The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost to the St. Louis Rams on Thursday night in what looked like a blowout early, but was a little closer in the end. Here are the Bucs' winners and losers for the game.
Nine catches for 157 yards including a number of tough catches more than make up for a single drop on a drive that ultimately resulted in a touchdown. Evans was getting open consistently, making some spectacular catches and proving that he's still an outstanding player -- even with the issues he's had catching the ball this year. He also went over 1,000 yards on the season, only the fourth Bucs receiver ever to put up 1,000 receiving yards in consecutive seasons. The fact that he didn't score a touchdown seemed to be down to the team's baffling decision not to give him a single target in the red zone.
Winston was flustered and inaccurate in the first half, as the pressure got to him. He saw ghosts on several snaps, rushed his mechanics even when he wasn't pressured and generally looked like his week one self, though he at least didn't make any poor decisions. But he turned that around in the second half, with a four-play, 98-yard drive as a consistent highlight. Completing 29 of 50 passes for 363 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, he set career-highs for completions, attempts and yards and broke the Bucs rookie record for touchdown passes in a season with 20. This was a tough game where Winston had to constantly adjust both to offensive line breakdowns, and to the Rams' blitz schemes. In all, he did a good job for a rookie quarterback.
The St. Louis Rams came in with a mission: to stop the run and force the Bucs to be one-dimensional. They succeeded in the second, but not because they defended the run well. Martin was consistently getting yards and making people miss, despite Aaron Donald making the blocking scheme look silly at times. He ended the game with 91 yards on 18 carries, disappearing from the game in the fourth quarter because of the team's massive deficit. But Martin once again looked like his rookie self, and this time in prime time. He's going to get paid this offseason.
One negative: he did lose a fumble, though it was officially credited to Jameis Winston as it occurred on a handoff.
The cornerback played nearly the entire game and we didn't see his name called much. That's big, as Banks had clearly fallen out of favor with the coaching staff. The Bucs are going to overhaul the entire secondary this offseason, but there may be some room for Banks yet.
Lovie Smith isn't going to be fired this season, but this was an ugly game for the Bucs head coach. The Buccaneers looked unprepared on a short week, and his defense was disjointed, allowing the Rams to score more points than they had since week one.
Ali Marpet and Logan Mankins
No one in the NFL can stop Aaron Donald, but it's never fun when your guards get manhandled consistently. Mankins left the game late, missing three snaps.
Nine penalties for 56 yards, including a stupid personal fouls on Austin Seferian-Jenkins and a pair of pre-snap alignment penalties. The referees missed a few calls as usual, but the Bucs looked undisciplined and continue to struggle with the little things.
The Bucs gave the ball away twice, with a Doug Martin fumble and a Jameis Winston interception, and they didn't manage a single takeaway despite a pass hitting Danny Lansanah in the hands. The Bucs have now forced just one takeaway in the past five weeks, which is not how you you play winning defense.
Alterraun Verner and Jude Adjei-Barimah
Alterraun Verner saw no playing time and Jude Adjei-Barimah only played a handful of snaps -- and still managed to give up a 60-yard touchdown to Kenny Britt.