What We Saw: Week 9

The What We Saw team recaps everything you missed from a wild Week 9 in the NFL.

Los Angeles Rams @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Final Score: Buccaneers 16, Rams 13

Writer: <Michael James> (@MikeoftheFF on Twitter)


The Los Angeles Rams travel across the country for the afternoon game at Raymond James Stadium, facing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  The Rams hold a 4-1 series lead since the team moved to California.  The Buccaneers come into this game with the third-highest passing yards in the league this season.  The news coming into this week had the coach of Tampa Bay saying they need to run the ball more, let’s see how that takes hold against a Los Angeles team that’s allowed the fifth-fewest rushing yards in the league.  The Rams take the opening drive three and out and punt it over to the Buccaneers.  Tom Brady would open up with a 12-play drive going 5 for 6 and 50 yards down to the Rams’ 3-yard line.  They would be unable to punch it through and settle for a Ryan Succop kick to put Tampa Bay up 3 points.



After trading punts, Matthew Stafford is struggling to get the offense moving taking 6 plays to move it 20 yards until he hits Cooper Kupp in stride for a 69-yard touchdown to take the lead.  It was the first time the Rams have crossed midfield in four quarters of play.  Ouch.  A few more traded punts and the Buccaneers are driving with their re-commitment to the run this week, starring Rachaad White on this drive.  Tampa Bay uses 10 plays, 6 of them runs to get another Succop attempt, but the Rams special teams come up with a block.  Now, Tampa Bay has the ball with less than two minutes to drive the field with a hurry-up no-huddle offense using Brady’s 5 for 7 on passing to get the Buccaneers into Succop’s range to cut the Rams’ lead down to one point going into halftime, 7-6.



Highlighted by a Darrell Henderson Jr. 23-yard monster run up the middle, the Rams drive inside the Tampa Bay 10.   But unfortunately, three pass attempts wouldn’t be enough and Matt Gay would come out to extend the Rams’ lead to four points.  After a few more stalled-out drives, Stafford buys time to hit Kupp deep for a 34-yard bomb to set up the offense with first and goal to go.  But Rakeem Nunez-Roches would take Stafford out for a 9-yard sack, and the drive would end with another Gay field goal to add 3 points to the Rams’ lead as we go to the fourth quarter.  Aaron Donald would repay the favor, ending the last two drives himself.  The last one brought up fourth down with a sack, this one brought up fourth down with a batted pass.



Tampa Bay would enter no-huddle mode and drive down the field on 6 for 8 passing, but a penalty would take them out of range and they would continue to use Gay to add 3 more points to the scoreboard.  After punting it back to them, the Buccaneers would use the soft coverage of the Rams to hit underneath passes driving down the field, most of them to Scotty Miller.  The drive would end with a turnover on downs.  The Rams would go three and out making Tampa Bay burn all their time-outs before getting the ball back with 45 seconds left and down four points.  Brady hits Cade Otton for 28 yards, followed up by another 14-yard pass to Miller.  Mike Evans draws the pass interference in the end zone setting up 1st and goal with 13 seconds left to go.  It would only take one down for Brady to hit Otton for the touchdown.  With Succop’s extra point, they are now up by 3 with 16 seconds left in the game.



It wouldn’t be enough, and the Bucs would come out winners 16-13 in this battle of two stalwart defenses.  The Rams fall to 3rd in the West, and Tampa Bay moves into first place in the South, even with a losing record.  The best players tonight were unironically the punters.  A game that featured 15 punts, couldn’t get above 30 points combined score.  If you are a fan of defenses, this game was for you.  To everyone else out there, I’m happy you missed it and will only spend a few minutes reading about it here in the bathroom at work on Monday morning, instead of spending hours on this game that you won’t get back.



Los Angeles Rams




Matthew Stafford: 13/27, 165 Yards, TD | 2 Carries, -1 Yards, 1 Fumble (Recovered)

Both quarterbacks faced similar outlooks tonight.  An underperforming offensive line going against a strong performance from the opponent’s defensive line.  Receivers dropping balls everywhere.  So the only touchdown for the Rams came on a perfect drop to Kupp in stride allowing him to break all the way down the field to the end zone.  Outside of that, the longest play for anyone else was for 15 yards.  You would be hard-pressed to find some Matthew Stafford completions where he had time to sit in the pocket and go through his progressions.  Three of his incompletions were routes that were jumped and almost picked off.  A lot of off-balance throws into the dirt in front of his receivers, or deep balls that were overthrown by a lot.  He ended up being sacked 4 times and being hit on or after the throw 8 more times.  Vita Vea was just not having it tonight.



Running Back


Darrell Henderson Jr.: 12 Carries, 56 Yards
Cam Akers: 5 Carries, 3 Yards
Malcolm Brown: 2 Carries, 9 Yards | 1 Target, 1 Reception, 10 Yards


Both teams struggled tonight, neither team got to 70 yards rushing as a team.  You could tell who the main back was as Darrell Henderson Jr. had over 60% of the rushes for the team.  He had one punishing run breaking up the middle and making multiple people miss for a 23-yard run.  Otherwise, not a lot to write here.  Cam Akers saw one drive of play where he was the main back in the first quarter (that ended with the Kupp massive TD catch and run).  He then saw one rush in the third, and one rush in the fourth.  Kyren Williams was out for this game and is looking to return next week.



Wide Receiver/Tight End


Cooper Kupp:  9 Targets, 8 Receptions, 127 Yards, TD | 3 Carries, 1 Yard
Allen Robinson II: 5 Targets, 3 Receptions, 24 Yards
Brandon Powell: 1 Target, 1 Reception, 4 Yards, 2 Fumble (2 Recovered)
Van Jefferson: 5 Targets
Ben Skowronek: 2 Targets
Tyler Higbee: 1 Target
Brycen Hopkins: 1 Target


If Cooper Kupp is still hurt, he’s not showing it.  Of Stafford’s 165 yards, 127 of them went through Kupp.  It’s impressive that you know who this offense will go through, and continues to get it done anyway.  Unfortunately, it’s not very impressive when you look past that.  Normally I dock the players who didn’t get a catch but were targeted and then write about it in this blurb.  But this just had to be listed.  Allen Robinson II was the only other who showed up and had an impressive catch.  The targets he was getting were in very tight windows, but it is encouraging that he’s getting a better connection with Stafford as the season goes on.  Van Jefferson, oof.   Jefferson had beat his coverage and was wide open down the field early in the game but he just dropped the ball after it hit his hands.  He would get a few more deep looks in the game but was either double-covered and/or a bad ball that just sailed over everyone’s head.



Tampa Bay Buccaneers




Tom Brady: 36/58, 280 Yards, TD


On the other side of the matchup of quarterbacks with no time to throw, we had a record-breaking performance by Tom Brady.  It’s impressive that he averaged under 5 yards per attempt and still had almost 300 yards passing.  This team was built to set up the play action but instead continues to run the quick no-step drop throws out.  There’s a lot of discussion over whether the running game is the issue or not, and this isn’t the point of the column, but this offense has gone from one of the top red zone offenses last season, to one of the worst red zone offenses this season.  There wasn’t a lot of pressure in the box score because of Tampa’s design to counter the rush, but there were a lot of passes defended either deflected at the line or well-covered down the field.  Brady was not helped by his receivers dropping the ball six times this game, their most since 2016.  But this trend seems to continue lately, leading to more field goals and punts rather than touchdowns.

Aaron Donald made sure he was never comfortable in the pocket.  Brady almost had 3 interceptions as well, one with an ill-advised throw, and two from the DBs jumping the route.  Brady did take over this game with only 44 seconds left, going 5 of 6 for 60 yards to break Peyton Manning’s game-winning drive record at 55.  He also broke the six-digit plateau of throwing for over 100,000 yards in his career with a 15-yard pass in the fourth quarter.



Running Back


Leonard Fournette: 9 Carries, 19 Yards | 7 Targets, 5 Receptions, 41 Yards
Rachaad White: 8 Carries, 27 Yards | 3 Targets, 3 Receptions, 7 Yards
Ke’Shawn Vaughn: 2 Carries, 4 Yards


Leonard Fournette started the game and was used big on the first drive with 6 rushes and 1 catch.  One of those rushes was negated by a penalty, but he would only get 4 more rushes the rest of the game, all coming in drives that started in the third quarter.  Rachaad White got the other half of the carries between the two of them.  In the first half, they alternated drives, and in the second half, they were seen rotating each other out on the same drive.  What is good to see is that Fournette was used in the passing game this time, bringing in 5 catches including a 15-yard reception that broke the 100k mark for Brady.  This looks like it’s an even split moving forward now.  As Romo said, “On one hand it’s unfair, White and Fournette have different skill sets here.  On the other hand, it’s a production-oriented business, and he’s just not producing lately.”



Wide Receiver/Tight End


Mike Evans: 11 Targets, 5 Receptions, 40 Yards
Chris Godwin: 10 Targets, 7 Receptions, 36 Yards | 1 Carry, 1 Yard
Cade Otton: 6 Targets, 5 Receptions, 68 Yards, TD
Scotty Miller: 8 Targets, 7 Receptions, 53 Yards
Julio Jones: 5 Targets, 2 Receptions, 28 Yards
Ko Kieft: 2 Targets, 1 Reception, 6 Yards
Breshad Perriman: 2 Targets, 1 Reception, 1 Yard


Drops drops drops.  The biggest offender was Mike Evans.  Not all of his missed targets were drops or even his fault, but there were enough and this is the third week in a row he’s had a noticeable problem with it.  He left a lot of potential yards on the field to the frustration of fantasy owners.  Evans did draw a critical 32-yard pass interference penalty to keep the drive alive in the two-minute drill that got the team 3 points going into the half.  He drew an even bigger one on the final drive for Tampa Bay in the end zone, setting up first and goal for the Buccaneers to win the game.

Chris Godwin was the slot man who showed up again with the catch and tackle role to get the chains moving, and was not without a drop himself, but he got you the points, assuming you’re in PPR.  If you aren’t, then averaging about 5 yards on 7 catches isn’t doing much for you.  The main strategy of the Buccaneers’ passing game was to target whoever Derion Kendrick was covering as they threw at him most of the night, including for that PI call at the end of the game.  With Cameron Brate still out, Cade Otton came up big today being Brady’s safety valve.  He brought in the second of his two end zone targets to win the game on the Buccaneers’ last possession.  Don’t look now, but he now has 3 double-digit fantasy production outings in his last 5 games.  Julio Jones did have one red zone target today, early on.  When the fourth quarter was winding down, Brady looked to Scotty Miller in the last two drives of the game, going 6 of 7 and moving the chains when the Buccaneers pushed for the win.


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