Tom Brady, Bucs visit Rams in battle of unbeatens

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be without dynamic receiver Antonio Brown when they face the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium on Sunday in a rematch from last season.

The Rams (2-0) defeated the Buccaneers 27-24 in Tampa Bay last year, Sean McVay’s first win against Tom Brady as a head coach.

However, the Brady-led Bucs went on to win the Super Bowl while the Rams lost on the road to the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round of the playoffs.

The Bucs (2-0) placed Brown on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Wednesday, making it likely he will miss Sunday’s game in L.A. Brown is the third Tampa Bay player placed on the COVID list this week, joining linebacker Kevin Minter and practice squad receiver Travis Jonsen.

Because he’s vaccinated, Brown is eligible to return to the active roster with two negative COVID-19 tests, 24 hours apart, as long as he’s asymptomatic.

Edge rusher Jason Pierre-Paul (hand/shoulder) and kick returner Jaydon Mickens (abdomen) did not practice on Wednesday for the Bucs. With Brown and Mickens possibly unavailable, Tampa Bay rookie Jaelon Darden could get some meaningful snaps on Sunday.

For the Rams, edge rusher Leonard Floyd (ankle) and running back Darrell Henderson Jr. (ribs) did not practice on Wednesday.

Also, McVay missed practice with a stomach bug. According to the team, McVay tested negative for COVID-19.

The Rams lead the all-time series 17-9 (including playoffs) and have won six of the past seven games. However, the Bucs won the last game played in L.A., taking home a 55-40 victory on Sept. 29, 2019 — a game in which quarterback Jared Goff threw for 517 yards but turned it over four times.

Goff, of course, is no longer on the roster after a trade to the Detroit Lions during the offseason. His replacement, Matthew Stafford has completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for 599 yards, with five touchdowns and just one interception.

“They’re probably pushing it down the field a bit more,” Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians said, when asked about the difference in L.A.’s offense with Stafford under center. “The rest of it looks just like Sean’s offense. There’s some balls that go way down the field with his arm off play-action that we have to be ready for.”

Brady has completed 65.1 percent of his passes for 655 passing yards, with nine touchdowns and just two interceptions through two games. The Bucs average a league-leading 39.5 points a contest.

Brady last played a game in Los Angeles during the 1998 Rose Bowl as a backup quarterback for the University of Michigan.

“I’m scared to death,” joked Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris when asked about going up against Brady. “No, Tom is the ultimate competitor. He’s one of those quarterbacks where you can say what you want to say but you know he’s coming, when he’s on the opposing team.”

The game also features two of the top defensive players in the NFL in Los Angeles defensive lineman Aaron Donald and Tampa Bay linebacker Lavonte David.

Donald is 1 ½ sacks away from surpassing Leonard Little’s 87.5 sacks and becoming the team’s official all-time sacks leader. Through 112 games, Aaron Donald currently has 86.5 sacks.

Since the start of the 2014 season, Donald leads the league in tackles for loss, notching 133, including 14 tackles for loss during the 2020 regular season.

The All-Pro David has 59 tackles (8.4 per game) and 11 tackles for loss in seven career games against the Rams.

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