From start to finish, the Rams controlled this NFC matchup. Between pressure and sacks by Aaron Donald and Leonard Floyd, to the versatile abilities of Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey, to the Buccaneers offense struggled to put together consistent drives.
A Slow Start
Quarterback Tom Brady, said, “we got off to a slow start, so I think anytime you do that you are fighting behind all day. And I think we played a good team that didn’t turn the ball over. They played well offensively. And we didn’t make enough plays on offense early to take control of anything.”
The Buccaneers went three and out for the first two possessions. On their third attempt, running back Leonard Fournette was able to break tackles for a first down. However, Tampa Bay was unable to convert on third down and gave up the drive. The first quarter ended with 0-0 on the board.
At the start of the second quarter, Matthew Stafford completed a 6-yard touchdown pass to tight end Tyler Higbee. It took the Buccaneers quite a while, but they answered on a 15 play, 76-yard drive that took 8:19. Brady handed the ball off to receiver Chris Godwin for the 2-yard touchdown. However, the Rams responded with a touchdown pass to receiver Cooper Kupp. Against the Buccaneers defense, Kupp had 96 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns.
Defensively, the Buccaneers were left exposed in the depleted secondary due to several injuries this season. Cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting suffered an elbow dislocation in week one against the Cowboys, and Carlton Davis has been listed on the Bucs injury report. Davis saw playtime against the Rams, but back up corners Jamal Dean and Ross Cockrell have had to fill in.
In the second quarter, things went from bad to worse when Dean went down with a leg injury. He was unable to return to the game, and the Bucs were forced to put in backup Dee Delaney. Stafford and his Rams offense took advantage with deep, wide open passes down field.
However, for the Buccaneers offense, with every step forward they took two back. With less than a minute in the half, Brady launched a 20-yard pass to Chris Godwin that resulted in a no-play due to pass interference by Rob Gronkowski. As Gronkowski ran through his route, his hand extended onto Jalen Ramsey and drew the call. The action had no bearing on Godwin’s play itself, but pushed Tampa Bay back into a 1st and 20.
The Buccaneers seemed to gain back momentum with a 32-yard play by running back Giovani Bernard and 14-yard catch by Godwin. However, Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald broke through the pocket and forced Brady to forward fumble the ball. The ball fell into Bernard’s hands, and he ran it into field goal range.
Unfortunately, the ball was marked back at the spot of the fumble. According to the rule, when the game is inside the two minute mark, only the player who forward fumbles can advance the ball. As a result, the Buccaneers faced a 55-yard field goal attempt by Ryan Succop. The kick was no good.
From Bad to Worse
It only got worse for Tampa Bay in the second half. The Rams scored in under a minute when Stafford launched a deep pass to DeSean Jackson at the start of the third quarter. The 75-yard touchdown play gave the Rams a 21-7 lead.
Brady responded with a 75-yard touchdown drive with 9 plays in 4:05. Tight end Cameron Brate had a 17-yard play to the 1 yard line, and Brady punched it in with a 1-yard rushing touchdown. The Buccaneers only other touchdown of the game came at the end of the fourth quarter. Brady threw a short middle pass to Bernard who flipped into the end zone. Bernard suffered an apparent knee injury on the play.
The Buccaneers were already missing several starters on offense, defense and special teams due to injuries or covid-19 protocols at the start of the game. They continued to face players going down with injuries during the game, Gronkowski included. He appeared to be playing through a possible injury after taking a hit on the ribs earlier in the game. Gronkowski was taken into the locker room for xrays, which were negative.
Even Arians received his own tackle on the side lines. Running back Giovani Bernard was shoved out of bounds and took down Arians on the way out. Asked after the game if he was ok, Arians said “Yah, I’m tough as shit.”
Some believed this week 3 matchup would be the measuring stick for both teams. It was certainly a tough test for the Buccaneers, but it in no way should define their abilities or predict future outcomes.
And while the Buccaneers have a lot to learn from this loss, as Rocky Balboa famously said, “it’s not about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” After the game, Arians explained the team will make the necessary corrections and said, “we’ll bounce back next week.”
The Buccaneers take on the New England Patriots on October 3, where Tom Brady will return to face his former team and head coach Bill Belichick.
The video used in this story was provided by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Youtube Channel.
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