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Rams outlast Tom Brady, Buccaneers to prove they are NFC contenders

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Goff, Woods connect for opening drive TD (0:28)

Jared Goff buys time in the pocket, moves to his right and finds Robert Woods for a Rams touchdown. (0:28)

The Los Angeles Rams dismantled the NFC West-leading Seattle Seahawks 23-16 in Week 11. Now, a week later, they outlasted Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-24 at Raymond James Stadium on Monday Night Football.

With the win, the Rams improve to 7-3, take over first place in the NFC West and make a statement: It’s time they be considered among front-runners to win the division and the conference.

However, their path to a title won’t be easy.

The Rams' remaining strength of schedule ranks as the third most difficult in the NFL according to ESPN analytics, and they must still play the bulk of their division schedule -- including two games against the Arizona Cardinals, a rematch against the Seahawks in Seattle and at home Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, who they lost to 24-16 in Week 6.

QB performance: Against a defense that entered Monday ranked third in efficiency, Jared Goff completed 39 of 51 passes for 376 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions. He reestablished his connection with go-to targets Cooper Kupp, who caught 11 passes for 145 yards, and Robert Woods, who caught 12 passes for 130 yards. Goff received little help on the ground, with the Rams managing 39 rushing yards against the league’s second-ranked run defense. But Goff’s performance wasn’t without fault, as he struggled at times to manage the play clock and was picked off twice to bring his season total to nine interceptions.

Promising trend I: Defense. The Rams entered Monday ranked second in defensive efficiency and allowing an average of only 18.7 points per game. They held the Buccaneers to 251 total yards and 42 rushing yards. Before the game, Rams coach Sean McVay called Brady and his numerous weapons a “nightmare,” but the Rams’ rush kept the pressure on Brady, and the secondary blanketed his receivers. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey managed Mike Evans, while Darious Williams stayed on Antonio Brown. Rookie Jordan Fuller intercepted Brady twice.

Promising trend II: Rookie contributions. It was a night of career firsts for several Rams rookies. In the second quarter, with the Rams trailing 14-7, wide receiver Van Jefferson -- a second-round pick from Florida -- caught a 7-yard pass for his first career touchdown. In the third quarter, with the game tied at 17, Fuller -- a sixth-round pick from Ohio State who spent three games on injured reserve this season -- picked off Brady for his first career interception, and rookie running back Cam Akers, a second-round pick from Florida State, caught a 4-yard pass to convert the turnover into his first career touchdown, giving the Rams a 24-17 lead. And with 1:49 to play, Fuller intercepted Brady again to seal the win.