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NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Buccaneers vs. Rams recap: Another poor primetime display ends in 27-24 loss

Tampa Bay once again put on a poor display in primetime, losing 27-24 at home to the Los Angeles Rams.

After a dominant victory over the Panthers in Week 10, the Buccaneers got an extra day to prepare for their Week 11 matchup, a Monday Night Football showdown against the Los Angeles Rams at Raymond James Stadium.

Tampa Bay came into the game at 7-3, one-half game better than 6-3 Los Angeles. The two teams entered as the NFC’s No. 5 and 6 seeds, respectively, adding to the implications of the game. The Bucs were hoping to shake off their primetime demons, something the arrival of Tom Brady hasn’t been able to accomplish to this point. With a Thursday night loss to the Bears in Week 5, an escape job against the Giants on Monday Night Football in Week 8 and a disastrous Sunday Night Football loss to the Saints in Week 9, the Bucs needed Week 11 to be their redemption. However, with Ali Marpet still in concussion protocol and unavailable for a third straight game, it was never going to be easy.

The Rams started Week 11 as the NFC West leaders, but with the Seahawks winning on Thursday night, Sean McVay’s team needed a win at Ray Jay to reclaim the division’s top spot. Los Angeles had split its last four games prior to Monday night, but with impact players all over the field on both sides off the ball, there was reason to like them in this game. Not to mention, the Rams were surely looking to avenge last season’s 55-40 home loss to the Bucs.

Tampa Bay was 4.5-point favorites over Los Angeles and was given a 65.5% chance to win by ESPN’s FPI. But still, with those primetime struggles looming large, it had to be hard for Buccaneer fans to feel comfortable about this contest.

The frustrating primetime Bucs showed up once again on this night, playing decently well in the first half before falling behind 17-14 right before the break. The second half was a disaster for Brady and the offense, but they still managed to tie the game at 24 with 3:53 to go. But from there, the Rams quickly moved down the field and set up former Buc Matt Gay for a game-winning 40-yard field goal. There was still 2:36 for Tampa Bay to work with, but another bad Brady interception—his second of the night—killed any chance of a game-winning drive. The Bucs lost 27-24, falling to 7-4 ahead of a meeting with the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs next week.

Game Recap

The Rams won the coin toss and elected to defer, giving the ball to Tom Brady and the Buccaneer offense to open the game. Starting from the 25, Ronald Jones II took his first handoff of the night and was stopped for no gain. But even worse, Donovan Smith stayed down on the field and had to be helped off. Josh Wells replaced him on 2nd & 10, and Brady found Antonio Brown for a gain of seven to bring up a 3rd & 3. The two linked up again on third down, with Brady somehow fitting a throw in between two defenders for the first down. Two short runs by Jones brought up another third down—a 3rd & 7—but the Bucs couldn’t convert that one. Brady made a bad throw that fell incomplete, which led to a Bradley Pinion punt. His 59-yarder went for a touchback, giving Los Angeles its first possession at the 20.

Jared Goff opened the night with a five-yard pass to Cooper Kupp before a four-yard run by Darrell Henderson brought up 3rd & 1, which the Rams converted with a six-yard pass to Gerald Everett. From there, the rest of the drive was as smooth as possible. Kupp was the key—the only one, really—as he caught passes for eight, five and 37 yards to get the ball inside Tampa Bay’s 15-yard line.

After a one-play break for Kupp, he came back in for his fifth catch of the drive, which brought up a 3rd & 2 at the 4. The Bucs didn’t even make the Rams work for the conversion, though, with Devin White getting called for a neutral-zone infraction to bring up a fresh set of downs. A tackle for loss by Jordan Whitehead and an incomplete pass by Goff brought up another third down, but the defense failed to get off the field once again. Goff found Robert Woods for a four-yard touchdown, capping off a 13-play, 80-yard drive that took 7:52.

Donovan Smith returned to the field on the Bucs’ next drive, but that drive started off on the wrong note. A drop by Jones and a low throw by Brady on second down brought up a 3rd & 10, but a pass interference call on Jalen Ramsey on third down moved the chains for Tampa Bay. Chris Godwin caught a six-yard pass on the next first down before yet another short run by Jones brought up 3rd & 2, then the Bucs converted again, with Brady finding Godwin for a gain of seven to the Los Angeles 40. Jones picked up six yards on his next carry, finding space off the edge for the first time on the night. Running play-action on 2nd & 4, Brady connected with Rob Gronkowski for a 16-yard gain to the Rams’ 18.

In the red zone for the first time in the game, Jones picked up another five yards to bring up the end of the first quarter. Thanks to their clock-killing first drive, the Rams held a 7-0 lead after one quarter.

Starting the second quarter with a 2nd & 4 at the Rams’ 13, Evans caught a four-yard pass to bring up third down. On the next play, Evans caught a short pass and dragged two defenders the rest of the way to find the end zone. With Ryan Succop’s PAT, the Bucs tied the game at 7-7 after a 10-play, 75-yard drive.

Lavonte David started the Rams’ next drive with a tackle for loss, thanks in part to Jason Pierre-Paul slowing Woods down. Josh Reynolds caught a six-yard pass on the next play before Woods caught another on third down, but Carlton Davis forced him out of bounds short of the sticks. That led to a Johnny Hekker punt, which went for 43 yards to the 24-yard line before Kenjon Barner returned it eight yards to the 32. That gave Brady and the offense decent field position with a chance to take the lead for the first time in the game.

Leonard Fournette dropped a pass on the first play of the Bucs’ next drive, then Godwin picked up four yards with a catch to set up a 3rd & 6. Brady converted with a seven-yard pass to Cameron Brate, extending the drive and continuing to look settled in. Los Angeles forced a 3rd & 9 with some tight defense after that, but Brate came through again with a nine-yard catch for another first-down. A few plays later, another pass interference call—this one on Jordan Fuller—gave Tampa Bay another 25 yards and a first down at the Rams’ 20.

In the red zone for the second time, Brady went back to Evans, who fought through Ramsey’s coverage for an 18-yard gain. On the next play, Fournette punched it in to give the Bucs their first lead of the night. With Succop’s PAT, the lead was 14-7 after a 10-play, 68-yard drive.

The Rams found more success on their next drive, with Kupp bringing in another pass before a 19-yard completion from Goff to Woods. Two plays later, a Sean Murphy-Bunting missed tackle turned into a 24-yard gain for Kupp to the Bucs’ 18. An incompletion and a six-yard pass to Kupp brought up a 3rd & 4, but another neutral-zone infraction—this one on Shaquil Barrett—gave the Rams another first down at the Tampa Bay 7. On the next play, Goff found Van Jefferson for a touchdown. Matt Gay, the former Buc, connected on his PAT to tie the game at 14 with 4:31 left in the half.

Tampa Bay’s offense got moving on its next drive with passes of 12, four and seven yards from Brady to Brown. That got the ball to the midfield logo at the two-minute warning, with the Bucs still having all three of their timeouts. After the break, the offense stalled. Two incompletions with a one-yard pass mixed in spelled the end of the drive, which led to a 32-yard punt by Pinion that was caught at the 19-yard line.

With a chance to take the lead late in the half and then potentially double up coming out of the locker room, the Rams started at their 19 with one minute and two timeouts to work with. A couple of quick throws got Los Angeles a first down to the 33, then an incomplete pass and an eight-yard completion to Malcolm Brown led the Rams to call a timeout with 25 seconds to go and the ball at the 41. A first-down catch by Everett on the next play led to the final timeout of the half with 19 seconds left and the ball at Los Angeles’ 45.

It seemed like it wouldn’t be easy for the Rams to get in scoring position from there, but it didn’t matter. A well-designed screen play to Woods then led to a huge 35-yard gain, and the offense got to the line in time to clock the ball with one second left. And of course, Matt Gay nailed the 38-yard field goal to give the visitors a 17-14 halftime lead. That was significant not only because it gave Los Angeles a chance to make it a two-possession game out of halftime but also because the Rams were 31-0 all-time under Sean McVay.

The Rams started the second half from their own 25, with Everett getting dropped for a loss by David on first down. Then, after Goff completed a pass to Woods for a first down on the drive’s second play, momentum swung on the third play of the half. Goff threw a bad pass and Jason Pierre-Paul made him pay for it, picking it off for his second interception in as many weeks. He returned it to the 22, setting Tampa Bay’s offense up to tie the game and potentially take the lead.

The Bucs offense couldn’t fully take advantage of the turnover, putting together a stinker of a drive. Jones ran for two yards on first down, Brady threw a pass that took Gronkowski out of bounds on second and Fournette dropped a pass on 3rd & 8. That meant settling for a field goal, but Succop’s 38-yarder at least evened the game at 17-17 and took away the Rams’ shot at making it a two-score game.

Los Angeles tried to go to the ground to start its next drive, but Tampa Bay’s run defense continued to stand tall. A six-yard pass from Goff to Woods on second down brought up 3rd & 4, and yet again, the Rams converted. A 16-yard pass to Woods on the next play and an 11-yard run by Cam Akers really got the drive going, and it didn’t take long for things to move deep into Tampa Bay territory. But on a 3rd & 1 at the Bucs’ 25, Ndamukong Suh broke through to drop Akers for a loss. That led to a 44-yard field goal attempt by Gay, which went wide and kept the game tied at 17.

After the missed field goal, the Bucs started their second drive of the second half at their own 34. Brady found Brown on a quick throw that gained 10 yards to start the drive, but a bad interception by Brady on the next play gave the ball right back to Los Angeles. Fuller came up with the easy pick and returned it to the Tampa Bay 37.

The Buccaneer pass defense continued to struggle after Brady’s interception. Back-to-back 18-yard passes to Everett and Reynolds got the ball down to the 4-yard line before Goff found Akers for a score two plays later. With Gay’s PAT, the Rams went up 24-17 with 5:39 left in the third quarter.

Tampa Bay’s next drive started at its 25 and ended at the 27, with a quick three-and-out giving the ball right back to Goff and the Los Angeles offense. A 54-yard net on Pinion’s punt set the Rams up at their own 20 with 4:41 left in the third quarter.

On the ensuing possession, the Buccaneer defense continued to get no pressure on Goff and it continued to hurt them. On 3rd & 5, he found Kupp for a 17-yard gain. But on the next third-down try for the Rams, this one at their own 47, Ross Cockrell—in for a sidelined Jamel Dean—dropped Woods for a loss of three to force a Hekker punt. After a 47-yard punt and a four-yard return, Tampa Bay started its next series at the 13-yard line.

With a chance to drive down the field and tie the game, the Bucs once again went three-and-out. Brady was sacked on second down as Smith was beaten, then he was hit as he threw on third down after Cappa got blown up. The Rams challenged the third-down play, saying Brady fumbled. After review, the call on the field—an incomplete pass—stood, leading to another Pinion punt. A 52-yarder to Los Angeles’ 42 brought us to the end of the third quarter with the Rams leading 24-17.

The fourth quarter began with news that Jamel Dean was ruled out for the remainder of the game, meaning Cockrell would remain in the game in his place. The Rams went to the ground to start their next drive, with Akers getting four on first down before a second-down holding penalty set them back. An incomplete pass turned that into a 3rd & 17, and Pierre-Paul put a stop to the drive by knocking a pass down at the line. That forced another Hekker punt, which went out of bounds at Tampa Bay’s 20.

A nine-yard pass to Gronkowski and a five-yard pickup by Jones got a first down to start the drive for the Bucs, but there was nothing going on from there. Two incomplete passes and a pass short of the sticks led to yet another punt, putting the pressure on Tampa Bay’s defense yet again.

The Rams started their next drive at the 12, already leading 24-17 with 11:51 left. Murphy-Bunting got to Woods in the backfield for a loss of six on first down before another tackle for loss by David brought up 3rd & 16 from the 6. Brown nearly converted on the ground, but was stopped just short. That led to a Hekker punt and another shot for the Bucs to tie the game.

Of course, with the way the Buccaneer offense was going, it didn’t really feel like another shot to tie the game. After one first down, the Bucs eventually faced a 4th & 1 at the Rams’ 43. Instead of running a quarterback sneak with a quarterback who has run sneaks effectively for 20 years, the call was a rollout pass near the sideline. Godwin stumbled and the pass fell incomplete, giving the ball back to the visitors.

After another miss by the offense, the Tampa Bay defense stepped up again. Jordan Whitehead intercepted a Goff pass and got the ball back to the offense in plus-territory at the 44-yard line.

Brady found Godwin for a first down to the 34, then Fournette ran three straight times for another first down at the 23. A 10-yard pass from Brady to Evans then set up a 13-yard score, with Brady finding Godwin to bring Tampa Bay within one. Succop connected on his PAT, tying the game at 24-24 with 3:53 left in regulation.

The Rams started their next drive with a big play, as Goff found Woods for a gain of 23 near midfield. And the big plays kept coming. After an incompletion, Goff hit Woods and Kupp on back-to-back plays, with the second ending in a first down at Tampa Bay’s 24. After a short run and an incomplete pass, Los Angeles faced a 3rd & 8 with 2:46 left. McVay, somewhat surprisingly, called a run with Brown, but it went nowhere. The Bucs called their second timeout with 2:40 left. And who else would you expect to haunt the Bucs in this one? Matt Gay came out to connect on a 40-yard field goal to give the Rams a 27-24 lead with 2:36 to go.

Starting from the 19 with 2:32 left and one timeout (plus the two-minute warning), Brady opened the drive with two straight completions. He found Brate for a gain of seven and Godwin for a pickup of 12 to bring us to the two-minute warning with the ball at the 38. Coming out of the break, things quickly went south for Tampa Bay. Brady missed Brown on first down and then threw another easy interception to Fuller to seal the deal.

The Rams were able to kill the clock from there, sending the Buccaneers to yet ANOTHER frustrating primetime defeat.

Quick Notes & Stats

  • The Buccaneer defense allowed just five rushing yards in the first half, but that doesn’t tell much of the story, as Jared Goff finished the first two quarters 21-of-25 for 212 yards and two touchdowns. Tampa Bay couldn’t get any pressure on him and he was making quick throws all over the field. The Bucs’ only quarterback hit of the first half came from William Gholston.
  • For the game, the Bucs only hit Goff three times and failed to sack him. That led to a 39-of-51, 376-yard day that included three touchdown passes, but also two picks.
  • Cooper Kupp had a monster first half, catching nine passes for 109 yards. He ended the game with 145 yards on 11 catches.
  • Robert Woods was just as integral as Kupp in this one, catching 12 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown.
  • Tampa Bay’s offensive line, even without Ali Marpet, held up against Los Angeles’ tough pass rush in the first half. The Rams had no sacks and just one quarterback hit. But in the second half, Brady was finally sacked and hit four times to bring the game total to five.
  • Tom Brady had a forgettable night, completing just 26 of his 48 pass attempts for 216 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
  • The Bucs ran for just 42 yards on the night, while the Rams only put up 37 of their own.
  • Antonio Brown was the Bucs’ leading receiver, hauling in eight passes for 57 yards on a team-high 13 targets.
  • Mike Evans caught five passes for 49 yards and a touchdown, while Chris Godwin brought in seven passes for 53 yards and a touchdown of his own.
  • Third-down efficiency was big for both offenses in the first half. The Rams went 5-of-6, while the Bucs were 6-of-8. It was Tampa Bay’s downfall in the second half, as it ended up finishing 7-of-14.
  • With his interception in the third quarter, Jason Pierre-Paul has two in his last two games.
  • The Bucs were only penalized twice for seven yards in the game, but both calls were big ones—neutral-zone infractions deep in their territory that extended drives. In both instances, Los Angeles found the end zone.
  • With the win, the Rams improved to 32-0 under Sean McVay when leading at halftime.
  • The Bucs were outgained 413-251, with the offense sputtering and spiraling out of control for much of the second half.
  • Lavonte David had three tackles for loss on the night, matching his career-high for a single game.
  • Pierre-Paul had the interception, as well as six tackles (four solo) and another pass defended.
  • William Gholston registered two of the Bucs’ three quarterback hits.

The Buccaneers (7-4) return to Raymond James Stadium next Sunday for a matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs (9-1). Kickoff is set for 4:25 p.m.

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