Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were seconds away from potentially forcing overtime against the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Divisional Round, hoping to complete one of the most improbable postseason comebacks in NFL history -- the biggest since Brady overcame a 28-3 halftime deficit against the Atlanta Falcons as quarterback of the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI. But it was not to be, with the Rams doing just enough to survive and advance, and in explosive fashion, thanks to the efforts of Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Cooper Kupp.
Things got wild after the Rams mounted a 27-3 lead with halftime approaching, which is when Brady and his offense came alive with tremendous help from their defense. Fast forward to the back end of the fourth quarter, and after stopping the Bucs to force a fourth-and-1 before seeing running back Leonard Fournette deliver the game-tying rushing touchdown on a nine-yard run with only 42 seconds remaining in regulation, Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles chose violence.
And it backfired.
Head coach Bruce Arians defended Bowles' call, but what he didn't defend, however, were his players.
"Some guys didn't blitz," Arians said, via the team's official website. "I don't know if they didn't get the call but it was an all-out blitz," Arians said. "We should have gotten a ton of pressure."
Bowles called a Cover 0 blitz to send the house at Stafford, who punished him for the decision by airing out a 44-yard bomb to a streaking Kupp -- having streaked his way downfield to haul in the catch. The catch put the Rams in position to kick the game-winning field goal, and so they did, surviving one of the worst meltdowns ever and stamping their ticket to the NFC Championship against the San Francisco 49ers.
As for why the Buccaneers opted to send a jailbreak blitz instead of trying to cover Kupp, who had already amassed 144 receiving yards on eight catches with a touchdown before that play, Arians and Bowles risked it for the biscuit and got toasted and buttered for their going all-in on sacking Stafford with the game on the line.
Here's a technical view of what happened on that play:
For his part, Stafford says he knew the Bucs were going to send the house at him.
"I felt it after the snap," he told media after the game of the blitz call. "Kind of recognized it was going to be an all-out pressure and was able to put it to a good spot. And Coop made a great catch."
And, with that, the Rams head home with the hopes of playing two consecutive games at SoFi Stadium en route to lifting a Lombardi Trophy, but they'll have their work cut out for them yet again against a 49ers team they've already faced twice this season, suffering losses both times -- including a Week 18 collapse that kicked the door open for the 49ers to enter the postseason. After nearly collapsing in