Few N.F.L. quarterbacks were better than Tom Brady at getting the ball out quickly this season. In the Buccaneers’ wild-card win over the Eagles, Brady took 2.17 seconds on average to release the ball, which is the fastest mark recorded by any quarterback this season, according to N.F.L. Next Gen Stats.
Operating on quick, short passes allowed the Buccaneers’ offense to thrive against an Eagles defense that was effective in the regular season at limiting big plays. That offensive approach could also have been a product of injuries to some of Tampa Bay’s deep-threat playmakers, including receiver Chris Godwin, who tore an anterior cruciate ligament in late December.
Protection up front also became a concern as two of Tampa Bay’s offensive linemen — tackle Tristan Wirfs and center Ryan Jensen — both injured an ankle in the game, and Philadelphia sacked Brady four times. Wirfs and Jensen are listed as questionable for Sunday’s divisional round game, though Jensen seems likely to play.
The Buccaneers will face a Rams defense that can get to opposing quarterbacks, with the dynamic pass rusher Von Miller flying off the edge and the reigning defensive player of the year, Aaron Donald, lurking in the interior. The pair helped Los Angeles finish the regular season with 50 sacks, ranked third, despite being middle of the pack in quarterback pressures.
In their only meeting this season, in Week 3, Brady was sacked three times in the Buccaneers’ 34-24 loss.
Tampa Bay Coach Bruce Arians told reporters this week that Brady’s ability to get the ball out under pressure helps against a defense that is so good at tagging the quarterback, but the Buccaneers can’t simply rely on the short passing game.
“You still have to take some shots down the field,” Arians said. “Everything is not going to be dink and dunk.”