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Key Matchups: Buccaneers vs. Rams

Posted Dec 20, 2013

Both quarterbacks in Sunday's game will have to hope their blockers provide good protection against a talented pass-rusher on the other side of the line

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-10) will take on the St. Louis Rams (6-8) Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Missouri. Here are several matchups between individual players and/or certain team units that could go a long way towards determining the game's final outcome:

Buccaneers DT Gerald McCoy vs. Rams QB Kellen Clemens
Clemens has not lit up the stat sheet since taking over for an injured Sam Bradford in Week Eight, but he has had recent success at home, leading his team to an impressive 42-21 win over the Chicago Bears and 27-16 victory against the New Orleans Saints inside the Edward Jones Dome. Gerald McCoy has been a dominant force in the middle all season long with 42 total tackles and 8.0 sacks, ranking fourth among NFL defensive tackles. In the last two games he has seven solo tackles and two sacks and will look to pad those numbers against a QB who is being taken down more than 2.5 times per game.

-- Rams RB Z. Stacy should see a lot of Bucs LB L. David on Sunday
Tampa Bay QB Mike Glennon vs. St. Louis DE Robert Quinn
Mike Glennon’s 17 touchdowns, 85.3 passer rating and 59.9 completion percentage this season are the highest marks among NFL rookies. However, in the last four games, he has thrown four interceptions and been sacked 14 times. Against the Rams this week, his offensive line faces another strong defensive front and Glennon must work on getting rid of the ball sooner, limiting mistakes. The Rams pass rush is led by Quinn, who is among the NFL’s best this year. His 15.0 sacks rank second in the league, while he leads the NFL in forced fumbles with eight.

Buccaneers Safeties vs. Rams Tight Ends
Since Clemens took over as the starter, four of his seven touchdown passes and a whopping 30.1% of his completions have gone to his tight ends, primarily Jared Cook and Lance Kendricks. Comparing that to some of the biggest names in the NFL, we can see just how much Clemens relies on his tight ends. New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham has 19.4% of Drew Brees’s completions, Tony Gonzalez has 18.7% of Matt Ryan’s completions and Greg Olsen has 23.8% of Cam Newton’s completions. The safeties must successfully shadow them at all times, especially if the Rams' leading receiver, Tavon Austin, is unable to play due to his ankle injury.

Tampa Bay LB Lavonte David vs. St. Louis RB Zac Stacy
This season, David has become the only linebacker in NFL history to amass six sacks and five interceptions in a single season. And while his pass defense skills will be on display, his run-stopping ability could be the biggest key to a Buccaneer win. David is fourth in the NFL with 125 total tackles and 11.5 of them have come behind the line of scrimmage, the most by any player in the league. In the last three Rams home games Stacy has compiled a combined 354 yards rushing and two touchdowns. The Bucs run defense, led by David, will need to make a stand.

Bucs RB Bobby Rainey vs. the St. Louis linebacking corps
The Rams defense has been solid against the run this year, giving up just 105.4 yards per game, tied for 11th in the league, however they have given up 16 rushing touchdowns, fifth most in the league. Rainey has five total touchdowns this year and continues to see the majority of the carries for Tampa Bay. He has the potential to break a few big gains in this game. While they are near the top in rushing yards allowed per game, the Rams have also given up 825 receiving yards to running backs, most in the league. With so many catches and receiving yards allowed to RBs, also keep an eye on Brian Leonard, who actually ranks third on the team in receptions this season and could be a weapon in the passing attack.

Buccaneers WR Vincent Jackson vs. Rams CB Trumaine Johnson
Opposing offenses have had big games through the air against the Rams this year, averaging 257.5 yards per game. The Rams are also last in the league in completion percentage, allowing 68.6% of passes to find their target. Jackson comes into the game just three receptions shy of his career best and should be Glennon’s go-to target as he has been all season. Despite aggressive coverage, Jackson is averaging 85.8 yards per game over his last five and has touchdowns in back-to-back contests. He will likely see a lot of Trumaine Johnson this week and again need to fight through some double-teams to get the job done.

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