Via Sports Talk Florida’s Michelle Sabin
Special to Bucs Report
It was more than just revenge against the Los Angeles Rams, who knocked the Buccaneers out of the playoffs last year. It was Tampa Bay’s first win in four weeks and, as Quarterback Tom Brady said, “It was awesome.”
Fast Start For Defense
After winning the toss and deferring to the second half, the Buccaneers defense got their first shot at the Rams. They forced Quarterback Matt Stafford to throw two incomplete passes, and the 5-yard rush by Darrell Henderson Jr. was not enough to move the chains.
The Buccaneers offense took the field at the Tampa Bay 44-yard line following Jaelon Darden’s 17-yard punt return. The first play was a 3-yard rush up the middle by running back Leonard Fournette, but an incomplete to Mike Evans brought up 3rd and 7. Brady targeted Evans again on a 10-yard pass in triple coverage for the first down. On the next play, Fournette’s 4-yard rush was called back due to a holding penalty. Tampa Bay eventually found themselves 4th and 1 at the 2-yard line, and settled for Ryan Succop’s 20-yard field goal.
On the Rams’ next possession, Stafford threw another incomplete as he attempted a deep pass 30 yards to receiver Van Jefferson. He found Cooper Kupp for a short 2-yard pass and faced 3rd and 8 from their own 27-yard line. Unfortunately, Buccaneers’ linebacker Joe Tryon-Shoyinka jumped offsides and took Stafford down for what would have been a loss of 7 yards. The penalty gave the Rams 5 yards and allowed Stafford to find receiver Allen Robinson for the first down. His next pass was incomplete and, on second down, nose tackle Vita Vea powered through the line sacking Stafford for a loss of 9 yards.
Mowing The Lawn
Head coach Todd Bowles said, “we knew we had to win the line of scrimmage and Vita was a big part of that going into the week.” He added, “we were determined to at least try to get him free and match him up a little bit and he came through for us.”
The Rams were unable to keep the drive alive, and neither team scored for the remainder of the quarter. The Rams kept possession into the second, but the Bucs defense contained them to short 2 and 5-yard plays. That was until, from a no huddle offense, Stafford found Kupp in open coverage for a 69-yard touchdown play.
The Buccaneers managed to find some momentum halfway through the second quarter, but their drive ended with a blocked 51-yard field goal attempt. Fortunately, Succop did kick one through the uprights at the end of the half for a 38-yard field goal.
Things appeared to go from bad to worse in the third quarter, as the Buccaneers allowed the Rams to expand their lead 10-6 with a 26-yard field goal, and then went three and out. After a short rush by Rachaad White and only a 1-yard pass to Breshad Perriman, Brady scrambled out of the pocket ducking under a tackle to throw to Evans. The ball dropped a few feet in front of him and it was time to punt from the 30-yard line.
However, on fourth down, an offensive holding penalty required the Bucs to repeat the down from the 20-yard line. The problems continued as a false start on linebacker Anthony Nelson forced Camarda to kick a third time and from the Tampa Bay 15-yard line. After being backed up and forced to repeat kicks, Camarda punted the ball an impressive 74 yards down to the 11-yard line and tied the franchise record for longest punt.
Head coach Todd Bowles said, “we gave him the game ball. He was huge today. Without him punting that ball and changing the field position we’d probably be in some tough situations.”
The Bucs defense capitalized on the play, and the momentum, holding the Rams inside their own territory.
Unfortunately, Tampa Bay’s offense struggled to move down the field and took a risk on a 4thand 2 at the 45-yard line. The crowd cheered on as the ball snapped, but Aaron Donald sacked Brady for a loss of 8 yards. The ball turned over.
After Henderson’s 3-yard rush, Stafford completed a 34-yard play to Kupp who was wide open down field. The defense answered. William Gholston tackled Henderson on the 10-yard line for no gain, and Rakeem Nunez-Roches sacked Stafford for a loss of 9 yards. They were able to hold the Rams to a 35-yard field goal and 13-6 on the scoreboard.
And so, it all came down to the fourth quarter. The Bucs defense prevented another score, and Succop’s 50-yard field goal narrowed the lead 13-9. After trading possessions, the Buccaneers offense got the ball back with 44 seconds left in the game.
Brady found rookie tight end Cade Otton down the middle for a 28-yard play. A short pass to Fournette, followed by two completed passes to Scotty Miller positioned them on the Rams’ 7-yard line. Brady’s pass to Evans on the 1-yard line was incomplete, but pass interference gave the Buccaneers a first and goal. With 13 seconds left on the clock, Brady completed a 1-yard touchdown pass to Otton and Succop’s extra point was good.
The Buccaneers won 16-13. Brady said, “we needed it. We needed it, and we got it. We fought until the end. Defense played great, [we] made some plays offensively. I know we left a few out there, but it’s a tough team . . . glad we won.” Miller added, “we needed it, we got it, and the flight to Germany will be a whole lot better now.”
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