3 Keys to Defeating the St. Louis Rams

A few points of emphasis for the Buccaneers as they prepare to play the Rams.

1. Slow down Todd Gurley.
The Rams' offense is carried by their standout rookie running back, Todd Gurley, whose 975 rushing yards are the fourth-most in the league. St. Louis averages 173.1 passing yards per game, the fewest in the league, but have the NFL's No. 6 rushing offense, picking up 124.8 yards per game. Gurley, along with Buccaneer quarterback Jameis Winston, are frequently mentioned candidates to win this year's Offensive Rookie of the Year award. For a Buccaneers defense that's battled through injuries the past few weeks, stopping Gurley will be a top priority.

2. Don't lose track of Aaron Donald.
Most analysts will agree that J.J. Watt is the NFL's best defensive player. But since entering the league last season, Donald has slowly crept into the conversation with Watt. During his press conference on Tuesday, Bucs Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter referred to Donald as a "game-wrecker," and his numbers support that assessment. Through 14 weeks, Donald has 11 sacks, the fourth-most in the league among defensive linemen. He also has 59 tackles, which rank him third among defensive linemen.

3. Convert on third down.
The Bucs ran 52 plays against the Saints in Week 14 while New Orleans ran 78. By looking at both teams' numbers on third down, that shouldn't come as a surprise. Tampa Bay converted four of 11 third downs in the team's loss while New Orleans was 12-for-17. In order for the Bucs' playmakers to get the ball in their hands, the team's offense needs to stay on the field. To stay on the field, the unit needs to perform much better on third down.

Photos of the top 10 rushers based on rushing yards in a single season in Buccaneers team history.

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