ReFo: Buccaneers @ Rams, Week 16
The Rams and Bucs played a game with no playoff implications but a ton of defensive talent. Gordon McGuinness tells you why Robert Quinn made his case for Defensive Player ...
ReFo: Buccaneers @ Rams, Week 16
While many teams were fighting for their playoff lives on Sunday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and St. Louis Rams squared off in a battle of two teams who won’t be in the postseason this year, but have at least looked to have made strides in 2013, with both likely to be potential dark horse picks by many next year.
Doomed by quarterback problems, neither came into this game with their first round draft pick from 2009 and 2010 respectively at the helm, though both for very different reasons. Still, in a game that mattered little in terms of postseason play, it did give us the opportunity to see three potential Defensive Player of the Year candidates in the one game.
Neither of the three delivered a headline performance that took over the game, but all three had performances worth talking about. So, with that in mind, let’s get to the key performances from both teams in this one.
Tampa Bay – Three Performances of Note
With another positively graded performance, the impressive season of second year linebacker Lavonte David (+2.6) continued, finishing the game with eight defensive stops, taking his total on the year to 80, 32 more than the next highest 4-3 outside linebacker. In the conversation for the DPOY award, even if he doesn’t end up winning it, David is a having a season for the ages and will likely finish with the highest grade ever for a traditional 4-3 OLB, with Denver’s Von Miller benefiting from his role as a pass rusher.
Sunday wasn’t David’s highest grade of the season but it showed that even when he’s not at his very best, he can still be a menace for opposing offenses. Playing 38 snaps against the run, he recorded seven tackles which resulted in a defensive stop, giving him a Run Stop Percentage of 18.4%. Particularly impressive was the way in which he navigated his way around the attempted pull block by guard Shelley Smith to make the tackle on 3rd-and-13 with 4:07 left in the game. It’s been a long season in Tampa, but the future is bright with players like David on the roster heading into 2014.
Struggles Along the Offensive Line
While Tampa Bay would have hoped that their defensive line would have dominated the St. Louis offensive line, it was the other way around, with the Buccaneers struggling to handle the Rams’ defense throughout the contest. Jamon Meredith (-3.9) played so poorly in the first half that he was benched, with eight negatively graded plays in the first 18 minutes of game time alone. His replacement Ted Larsen (-0.6), didn’t do much to impress, but at least didn’t have the calamitous outing that Meredith was on pace for had it continued.
Nobody across the line finished with a positive grade, with center Jeremy Zuttah (-1.4) struggling in particular as a pass blocker, where he allowed four quarterback hurries from 37 pass blocking snaps. Left tackle Donald Penn (-0.5) saw a lot of the premiere pass rusher in the league in Robert Quinn and, while he could have performed much worse given how we’ve seen Quinn tear apart opposing offensive tackles this year, he still gave up two sacks and a hit.
McCoy Fails to Dominate
Coming out of the game with his first negatively graded performance of the year, Gerald McCoy (-1.1) was fairly anonymous throughout, save for a couple of splash plays which ensured his name will remain in the DPOY conversation. His third straight game with a sack brought his season total to nine but save for that, and a pressure that came unblocked and another in pursuit, you would have barely noticed him on Sunday.
He did get better as the game went on, showing more against the run in the fourth quarter, but his lacklustre start doomed him to his quietest performance of the year. The Rams found success early pushing him inside on running plays, and with the occasional double team to keep him at bay. It’s interesting to note that the Rams have held both McCoy and Watt to very quiet showings, despite not having a standout interior offensive lineman who you would expect to be up to the task of slowing them down.
St. Louis – Three Performances of Note
Ogletree Rounding into Form
It’s been an up and down rookie year for the second of the Rams two first round draft picks, linebacker Alec Ogletree (+3.0) however, with the Rams putting forward one of their better performances of the year, the 30th overall pick in the 2012 draft had his best performance to date. He was solid throughout, grading positively against the run, in coverage and as a pass rusher, but it was two big plays that pushed his grade higher than ever before.
On 1st-and-10 with 12:20 left in the second quarter he took advantage of running back Bobby Rainey fighting for extra yards, ripping the ball out and allowing the Rams to take over on offense. He wasn’t done there however, forcing a fumble during a sack of quarterback Mike Glennon on 3rd-and-3 with 9:21 left in the game, making any potential comeback attempt from Tampa Bay much harder.
Late Show from Quinn
Perhaps it’s greedy to have expected more from Robert Quinn (+3.6), but after the damage he has done to mediocre tackles throughout the 2013 season, I expected a bit more than what we saw from the him, even if he did finish with three sacks, a hit and three hurries. Still even on a day when it looked like he had a quieter outing than expected, he was able to finish strong and add to his impressive pressure totals this year.
In the final two minutes of the game he was able to record two sacks, a hit and a hurry, beating Tampa Bay offensive lineman inside, via stunts, with a spin move and also adding a hurry when they inexplicably left him unblocked. It tells you all you need to know about the season he’s having that you can come away from watching him play feeling like he left more plays out on the field, but was still the most impressive player out there.
Smith Shines in Relief
While there won’t be much happiness in St. Louis today after left tackle Jake Long suffered a potentially serious knee injury, it lead to a change on the offensive line which allowed us to see backup guard Shelley Smith (+2.6) shine in relief once again. He’s seen action in nine games this year now, with only one coming as a starter, but has graded positively in all but two of them, never falling below -0.6 in 2013.
As a pass blocker he allowed just the single hit, but it was as a run blocker where he stood out once again. It wasn’t that he was driving defenders into the turf to open lanes for running back Zac Stacy, but consistently solid work getting to the second level, and impressing on the many pull blocks he was asked to execute against Tampa Bay lead to him being the team’s highest graded offensive lineman on Sunday. Starting right guard Roger Saffold appears to have found a home at the position after struggling at tackle, but in the very least Smith has shown everyone that he’s worthy of being given the chance to start somewhere with his play on the field this year.
– The Rams forced just two missed tackles from 39 rushing attempts, but did finish with 81 of their 129 yards coming after contact.
– All six of Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein’s kickoffs resulted in touchbacks, with the big legged kicker also converting on all three of his field goal attempts.
– Mike Glennon failed to complete any passes when under pressure, while completing 84.2% of his passes without pressure.
He may have started the day off quietly, but his strong finish to the game just edges Robert Quinn over Ogletree here.
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Gordon McGuinness | Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst
Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.