the snap on designed runs.

"They have a good offense that is going to come in here and just try to maul us," Schiano said.

Gore is a big-play threat, tied for the league lead with nine runs of 20 yards or more this season. That includes the Miami native's 51-yarder that set up the winning field goal in Sunday's 19-17 win over Seattle.

"He's as competitive right now as anybody we're seeing on film from a running back standpoint," Sheridan said of Gore, who has 931 yards and eight touchdowns on 220 carries.

"I guess people might talk about him being up there in age and all that stuff. I don't see any of it. He's running the ball as well as I've seen anybody in the NFL. He's super aggressive with the ball, downhill, can cut, still makes people miss. And he has no problem putting his shoulder down and trying to run through guys. He's tearing it up right now."

  • Last 7 Days Record: 2-3-0
coleryan Posts:21290 Followers:24
12/19/2013 02:42 PM

The NFC teams with the longest playoff droughts have ensured that their runs of futility will extend for another season.

There are some signs of improvement, however, for the St. Louis Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in recent weeks heading into Sunday's matchup at the Edward Jones Dome.

St. Louis (6-8) hasn't been to the postseason since the 2004 campaign while Tampa Bay's last playoff appearance came after the 2007 season.

Optimism for the future is possible since the Rams have won three of their last five games while the Buccaneers have won four of six since an 0-8 start.

Neither team is using the quarterback it began the season with since Sam Bradford is out after season-ending knee surgery and Josh Freeman was cut by Tampa Bay (4-10) on Oct. 3.

Those two were under center in Week 16 last season in St. Louis' 28-13 road win. Freeman was sacked five times and threw four interceptions, with Janoris Jenkins running one back 41 yards for a touchdown.

Tampa Bay will visit St. Louis for the first time since 2004, with Mike Glennon looking to bounce back after an uneven performance. Glennon was sacked four times and finished 18 of 34 with two touchdowns and an interception in last Sunday's 33-14 home loss to San Francisco.

The Buccaneers had a season-low 183 yards. They are last in total offense with 305.9 yards per game and have converted on a league-worst 32.0 percent of third downs.

Tampa Bay has gone 1 for 10 on third down in its last two losses.

"I think the biggest problem is first and second down and getting into those third-and-longs," Glennon said. "In the NFL when you get in third-and-long situations, it's almost impossible to get that first down."

Glennon has been sacked 14 times in the last four games. He will have to be wary of Rams defensive end Robert Quinn, who leads the NFC with 15 sacks and has forced a league-best seven fumbles.

"He's as good at tomahawk chopping the backside of the quarterback, you haven't seen a guy do it with that effectiveness since LT (Hall of Fame New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor)," Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. "LT used to - wap - knock that ball out with a vicious tomahawk chop. He's bringing it that way."

The Rams tied for the league lead with 52 sacks a year ago and have 42 to tie for fifth this season.

Quinn dropped Drew Brees twice in last week's 27-16 victory over New Orleans. The Rams held the high-powered Saints out of the end zone until the fourth quarter.

''There's a lot of character,'' said Quinn, who will likely match up with Bucs tackle Donald Penn, who is tied for second in the NFL with 9 1/2 sacks allowed. ''We don't have much to play for except for the fun of it and guys aren't giving up or hanging their heads.''

Rookie Zac Stacy rushed for 133 yards on 28 carries with a touchdown and Kellen Clemens threw two touchdowns for the Rams, who are seeking to win five games at home for the first time in three years.

Stacy leads all rookies with 854 rushing yards and his six touchdowns on the ground have come in the last six games.

''He never takes negative runs,'' Clemens said. ''If it's there, he hits it. If it's not there, he creates a hole."

Fellow rookie Tavon Austin's status is uncertain after he did not practice Wednesday. There was good news for the receiver since he is no longer in a walking boot.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher expects a difficult test from the Bucs.

"They were close in some games despite the fact that they lost eight straight, then you come back and they win four out of their last six and beat some good football teams," he said. "They hung in there.

"Their defense is playing with discipline. They're getting a lot of turnovers. They run the football and the quarterback's throwing the ball well, so it's a talented team. It's a very dangerous team at the end of the season."

  • Last 7 Days Record: 2-3-0
stormy1114 Posts:155 Followers:0
12/20/2013 04:02 PM

very informative helps me with some fantasy players. i still like rams at home

coleryan Posts:21290 Followers:24
12/20/2013 10:26 PM

The Bucs won’t get guard Carl Nicks (MRSA) back this season and defensive end Da’Quan Bowers (knee) has been ruled out as well. Safety Mark Barron (hamstring) is questionable. Rams wide receiver Tavon Austin (ankle) missed practice all week, landing him a questionable designation.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 2-3-0
coleryan Posts:21290 Followers:24
12/20/2013 11:05 PM

The Rams have been without their franchise quarterback Sam Bradford since he suffered a torn ACL on Oct. 20, complicating an offense that lost former star running back Steven Jackson to free agency this past summer.

However, they may have found their running back of the future in Stacy, who is just 146 yard shy of a 1,000-yard season despite not becoming the starting back until Week 5. He is coming off the longest touchdown run of his career and have found the end zone in five of his past six games.

"The thing about Zac is that he understands blocking schemes," complimented Clemens. "He's obviously talented. He's very strong. He's built to run forward, and he runs behind his pass well, and he never takes negative runs. If it's there, he hits it. If it's not there, he creates a hole and it gets us to."

While the 22-year-old running back figures to have earned his chance at being the featured back next season, 23-year-old defensive end Robert Quinn continues to emerge as one of the top pass rushers in football.

Quinn leads the NFC with 15 sacks after getting two versus the Saints. That comes after he logged 10 1/2 sacks in his second season last year and the 264- pounder has forced seven fumbles this season. He has recovered two fumbles in the past four games.

"I think Robert is definitely arguably one of the best in the league," noted Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis. "The way he's been extremely productive and has been consistently that way. The thing is, when you watch games where he hasn't had the numbers, he's always around the quarterback. He's been on a tear this year."

Quinn could find himself on a Pro Bowl line with Tampa Bay's Gerald McCoy, who picked up his eighth sack of the season last weekend. That further extended his career high and he joined Warren Sapp, Santana Dotson and Brad Culpepper as the only defensive tackles in Bucs history to reach eight sacks in a season.

The third overall pick of the 2010 draft battled through biceps injuries over his first two seasons, but managed 30 tackles and five sacks in 16 games last season. In 2013, he has 42 tackles in 14 games.

"I look at a guy like Gerald and say when I arrived here there wasn't a heck of a lot of excitement about Gerald," said Schiano, who is in his second season as coach of the Bucs. That 'B-word' (bust) was even being mentioned and all he's done is busted his rear-end to be in great physical condition ... obviously last year was a Pro Bowl season, I think this year is a Pro Bowl season. He's really doing some great things in the pass rush."

Glennon, meanwhile, is still trying to prove he can lead the Bucs next season. He threw for 617 yards with five touchdown passes to one pick during Tampa Bay's three-game winning streak from Weeks 10-12, but has logged 449 yards passing with four touchdowns and four interceptions in the past three.

Though his numbers last weekend weren't flashy, Schiano noted that Tampa Bay moved the ball best versus San Francisco in the no-huddle, a credit to his quarterback.

"Mike's the one who controlled the whole operation, moving it down the field against, arguably, one of the top three defenses in the league. We didn't perform in some areas, but I thought Mike actually, without watching the tape, gave us the spark," Schiano said after the loss.

While Jackson has surpassed 1,000 yards receiving this season and leads the Bucs with seven touchdown catches, Wright has made a name for himself as a rookie out of Rutgers.

The 23-year-old is second on the club with 45 receptions and 486 receiving yards and his four touchdown catches are a new team record for rookie tight ends.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 2-3-0