Only 4 weeks in and this season has already been somewhat of a roller coaster for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After losing an 18 point lead to the New York Giants last week, Tampa Bay traveled to Los Angeles to take on the defending NFC Champion Rams on Sunday.
Bucs start fast in all phases
You could not have scripted a better start for the Bucs. After receiving the opening kickoff, Tampa Bay drove 60 yards on 8 plays, capped off by a 3 yard touchdown run by Peyton Barber. After the teams traded punts on the next 2 drives, Bucs safety Jordan Whitehead intercepted a deflected Jared Goff pass. A 15 yard unnecessary roughness penalty on Robert Woods gave Tampa Bay an extra 15 yards. 7 plays later, Jameis Winston found Chris Godwin for a 3 yard touchdown pass and catch.
On the ensuing drive, the Tampa Bay defense forced another turnover as Lavonte David intercepted a Goff pass and returned it to the Rams 9 yard line. On the next play, Winston again found Godwin on a 9 yard screen and the Bucs increased their lead to 21-0.
Rams claw their way back in
The apparent blowout would soon become a shootout as Jared Goff and the Rams offense refused to lay down without a fight. The next Los Angeles drive covered 75 yards and Todd Gurley got the Rams on the board with a 13 yard touchdown run.
After a quick Bucs 3 and out combined with a fair catch interference, Goff needed only 4 plays to get the Rams into the end zone again. This time, Goff found tight end Gerald Everett on a 5 yard touchdown. As a result, Los Angeles shifted momentum into their favor and had quickly cut the Bucs’ lead to 21-14.
The Tampa Bay offense got rolling again on the next drive. Two key first down pickups by Chris Godwin and a roughing the passer penalty set Ronald Jones up for his first touchdown of the season. The 5 yard run put Tampa Bay ahead 28-14.
The Rams offense had just enough time to get into field goal range before halftime. Greg Zeurlein hammered a 58 yard field goal to cut the Bucs lead to 11 going into the locker room.
The wild ride was just beginning
After the teams traded field goals to begin the second half (Matt Gay converting a 58 yarder of his own), Tampa Bay forced their 3rd interception of the game. This time, NFL sack leader Shaq Barrett came away with the pick. This set up a 6 play drive for the Bucs that ended with Winston finding his reliable red zone target Cameron Brate for a 13 yard touchdown. This was the first touchdown connection between Winston and Brate this season. When the third quarter ended, Tampa Bay was on top 38-20, but there was still a long way to go in this contest.
With the Rams running in a no huddle offense, Jared Goff led another 75 yard touchdown drive that ended in a 5 yard touchdown run by Todd Gurley. Goff, as he did for much of the day, completed passes with ease to Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods as the Rams quickly marched downfield to cut the Bucs lead to 38-27.
Winston gets the deep ball going
2 plays later, Winston connected with Mike Evans for a 67 yard touchdown. On the play, Evans taunted Rams cornerback Marcus Peters as he danced and side stepped into the end zone. With the score, Winston had his 4th touchdown pass of the afternoon and the Bucs were once again ahead by 18 points.
The next drive for Los Angeles was yet another 75 yard touchdown drive as the haymakers continued to be exchanged between these 2 offensive juggernauts. Goff passed for all 75 yards on the drive that ended with a 29 yard catch and run by Cooper Kupp. When the Bucs got the ball back, Marcus Peters got his redemption as he intercepted a poorly thrown pass by Jameis Winston and returned it 32 yards for a touchdown. In an otherwise flawless day for Winston, this pass will stick out as his lone mistake of the day. Tampa Bay’s 45-27 lead quickly turned into a 45-40 dogfight.
Record breaking finish
Needing a score to put the game away, the Buccaneers put together an effective drive on their next possession. Winston led Tampa Bay on a drive that chewed up 5:36 of clock time. The drive stalled at the Rams 3 yard line and Matt Gay converted a chip shot 21 yard field goal to extend the Bucs lead to 8.
With Los Angeles attempting to put one final drive together in hopes of tying the game, Shaq Barrett once again decided to take control. With an interception on the day and already leading the league in sacks, Barrett sacked Goff and forced the ball loose. The fumble was recovered by Nadamukong Suh and returned 37 yards for the game’s final score. After a wild ride at the Coliseum, the Bucs found themselves 55-40 winners over the Rams.
Prior to Sunday’s game, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had never scored more than 48 points in a game in team history. The fast start and commitment to aggressive play calling on both sides of the ball proved to be exactly what the team needed to bounce back from last week’s disappointing loss.
Bucs by the numbers
Jameis Winston put together his third game in a row with a quarterback rating of at least 103. It was also his second consecutive 380+ yard game. On the receiving end of most of those yards was Chris Godwin who had a career day against the Rams defense. Godwin caught 12 passes for 172 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Defensively, the Bucs once again shut down an opposing offense’s rushing attack. However, this was due largely in part to the team taking an early 21-0 lead. In doing so, the Rams were forced to put the game in the hands of Jared Goff who threw for 518 yards on 68 pass attempts.
Next up for Tampa Bay is an NFC South clash with the Saints in New Orleans on October 6th.
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