A day after his team discombobulated a third-year quarterback playing in his first playoff game, Rams coach Sean McVay and his staff turned their attention to neutralizing the most successful quarterback in NFL history.
Seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady is not as mobile as the Cardinals’ Kyler Murray, but the 22nd-year pro presents myriad problems because of his talent, savvy and playoff experience.
All of those will be factors when the Rams play the defending Super Bowl-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in an NFC divisional-round game on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.
“He recognizes exactly what’s going on,” McVay said of Brady during a videoconference with reporters on Tuesday, “and so I think the best way is try and influence and affect, move him off his spot, be able to win with your rushes.
“Easier said than done. It’s why he’s the most successful quarterback of all time.”
Brady, 44, finished the season ranked first in the NFL in passing yardage and touchdown passes. He completed nearly 68% of his attempts for 5,316 yards and 43 touchdowns, with 12 interceptions.
After their 34-11 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night, several Rams said they respect Brady, who is 35-11 in postseason starts, but they are ready for the challenge.
“Tom sees the whole field, and we all know about Tom in the playoffs,” outside linebacker Von Miller said. “He’s incredible, man. We have to play our best ball to have a chance.”
McVay has faced Brady three times. In Super Bowl LIII at the end of the 2018 season, Brady completed 21 of 35 passes for 262 yards, with an interception, in the New England Patriots’ 13-3 victory over the Rams that gave Brady his sixth Super Bowl title.
But the Rams have not lost to Brady since he signed with the Buccaneers last season. In a 27-24 loss to the Rams in November 2020, Brady completed 26 of 48 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns, with two interceptions. On Sept. 26 at SoFi Stadium, Brady completed 41 of 55 passes for 432 yards and a touchdown in a 34-24 defeat. He was sacked three times.
But Brady is at his best in the playoffs. Last season he helped the Buccaneers become the first team in NFL history to win a Super Bowl in its home stadium.
The star-studded Rams want to repeat the feat.
Brady opened this season’s playoffs Sunday by completing 29 of 37 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-15 wild-card victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. He was sacked four times.
The Rams entered the playoffs with 50 sacks, which ranked third in the NFL, and then sacked Murray twice on Sunday. Lineman Aaron Donald has a team-best 13 sacks. Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd has 9½, Miller six.
Since they played Monday night, the Rams have a short week to prepare for the Buccaneers. Players were off Tuesday. The Rams will have a walk-through on Wednesday and practice Thursday and Friday before departing for Tampa on Saturday.
For a team that endured a coronavirus outbreak and played a game against the Seattle Seahawks that was moved from Sunday to Tuesday, a short week is nothing to be concerned about, McVay said.
“Normal is unnormal this year,” he said. “We really haven’t had much normalcy over the last six, seven weeks.”
Left tackle Andrew Whitworth will continue to be evaluated for knee and ankle injuries while cornerback David Long Jr., who returned an interception for a touchdown Monday, is being evaluated for a knee injury, McVay said. Linebacker Ernest Jones and running back Darrell Henderson, who have been on injured reserve, could return to practice this week, opening a 21-day window for their possible return to the roster, McVay said. … The Minnesota Vikings requested permission to speak with defensive coordinator Raheem Morris to interview for their head coach position, a person with knowledge of the situation said. Offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell received requests from the Vikings, Denver Broncos and Houston Texans, and running backs coach Thomas Brown from the Miami Dolphins, the person said.