- Game Ball: WR Vincent Jackson gave the Buccaneers their only consistent offensive weapon on the day, catching five passes for 98 yards, including grabs of 22 and 30 yards on Tampa Bay's lone touchdown drive of the day.
- Play of the Game: One play after Bucs RB Bobby Rainey fumbled in Tampa Bay territory in a game tied at 7-7, the Rams dialed up a trick play with a reverse from WR Chris Givens to WR Stedman Bailey. Bailey found the left side of the field filled primarily with his own blockers and was able to run all the way to the end zone for a 27-yard score that put St. Louis up for good.
- Turning Point: After kicking a field goal to pull within one point, the Bucs tried to surprise St. Louis with an onside kick but the ball just eluded Tampa Bay's attempts to recover it. Had the Bucs succeeded on that attempt, they would have had an excellent opportunity to take the lead; instead, the Rams drove for a field goal and never looked back.
- It Was Over When: Still down by just one score, the Buccaneers drove to midfield only to have Glennon sacked on a manageable third-and-three, leading to a lost fumble. The Rams turned that into the field goal that made it a two-score game with 3:20 to play.
A one-point lead in the third quarter turned into a 10-point win for the St. Louis Rams on Sunday against the visiting Tampa Bay Buccaneers, for two primary reasons: a ferocious pass rush and an absolute dedication to the ground game on a day in which big plays were scarce.
The Rams prevailed 23-13 at the Edward Jones Dome to improve to 7-8 on the season and send the Buccaneers to 4-11. Tampa Bay finishes its 2013 season next Sunday in New Orleans.
Zac Stacy and the St. Louis rushing attack was the only consistent offensive weapon on Sunday, as Stacy's 104 yards keyed a 129-yard, two-touchdown performance by the Ram runners. Neither team had a play longer than 30 yards during the game, and only six snaps produced a gain of 20 or more yards. The Buccaneers' defense held the Rams to just 3.3 yards per carry, but with Tampa Bay's offense struggling to find a rhythm the home team was happy to grind out a second-half win. DT Gerald McCoy felt the Rams' power rushing attack, even when it wasn't producing big plays, was the difference in the game.
"It wasn't good enough," said McCoy of his team's defensive effort. "Just being honest, defensively we got our butts kicked in the first half. They ran the ball on us at will. They didn't do anything special. They lined up, shifted, got in formation and went. We've just got to be better. They just came straight downhill at us and we just got our butts kicked."
Rian Lindell's second field goal five minutes into the second half pulled the Buccaneers to within 14-13, but the Rams would score the remainder of the game's points on three Greg Zuerlein kicks. Tampa Bay gained only 170 yards of offense on the day, including just 69 in the second half. Led by Robert Quinn's three sacks – he now has 18 on the season – the Rams dropped Glennon a season-high seven times, four of them in the second half.
"They just beat us," said Glennon. "They beat us in the second half. Offensively, we just need to play better and execute better. Again, it comes down to execution, and we needed to do our part and just flat-out play better."
St. Louis came into the game ranked fourth in the NFL in sacks per pass play on defense, and speed rushers like Quinn and Chris Long were able to pin their ears back and come after Glennon after the Buccaneers failed to mount an effective rushing attack for the fourth time in the last five weeks. Bobby Rainey ran the ball 20 times but gained just 37 yards – he did score the game's opening points on a one-yard run in the first quarter – and the Bucs put up just 59 ground yards total, averaging 2.6 yards per pop.
Glennon was able to find number-one receiver Vincent Jackson five times for 98 yards, but that accounted for more than half of the team's total offense on the day. Overall, Glennon once again did a good job of avoiding mistakes, not throwing an interception in 26 attempts despite the intense pressure, but Tampa Bay's passing attack was good for just 3.4 yards per play.
The Rams were playing without their big-play specialist, rookie WR Tavon Austin, a first-round pick out of West Virginia. St. Louis simply plugged in their other rookie receiver and former Mountaineer, Stedman Bailey, who scored on a 27-yard reverse in the second quarter to break a 7-7 tie and also had a 28-yard reception before halftime. Those were the Rams' two longest plays from scrimmage on the afternoon, and the score came one play after a fumble by Rainey.
"That was smart," said DT Gerald McCoy. "They had nothing to lose. They're out of the playoffs like us so they were just going for it all. After a sudden change, you've got to expect either a shot to the end zone or a trick play. We've been trained on that since we got in the league."
As for Bailey's long catch, it was followed by a personal foul call on S Dashon Goldson that gave the Rams a first-and-goal opportunity in the second quarter and a chance to extend their lead to 21-7. However, McCoy forced a fumble by QB Kellen Clemens to keep the Bucs close and, on the Rams' next possession, LB Dekoda Watson forced another fumble by Stacy that set up Lindell's first field goal to make it 14-10 at the half.
"They were driving and they were about to score, and the defense just bowed up," said LB Lavonte David, who recovered Stacy's fumble. "That's what we play this game for, goal-line situations. We just bowed up as a defense and tried to keep the game manageable for our offense. Maybe they could drive down the game and score, make it a tight football game, keep it close."
McCoy finished the game with six tackles and a sack. David had another productive day with 11 tackles, two tackles for loss, a quarterback hit and a fumble recovery. S Keith Tandy, playing in place of the injured Mark Barron, added seven stops and a fumble recovery. Because the Bucs' defense was able to keep St. Louis out of the end zone in the second half, the game remained within reach in the fourth quarter, but the offense couldn't capitalize. In the end, the Bucs held the Rams' offense to just 277 overall yards and 4.6 yards per play.
"We knew we needed a touchdown and we were just going to go about it one play at a time," said Glennon. "We got around the 50 or so, and then it just didn't happen. It was a tough loss but you give them credit; they played a good game."
The Buccaneers scored first, taking their second possession of the game 85 yards for a touchdown. Glennon converted three third downs along the way, including a third-and-10 pass to Jackson that picked up 30 yards to the Rams' three. Three plays later, on third-and-goal from the one, Rainey bounced a handoff out to the right and ran around the edge of the defense for a touchdown.
The Rams fired right back with an extended drive of their own, going 80 yards on 13 plays – none of them longer than nine yards – to set up Stacy's one-yard touchdown dive. The longest gain of the possession, in fact, was a roughing-the-passer penalty on Bucs DE Adrian Clayborn.
In contrast, the Rams' next drive, which came after a fumble by Rainey, took just one play, and it was a big one, an expertly run reverse with WR Chris Givens flipping the ball to WR Stedman Bailey, who found a multitude of blockers to lead him to an easy 27-yard touchdown run.
The Buccaneers got the next two takeaways, killing one scoring opportunity by forcing Clemens to fumble on third-and-goal and then setting up their own field goal drive by stripping the ball from Stacy near midfield. DT Gerald McCoy was credited with the first forced fumble, LB Dekoda Watson with the second. Jackson's 19 and 11-yard catches put Lindell in position for a 35-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.
The Buccaneers had difficulty moving the ball in any manner other than passes to Jackson, gaining just 101 yards by halftime. Jackson had four grabs for 82 yards at that point, but the Bucs' rushing attack had accounted for just 14 yards on 13 carries, with no carry longer than four yards.
The Bucs ran Rainey once up the middle and once around left end to start the game but neither play gained a yard. An offsides penalty made it third-and-five but Glennon was quickly flushed from the pocket and had to throw his first pass away to end the game's first drive.
The Rams' first drive started in similar fashion, with two runs by Stacy gaining a total of three yards, both stopped by LB Lavonte David, the second for a loss of one yard. Clemens was able to complete his third-down pass, but it was a short one over the middle to WR Stedman Bailey and the Bucs' defense swarmed over Bailey to stop the play well short of the sticks.
The Bucs got the game's initial first down on their next possession, as Glennon hit Wright for a six-yard pass on third-and-two, and a helmet-to-helmet hit by LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar cost the Rams 15 more yards. Two plays later, Glennon found Jackson open deep over the middle of the field and hit him for 22 yards tot eh Rams' 33. After another deep-shot attempt to Jackson and a Rainey run for no yards, Glennon got great protection and bought just enough time with a slide to the left to find Jackson deep over the middle again, this time for 30 yards to the Rams' three. Rainey picked up two yards on a first-down carry, but a play-action pass attempt to Wright didn't work. However, Rainey got the Bucs in the end zone on third-and-goal when he bounced his carry out to the right and eventually made it around the edge for the game's first score.
The Rams got to the ball out near their 40 after a kickoff touchback thanks to a roughing-the-passer call on DE Adrian Clayborn, on a play that Clemens didn't even go to the ground. St. Louis faced a third-and-two at the 47 and got a new set of downs on an eight-yard catch by TE Cory Harkey into Buc territory. LB Mason Foster pushed them right back to the midfield strip with a run-blitz on the next play that ended up in a five-yard loss by Stacy, but a short completion and an encroachment call against the Bucs made it third-and-three from the 38. A seven-yard catch by WR Brian Quick kept the drive alive, and Stacy then put up back-to-back runs of seven and six yards. Another five-yard Stacy rumble brought the first quarter to a close with the ball on the Bucs' 13.
Clemens started the second quarter with a precise out pass to Cook for nine yards to the Bucs' four, and two Stacy runs took it in from there to tie the game.
The Bucs converted another third down to start the next drive, with Rainey taking a short pass and slipping just enough out of a tackle to dive past the 30-yard line. On the next play, however, as he tried to fight his way back to the line of scrimmage, Rainey fumbled and the ball was recovered by DE William Hayes at the Bucs' 27.
It took only one play for St. Louis to get it in from there, as Givens and Bailey ran a reverse with Bailey getting the ball going right to left and finding a convoy of blockers that easily led him to the end zone.
The Bucs' next drive went three-and-out, as a four-yard run by Rainey was followed by two attempts to get the ball to Jackson, both of them incomplete. Michael Koenen's punt rolled to a stop at the Rams' 31. Stacy broke off a 19-yard run to get the ball over midfield, but two quick Buc pass-rushes led to a pair of incompletions to make it third-and-10. Clemens had time to throw and eventually went downfield to Bailey for a gain of 28 to Tampa Bay's 19. A pitch to Stacy fooled the edge of the Bucs' defense and Stacy ran around the end down to the four. Stacy got to the one on the next play but David shot through the line to trap him back at the two on second-and-goal. On third-and-goal, the Rams spread out five-wide but Clemens tried to run it in himself and it went badly. It was good for the Bucs, however, as Gerald McCoy got the ball out Clemens' hands and Tandy recovered at the four-yard line.
The Bucs tried to get the ball away from the goal line with a short catch by Lorig and a short run by Rainey, but on third-and-four Glennon was sacked just barely outside of the end zone, leading to a backed-up punt. Koenen got the kick off in front of a fierce rush, and a block-in-the-back penalty managed to push St. Louis back to the Rams' 48. It got even better moments later when a hustling Watson tackled Stacy from behind and popped the ball loose. The ball flew directly into the hands of David for another turnover, this one at Tampa Bay's 47.
Two plays later, Jackson pulled off a downfield fake that got him wide open and Glennon hit him for 19 yards to the Rams' 31. Jackson got another first down two snaps later when he caught a short pass and juked a Rams defender to get to the 19 on an 11-yard gain, bringing on the two-minute warning. A pass interference call on CB Janoris Jenkins made it first-and-goal at the nine but a seven-yard sack of Glennon by LB James Laurinaitis moved it back to the 16. Quinn followed with another sack all the way back to the 25 and the Bucs used a timeout with 15 seconds left in the half. A pass over the middle to Wright got eight yards to set up Rian Lindell's 35-yard field goal attempt, and he hit it as time expired in the half.
The Rams got the ball first to start the second half after a Koenen touchback, and Mason Foster's tackle of RB Benny Cunningham for a two-yard loss set up a quick third-and-eight. David blitzed around the right end and hit Clemens as he threw, forcing an errant throw that fell incomplete, and a punt to follow.
Starting again at their own 36, the Bucs got a quick 11 yards on Rainey's sweep left, the team's best rushing play of the day to that point. Two more successfully Rainey runs made it third-and-inches at the Rams' 44. Glennon dropped back to pass on third down but scrambled when his only read was covered, coming up inches short again. The Bucs elected to go for it on fourth-and-inches and, after getting it on Glennon's power-sneak up the middle, immediately went deep to Jackson. The pass didn't connect, but Jenkins was flagged for pass interference at the Rams' 14. The drive stalled there, however, and the Bucs settled for Lindell's 32-yard field goal to make it a one-point game.
The Bucs tried to get the ball right back with a surprise onside kick, and did end up creating quite a bit of confusion. But the bouncing ball went out of bounds at the Rams' 35 before anyone could corral it. Three plays later, Clemens converted a third-and-three with an 18-yard pass to a wide-open Cook; David's apparent forced fumble at the end of the play was ruled no turnover because Cook was down. The Bucs held there, but the Rams sent out the strong-legged Greg Zuerlein to try a 54-yard field goal and he made it with room to spare.
The Bucs' ensuing drive went just eight yards before a Koenen punt and St. Louis had excellent field position again at their own 43 for their next possession. The Rams got to the Bucs' 35 before the third quarter ran out. After the break, the Rams elected to go for it on fourth-and-inches from the 29 and Clemens made it easily on a sneak. On the next play, Bailey caught a 12-yard pass and Goldson was flagged for an unnecessary roughness at the end, putting the ball at the Bucs' six. DT Gerald McCoy's sack on the next play, however, essentially killed the TD opportunity and the Rams settled for a seven-point lead on Zuerlein's 25-yard field goal with 11 minutes left in the game.
The Bucs' next drive got going with a successful end-around by WR Eric Page that picked up 19 yards and was close to breaking wide open. Three plays later, however, on third-and-three from the Bucs' 46, linebackers Laurinaitis and Alec Ogletree converged on Glennon, sacking him four yards deep and forcing a fumble that St. Louis recovered. A series of short Stacy runs ran six more minutes off the clock and led to the field goal that gave the Rams a two-score lead. Glennon and company would get two more cracks at it, but the St. Louis pass-rush shut down both drives quickly.
- The Buccaneers declared the following players inactive prior to Sunday's game: S Mark Barron, FB/RB Lonnie Pryor, LB Danny Lansanah, DT Matthew Masifilo, G Patrick Omameh, G Carl Nicks and DE Da'Quan Bowers. Barron and Bowers were out due to injury.
- The Rams declared the following players inactive: WR Tavon Austin, RB Daryl Richardson, CB Quinton Pointer, G Harvey Dahl, G Brandon Washington, DT Matt Conrath and G/T Mike Person. Austin, Richardson and Dahl were out due to injury.
- Rookie DE William Gholston, one of two fourth-round picks by the Buccaneers in last April's draft, made his first NFL start on Sunday. He opened the game at left end, replacing Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, who had started the first 14 games at that spot.
- WR Vincent Jackson caught five passes for 98 yards on the day. His fourth catch was his 73rd of the season, establishing a new personal single-season high. His previous high was 72, set last season in his first year with the Buccaneers.
- DT Gerald McCoy's 10-yard sack of Clemens in the fourth quarter was his ninth of the season. That ties for the fifth-most in team history for a defensive tackle. McCoy needs just one more to have the first double-digit sack season by a Buccaneer since Simeon Rice had 14.0 in 2005.
- McCoy extended his streak of consecutive games with a sack to three with that drop of Clemens. He is the first Buccaneer to do that in a single season since Geno Hayes in 2009.