Of course, while the domes keep out the elements they also keep in the noise. The St. Louis Rams’ home may not have the same reputation for eardrum-battering decibels as do some other venues in the NFL – including the open-air stadiums in Seattle and Kansas City – but it can certainly get loud if the home team plays as well as it did last week in a win over the Saints.
As they do before every road game, the Buccaneers prepared this week for the possibility of deafening stadium noise, and the form of communication they would use to defeat it, and Head Coach Greg Schiano knows that could be a deciding factor on Sunday.
“It’s very important,” said Schiano. “Third down is the down where it gets really loud, so if you convert on first and second down then you never see third down, as well as making those third downs manageable. That’s going to be a key. The noise is going to be a factor. Any time you’re playing on the road, and especially in a domed stadium, you need to have contingency plans, and we do.”
Schiano’s focus on third down is unsurprising, as the Tampa Bay offense has had a difficult time converting in that situation lately. The Bucs are just six for 35 in third down conversions over the past three games, an issues that has contributed heavily to an overall downturn on offense. Fixing that critical issue is more than just getting the right play call on any particular third-down try.
The Bucs face a St. Louis defense that has struggled a bit to stop third-down tries, ranking 23rd in the league with a 40.2% success rate allowed. In a way, that’s a bit surprising given that the Rams have a stellar pass rush that has produced 42 sacks already, 15 of them by right end Robert Quinn. Quinn and hard-working left end Chris Long bring relentless pressure off the edges, and that’s one of the Buccaneers’ main concerns heading into Sunday’s game.
“There’s no doubt,” said Schiano. “Robert Quinn and Chris Long are one of the best pairs of ends there are in the league. It seems like in the last couple of weeks we’ve been up against some really great front people, and it’s no different this week.”
The Bucs hope they can keep Quinn and Long off rookie QB
“Keith Tandy will get the start and then we’ll fill in behind him in the sub packages with
In addition to Barron and Bowers, the Buccaneers declared the following players inactive: FB/RB
The Rams’ inactive list includes WR Tavon Austin, the team’s big-playmaker on both offense and special teams. Austin will miss his second straight game due to an ankle injury. Though he’s not a listed starter on the Rams’ depth chart, the rookie first-rounder is the team’s second-leading pass-catcher behind TE Jared Cook. The Rams also had to shuffle their offensive line a bit because starting right guard Harvey Dahl is out, as well. The team will move usual starting right tackle Rodger Saffold one spot over to guard and start Joe Barksdale in Saffold’s spot on the edge.
At quarterback, veteran Kellen Clemens will make his eight straight start following the season-ending knee injury suffered by Sam Bradford in Game Seven against Carolina. The Rams’ passing attack has not been particularly productive over the last four weeks, but Clemens has a good grasp on the offense from his time working with Rams Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer with the New York Jets. St. Louis’ rushing attack has been effective, averaging roughly 150 yards per game over the last four behind the good work of compact rookie Zac Stacy.
“They’re both doing a very good job within that system,” said Schiano of Clemens and Stacy. “Kellen understands that system, having been with Coach Schottenheimer in New York; he knows it better than most, so I think it was a smooth transition there. And then Zac Stacy’s having a heck of a rookie year. He’s running the ball, he’s a downhill runner, he’s a very physical runner. He’s a 5-8-ish type of guy who keeps his pads down so he’s hard to get underneath, and he runs determined.”
In addition to Austin and Dahl, the Rams deactivated RB Daryl Richardson, CB Quinton Porter, G Brandon Washington, DT Matt Conrath and G/T Mike Person.
The Buccaneers and Rams will kick off their Week 16 matchup at the Edward Jones Dome at 1:00 p.m. ET, and the game will be televised in the Bay area by Fox. The action will also be broadcast by the Buccaneers Radio Network and its flagship station, US 103.5 FM. That radio broadcast will be available via a live stream on Buccaneers.com. Visit Buccaneers.com throughout the day to for further reports on the game action, including coverage of the team’s postgame press conferences.