TB-STL Grades: Aaron Donald, Mike Evans both shine on TNF
Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Rams’ 31-23 victory over the Buccaneers:
St. Louis Rams
– After another stellar performance last night, Aaron Donald (+6.6) has surpassed Geno Atkins’ 2012 season, and now owns the highest single season grade for a defensive tackle in the nine years we have been grading games here at PFF. Donald collected three stops and six pressures (three hits, three hurries) to collect his 15th straight positively graded game, and has only graded negatively four times in individual facets (three times in run defense, once as a pass rusher) this season. It’s just been an absolutely remarkable season for Donald, and he continues to keep pace in a competitive race for Defensive Player of the Year.
– The Rams got the jump on the Bucs on Thursday, courtesy of chunk plays, particularly from their receivers. Tavon Austin (+1.9) and Kenny Britt (+2.0) exploited the Bucs’ aggressive defense. Britt picked up a huge gain off of a double move, and Austin blew past the Bucs’ after the catch. The latter broke five tackles, combining his hybrid work as a runner and a receiver on only seven touches.
– While there were struggles in this game as a run blocker, Rams left tackle Greg Robinson earned his first positive grade in pass protection since Week 8, not allowing a hit or sack for only the third time this season and the fourth time since moving to left tackle in Week 9 of last season. In the last two weeks, Rams’ fans will be eager to see Robinson show some signs of progress and perform well as both a pass blocker and run blocker in the same game. Robinson has only earned a positive grade as a run blocker and pass blocker in the same game once since his move to left tackle, exactly a year ago this week against the Cardinals.
DT Aaron Donald (+6.6)
DE William Hayes (+2.8)
DT Michael Brockers (+2.2)
WR Kenny Britt (+2.0)
WR Tavon Austin (+1.9)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
– Equal parts jaw dropping and head scratching, last night’s game (+1.1) was reminiscent of Jameis Winston’s final season at Florida State. Some of his deep and intermediate throws into coverage were sublime; others were ridiculous and thrown directly to the coverage, including his interception to Trumaine Johnson (-1.3). Since Week 4, though, the good have outweighed the bad for the most part with Winston. If he continues to produce some of the throws he launched night, it’s easy to predict that his positive progress from recent seasons will continue into next.
– Re-united as starters for the first time since sharing a secondary in Chicago, both Major Wright (-2.5) and Chris Conte (-3.0) produced eerily reminiscent of their latter seasons with the Bears. Wright and Conte combined for five missed tackles last night, mimicking the 31 they racked up in 2013 with Chicago. Conte’s tackling has been better than this in 2015—these were his first missed tackles since Week 9. The Bucs will hope that this was merely a one week blip on the radar and not the sketchy tackling habits resurfacing from his Bears days.
– While there was one drop to take his season total to 14, this 157-yard game from Mike Evans (+3.4) was one of the high points in what has proven to be a second season of extremes for the gigantic wide receiver. Evans collected 60 yards against each of the Rams’ starting corners (4/7 against Trumaine Johnson, 3/5 against Janoris Jenkins) while also beating the St. Louis safeties for a catch apiece. Evans caught seven of Winston’s nine completions on targets aimed 10 or more yards down the field.
WR Mike Evans (+3.4)
LB Danny Lansanah (+3.1)
LB Lavonte David (+1.9)
DT Tony McDaniel (+1.8)
WR Adam Humphries (+1.5)