Photos from the Buccaneers vs. Rams game at the Edward Jones Dome.
Game Ball:** After the game, rookie QB Jameis Winston took the blame for the Buccaneers' loss, saying he didn't play well enough in the first half to put his team in position to win. Of course, a surprisingly porous Tampa Bay defense allowed the Bucs to fall well behind on the scoreboard; otherwise, the impressive performance by Winston in the second half might have been enough for a comeback victory. Winston set career highs in completions (29), attempts (50) and yards (363) and directed a 98-yard drive in the fourth quarter that tied the longest in team history. Once he developed a hot hand, Winston kept the Bucs moving throughout the fourth quarter. His rush to take the blame despite those strong numbers is another reason he deserves accolades after what was otherwise a very tough loss.
WATCH: BUCS VS. RAMS HIGHLIGHTS
Play of the Game: The Buccaneers' defense mostly contained star rookie RB Todd Gurley, which should have been the key component in a stifling effort given that the Rams brought the NFL's 32nd-ranked passing attack into the evening. However, QB Case Keenum completed 14 of his 17 passes, none of them bigger than a 60-yard touchdown strike to WR Kenny Britt late in the first quarter. Tampa Bay's defense has allowed the fewest 20+-yard plays in the NFL this year, but the secondary uncharacteristically allowed Britt to get deep open and Keenum didn't miss. The Bucs didn't get back to within one score of the Rams until it was too late in the game's final minutes.
Turning Point:** Even after Britt's score, the Buccaneers had a chance to make it a close game heading into halftime. Pinned at their own four by one of Johnny Hekker's many incredible punts on the evening, the Bucs drove into Rams territory on several strong Doug Martin runs and a 19-yard catch by WR Mike Evans. After getting a first down at the St. Louis 32 on a 13-yard run by Charles Sims, the Bucs faced a third-and-six and Winston scrambled out of trouble and headed for the sticks. The ball was spotted a few feet short of the first down, much to Winston's obvious chagrin, and the Bucs chose to go for it on fourth-and-one. A Martin run was a good choice given how successful most of his plays were on the evening, but in this case DT Aaron Donald burst through the line and dropped him for a loss of two. The Rams took the ensuing possession 75 yards for a touchdown, and instead of a possible 14-10 game it was suddenly 21-3 at halftime.
It Was Over When: Technically it was over when the Bucs' onside kick attempt with 1:33 to play failed, following an Austin Seferian-Jenkins touchdown that made it a one-score game. However, given that onside kicks are such a low-percentage play, the real killing blow was an interception by Trumaine Johnson with five minutes to play. The Bucs had driven to the Rams' 39 before that turnover, and they would subsequently get the ball back and score one more time. Their chances of scoring twice in the final five minutes were effectively ended by that turnover.