Rams ready for 'ultimate competitor' as Brady makes LA bow
Los Angeles (AFP) –
The Super Bowl credentials of the Los Angeles Rams face the acid test of a showdown with Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday as the two unbeaten championship contenders clash in California.
The Rams have made a solid start to a season they hope ends with a Super Bowl appearance at their home stadium next February, blasting aside the Chicago Bears before a battling win over the Indianapolis Colts last week.
The arrival of quarterback Matthew Stafford in the close season has breathed new life into the Rams' offense, while the Aaron Donald-led defense finished last year as the best in the league.
Yet all that will count for little on Sunday as Brady and the reigning Super Bowl champions take the field at the SoFi Stadium, brimming with confidence after averaging nearly 40 points a game in wins over Dallas and Atlanta.
The 44-year-old Brady's early season form has even earned talk of a potential MVP-caliber season.
In two games, Brady has amassed 655 passing yards, with nine touchdowns, including five against the Falcons.
"Scared to death," is how Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris jokingly described how he felt about facing Brady, who will be playing in Los Angeles for the first time in his 21-year NFL career.
"Tom is the ultimate competitor. He has the ultimate game," Morris added.
"He's one of the guys that's earned respect in this league, and we got nothing but respect for Tom and what he's been able to do at both places he's been at.
"Tom knows exactly what he wants to do with the ball, and that's the key. He demands it from his other guys around him. He's got that kind of way about him."
Rams quarterback Stafford, who himself has put up decent numbers in the first two games with 599 yards and five touchdowns, believes Brady is playing as well as ever.
"The guy throws it about as good as anybody in the league still," Stafford said. "I mean, coming out of the hand, he throws it great. He's mechanically as sound as anybody. He's on time – great anticipation, ball placement.
"I've got a ton of respect for what he's done in the past and shoot, what he's doing right now. He's playing great football – about as good as I've ever seen him play."
- Unbeaten starts -
The Rams are one of three teams from the powerful NFC West protecting unbeaten records heading into week three.
The Arizona Cardinals will aim to maintain their perfect start to the season on the road against the winless Jacksonville Jaguars, while the San Francisco 49ers host the Green Bay Packers in Sunday's late game.
After a season-opening drubbing against New Orleans, the Packers and quarterback Aaron Rodgers arrive in the Bay Area in better spirits after a 35-17 rout of Detroit on Monday.
Had the off-season turned out differently, Rodgers might well have been wearing a 49ers jersey this weekend.
San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan made a tentative inquiry to Packers coach Matt LaFleur about a Rodgers trade after the quarterback indicated he wanted to leave Lambeau Field.
"It was a very quick conversation - 'No chance, Shanahan,'" 49ers general manager John Lynch said.
LaFleur meanwhile said he harbored "no ill-will" towards Shanahan over San Francisco's interest in Rodgers.
"It is what it is," LaFleur said this week. "Like, I understand. He's trying to do whatever he thinks he needs to do for his football team.
"He's got a responsibility to everybody in that organization, and if there's an opportunity, I don't hold that against him."
© 2021 AFP