The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have lost their 5th straight game, as the St. Louis Rams traveled to Raymond James and took down the Buccaneers 28-13. Josh Freeman threw four interceptions, giving him 8 over the last two games, and these turnovers proved to be the difference. The Buccaneers fall to 6-9 on the season, and playoff discussions from just over a month ago seem like distant memories, as the Buccaneers have found themselves in an end-of-season losing streak for the second year in a row.
The Buccaneers started the game off with a 9 and a half minute drive, but a penalty on Ted Larsen in the red zone, followed by a sack, forced the Buccaneers to settle for a field goal. The Buccaneers would not see the ball on offense again until the start of the second quarter, when Sam Bradford misfired on a deep ball to Danny Amendola and Danny Gorrer capitalized. Freeman and company did not take advantage, and instead the Buccaneer quarterback threw off his back foot on 3rd and 15, and Janoris Jenkins of the Rams was in perfect position to bring in the interception and run it all the way back for a score, and the Rams would take a lead they would not relinquish.
A second Josh Freeman interception later on in the second quarter would set the Rams up with the ball before half time, and they took the ball 65 yards in 3 minutes to go up 14-6. The Buccaneers, who had all 3 timeouts, received a kickoff with 30 seconds left. Considering that the Rams would receive the second half kickoff, this would seem to be an opportunity to get the ball into field goal range and try and close the gap. The Buccaneers elected to run one play and headed into the locker room, and left any hope of winning on the field.
The Rams would start the second half with a big play to exploit a huge breakdown by the Buccaneers. The Bucs linebackers bit on a play fake, and the safeties both split to either side of the field to cover receivers. This left a huge seam down the middle of the field, and Lance Kendricks, a tight end, left his position to the right of the right tackle and streaked down the seam. He rumbled, uncontested, for an 80 yard score, and the Rams had a commanding lead that would force the Buccaneers to throw.
The ensuing drive would be done after only 3 plays, as Josh Freeman tried to throw a short slant route to Mike Williams, but stared him down the whole way, and Williams did not run the sharpest of routes. Trumaine Johnson of the Rams jumped the route and made the easy pick, and the Rams were able to convert for a touchdown on the drive gifted to them by the Buccaneers QB. A long Mike Williams touchdown would close the gap to 28-13, but the Buccaneers would not be able to execute a scoring drive for the remainder of the game, failing on multiple fourth down conversions, and despite the defense holding against the Rams offense on multiple occasions, Tampa Bay would fail to narrow the margin.
The Buccaneers defense never gave up, and despite losing EJ Biggers to injury early on, they contained the Rams offense fairly well. But they were put into awful positions thanks to a wasteful offense, and could not create turnovers or scores to bail out their wasteful offense. The Rams running game was contained fairly well, and Sam Bradford did not have a career game against the Buccaneers weak pass defense. Credit to the defense, they came to fight in today’s game.
The Buccaneers have one last game against the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons have wrapped up the NFC’s best record, and may not field a full strength team. Combine this with the stigma that comes with a 10-loss season, and the Buccaneers have every motivation to win next week. A number of injuries this week may limit the Buccaneers available talent next week, but it’s the play of Josh Freeman that I will be watching most closely. He has to prove he is still capable of being the same quarterback who was successful two years ago, and two months ago. The player I have seen over the past month is not capable of being a successful NFL quarterback, and his play next week will speak to his resolve and desire to improve as a player.
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