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Buccaneers vs. Rams Recap: Road warriors

After letting a big second-half lead slip away at home last week, Tampa Bay went on the road and took it to the defending NFC champions, putting up a franchise-record 55 points in a 55-40 win.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vLos Angeles Rams Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images

One week after blowing an 18-point halftime lead at home, the Buccaneers hit the road for a tough matchup with the undefeated Los Angeles Rams.

The defending NFC champion Rams came in as a heavy favorite, with Tampa Bay starting a stretch of five straight games away from Raymond James Stadium. Coming off a brutal loss to the Giants, the Bucs headed into Sunday’s game needing to steal yet another road victory to get back to .500.

Los Angeles won the toss and deferred to the second half, so Tampa Bay’s offense took the field and started from its own 40-yard line after the opening kickoff went out of bounds. The Bucs went to the air right away, with Jameis Winston hitting Chris Godwin for a 17-yard gain across midfield. After getting nothing on a Peyton Barber run, Winston found Cameron Brate for another first down.

Two more Barber runs set up 3rd & 3 deep in Rams territory before Winston connected with Godwin again to set up 1st & goal. Two plays later, Barber punched it in and Matt Gay connected on the extra point to give Tampa Bay an early 7-0 lead. Winston finished the drive 3-of-3 for 48 yards, while Godwin caught two of those passes for 35 yards.

The Rams’ opening drive got off to a slow start, with a pass batted away by William Gholston and a couple of penalties on the offensive line. Jared Goff then got a couple of completions under his belt before the Buccaneer defense stepped up. Kevin Minter was credited with a tackle for loss on an end-around by Cooper Kupp, then Jordan Whitehead came through on a blitz to get a hand on Goff’s third-down pass, which fell to the ground for an incompletion. Johnny Hekker’s punt set the Bucs up at their own 10-yard line to start their second drive.

The Bucs picked up right where they left off on their first drive, first with Winston converting another third down with a pass to Mike Evans before finding O.J. Howard for another first down a couple of plays later. The first downs continued to come throughout the drive, with Godwin and Justin Watson both getting involved. However, the drive stalled when Winston was sacked on 3rd & 13. Bradley Pinion’s punt was nearly downed inside the five, but it ended up a touchback.

Tampa Bay’s defense missed an opportunity on the ensuing drive, with another false start on Los Angeles setting up a 3rd & 8. Instead of the third-and-long, it went right back to 3rd & 3 after Devante Bond was called for a neutral zone infraction. On the next play, Goff found Robert Woods for a first down. He then hit Brandin Cooks for a 23-yard gain to the Tampa Bay 34-yard line to send the game into the second quarter with the Bucs leading 7-0.

Early in the second quarter, the Rams faced a big 3rd & 6 in Buccaneer territory. Big-time players make big-time plays in big situations, so of course Shaquil Barrett got to Goff, forcing an errant throw that was intercepted by Jordan Whitehead. The Bucs got another 15 yards after the play on a personal foul call against Robert Woods, setting Winston and the offense up at midfield.

Two plays after a nice screen to Howard, Winston connected with Godwin again, getting 30 yards up to the Rams’ 2-yard line. The Los Angeles defense got Tampa Bay to third down, but Winston found Godwin again, this time for a three-yard touchdown. After Gay’s extra point, the Bucs led 14-0 with 9:57 to go in the second quarter.

The Bucs kept it rolling on the very next drive, with Lavonte David intercepting Goff to get Winston and company back in the red zone right away. His 11th career interception tied him with Jermaine Phillips and Jeremiah Castille for 15th-most in franchise history.

It only took one play to extend the lead, as Winston hit Godwin on a screen for a nine-yard touchdown. With Gay’s PAT, the Tampa Bay lead hit 21-0 with 8:28 left in the first half.

But of course, the Rams weren’t going to go away after a quarter and a half. They got moving on the next drive, with Goff finding Gerald Everett for some nice gains before Todd Gurley found the end zone from 13 yards out to cut the Tampa Bay lead to 21-7. The 75-yard scoring drive lasted eight plays and 2:54.

Momentum stayed with Los Angeles from there, as a 25-yard run by Ronald Jones II to start Tampa Bay’s next drive was negated by an illegal shift penalty. The Bucs eventually had to punt, and then Sean Murphy-Bunting was called for fair-catch interference, giving the Rams possession at midfield. A couple of big plays and a Carl Nassib roughing-the-passer call later, the Rams found the end zone again, with Goff finding Everett for a five-yard score. All of a sudden, a 21-0 game turned into 21-14. Same old, same old.

Except, maybe not? With just over two minutes to go in the first half, the Bucs worked their way down the field. Winston hit Godwin for 14 yards on a 3rd & 7, then Tampa Bay got some help from a roughing the passer call on Michael Brockers. With the ball inside the 30 and only 1:04 to go, the Bucs converted another third down. Winston to Godwin up to the Los Angeles 12.

After a seven-yard pass to Howard, Jones found the end zone from six yards out. Another successful PAT from Gay put the Buccaneer lead at 28-14 with 0:47 left in the half. The 75-yard drive took 11 plays and 2:03.

Unfortunately for the Bucs, their defense could hold the momentum for 47 more seconds. The Rams went 35 yards in six plays to set up a 58-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein that cut the lead to 28-17 heading into the locker room.

Nonetheless, the Bucs put together another great first half. But would they be able to hold onto a double-digit halftime lead this time?

The Rams got the ball to start the second half and quickly got near midfield, thanks mostly to a third-down pass from Goff to Woods. Going no-huddle, the offense got into Tampa Bay territory. The big play was a 24-yarder from Goff to Kupp, the first big play of the day for the Rams’ leading receiver. From there, though, the drive stalled. The Buccaneer defense got off the field, but Zuerlein hit a 46-yard field goal to get the Rams within 28-20 just five minutes into the third quarter. Only... Rakeem Nunez-Roches was called for roughing the snapper, which extended the Los Angeles drive.

The defense did step up, with a Vita Vea pressure on second down and a third-down sack from Gholston. So, Zuerlein came back on and converted a 44-yard field goal to get the game to 28-20 (again).

The Buccaneer offense looked to get a huge spark on the following drive as Jones broke free for a gain of over 50, but two “holding” (???) calls negated it. With completions to Brate and Bobo Wilson, the Bucs picked up a first down anyway. After the drive stalled (and Mike Evans headed to the locker room with an apparent hand injury), Gay came on and nailed a 58-yard field goal — a career-long — to get the Tampa Bay lead back to 31-20.

After the Rams got into Bucs territory again, the defense stepped up in a big way. On 4th & 2 from the 40, Los Angeles went for it and Todd Bowles dialed up the pressure. Kevin Minter blitzed up the middle and pressured Goff, who threw a bad pass that Shaquil Barrett tipped and intercepted.

The Bucs’ ensuing drive saw more movement AND the return of Evans from the locker room. Jones got some more carries and later caught a pass on third down to get the offense inside the red zone to end the third quarter. With 15 minutes to play, Tampa Bay held a 31-20 lead over Los Angeles.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Winston connected with Brate for a 13-yard touchdown to get the Buccaneer lead to 38-20 with 14:55 left.

The Rams, yet again, responded. Thanks to another roughing the passer call and some big throws from Goff, the offense got down the field before Gurley got into the end zone from five yards out to make it 38-27.

After last week, it was fair to wonder if the the Bucs would go conservative to protect the lead. Jones got the ball on the first play of the drive, but the next play showed that things would be different this week. Winston unloaded and went deep, finding Evans for a 67-yard touchdown to put Tampa Bay up 45-27. And No. 13 burnt a few extra seconds before crossing the goal line, then went straight into a LeBron James celebration.

The Rams bounced back yet again, and this time it was even bigger. Another 75-yard drive — this one in eight plays — ended with a 29-yard touchdown pass from Goff to Kupp. On the ensuing kickoff, T.J. Logan hesitated about bringing the ball out of the end zone, brought it out and got stopped inside the Tampa Bay 10. A few plays later, Winston made his first big mistake of the day, throwing a pick to Marcus Peters that was returned 32 yards for a touchdown. The two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful, but the Rams were still within 45-40 with plenty of time left.

The Bucs got the ball back and killed some clock, getting down inside the five before stalling. Gay then converted on another field goal — this one from 21 — to give Tampa Bay a 48-40 lead with 2:35 left in the game.

Los Angeles quickly got near midfield with three straight completions, which brought the game to the two-minute warning. The Bucs got the Rams to 4th & 1 before the right guard jumped early, which caused Carl Nassib to cross the line. The officials missed the call, giving the Rams a first down.

But ball don’t lie. A couple of plays later, Barrett got to Goff again, sacking him and knocking the ball loose. Ndamukong Suh — the former Ram — scooped it up and returned it 37 yards for the game-icing touchdown.

From there, the clock ran out and the Bucs walked away with a 55-40 victory. With the win, they improved to 2-2 on the year, with a 2-0 record on the road. Next week, they’ll head to New Orleans for a matchup with the rival Saints.

Quick Stats

  • Jameis Winston finished the first half 18-of-27 for 203 yards and two touchdowns. He ended up finishing 28-of-41 for 385 yards, four touchdowns and the one interception.
  • Chris Godwin had nine catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns IN THE FIRST HALF. He finished with 12 catches for 172 yards and the two scores.
  • Mike Evans caught four passes for 89 yards and his fourth touchdown of the season.
  • Ronald Jones was Tampa Bay’s leading runner once again, rushing for 70 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.
  • Shaquil Barrett picked up his ninth sack on the season while also picking up the first interception of his career.
  • The Bucs finished with two sacks, eight quarterback hits and six tackles for loss.
  • The defense also came up with nine passes defended on a day where it gave up 518 yards.
  • However, the Rams only totaled 28 yards on the ground.
  • Sunday’s game was the first in NFL history where both teams made field goals of at least 58 yards.
  • The Bucs finished the day +3 in the turnover margin.
  • Tampa Bay’s 55 points was a franchise record.