For the second straight week Tampa Bay allowed a team led by its backup quarterback to leave Raymond James Stadium with a close win.
Last week it was Derek Anderson and the Carolina Panthers and Sunday afternoon it was Austin Davis and the St. Louis Rams. Making his first professional start, Davis guided the Rams to a 19-17 victory by throwing for an efficient 235 yards and completing 75.9 percent of his passes (22 of 29). None of the second-year quarterback’s 22 completions ended with a touchdown, but none of the seven off-target balls were intercepted, either.
“That was a tough one to lose,” Bucs head coach Lovie Smith said afterward. “Just kind of recapping the game a little bit, anytime you have a blocked punt, a blocked field goal in the red zone … an interception, and then just not being able to get enough pressure … you’re not going to win many games.”
The two-point loss drops the Buccaneers to 0-2 heading into a short week before traveling to Atlanta on Thursday to take on the division-rival Falcons. Tampa Bay led three times Sunday but was not able to get in the win column despite backup running back Bobby Rainey’s big 144-yard day filling in for injured starter Doug Martin.
“That doesn’t matter,” Rainey said about the second most productive game of his career in terms of rushing yardage. The third-year back went for 163 at home last year during a 41-28 win against Atlanta. “When we lose it hurts to come off the field with a loss. At the end of the day, it’s about your team”
Tampa Bay announced Martin’s unavailability earlier in the day Sunday, along with rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and defensive end Michael Johnson. It was already confirmed this past week that defensive end Adrian Clayborn (biceps) and cornerback Mike Jenkins (pectoral) would both be lost for the season, and then the Bucs’ list of injured players only grew as Sunday’s game progressed.
Two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, the defense’s unquestioned leader, left the game with a broken hand late in the first quarter. He tried to return for a series but could not continue. Joining McCoy on the sideline was middle linebacker Mason Foster, who went down with a first-half shoulder injury and did not return.
“Injury-wise, we had a few – of course Gerald McCoy going down didn’t help the case,” head coach Lovie Smith said. “And Mason Foster. Losing your Mike [linebacker] and your three-technique [defensive tackle] puts the defense in a hole a little bit, but nobody wants to hear about that. Don’t know the extent of the injuries, but neither could finish the football game. Hopefully we can get them back before long.”
Despite all the missing starters, Tampa Bay still managed to have itself in position to beat St. Louis. The Bucs went up 17-16 with 5:20 left to play when rookie kicker Patrick Murray booted his first-ever made field goal from 36 yards out. When receiver Russell Shepard flew down the field and wrapped up Rams kick returner Chris Givens at the 9, the Bucs appeared to be in good shape. But St. Louis’ second-year signal caller engineered a clock-consuming, 12-play drive that went 71 yards and ended with Greg Zuerlein’s fourth-and-final field goal. The veteran kicker’s 38-yarder put St. Louis up 19-17 and left Tampa Bay with only 42 seconds.
Starting from the 20, Tampa Bay quarterback Josh McCown managed to complete a 19-yard pass to Rainey, spike the ball at the Bucs 39 and then hit receiver Mike Evans for 29 yards to the St. Louis 32. But Tampa Bay couldn’t get to the line to spike it again and give Murray a crack at a 49- or 50-yard game-winner. Evans was hurt after making the reception and getting hit by safety T.J. McDonald and stayed down on the field. The clock stopped with 8 seconds left. By league rule, a mandatory 10 seconds had to be run off because of the injury inside of the two-minute warning and Tampa Bay being out of time outs.
“I know all the guys are going to say that the game isn’t lost on one play, but to me, I am the guy that could have changed that,” Evans said from the locker room.
Tampa Bay began Sunday on a high note, before and after the opening kick. This was the day Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks would be inducted into the Buccaneers Ring of Honor at halftime, putting his name alongside the likes of tight end Jimmy Giles, tackle Paul Gruber, defensive tackle Warren Sapp, defensive end Lee Roy Selmon and coach John McKay.
Once play actually began, Tampa Bay immediately went on a 10-snap, 77-yard touchdown drive to get things going. It was capped by McCown’s 5-yard scramble up the middle and into the end zone. The 35-year-old finished the day 16 of 21 passing for 179 yards and two touchdown runs. He spread his 16 completions between six different targets but also threw another ill-advised interception – his third in two games. That came on the Bucs’ second drive with the game tied 7-7. McCown helped put together another long march from the Tampa Bay 20, but threw a pass across his body while rolling to the right that went directly to safety Rodney McLeod.
The 7-0 lead was Tampa Bay’s first of three advantages Sunday. The Bucs also went up 14-10 with McCown’s second scoring run – a play-action bootleg left – and 17-16 on Murray’s fourth-quarter field goal.
Murray’s earlier kick sailed through the crossbars nearly 10 minutes after he had his first career attempt blocked by E.J. Gaines. The Bucs also had a Michael Koenen punt blocked late in the second quarter shortly after play resumed following a 51-minute weather delay.
Overall, Tampa Bay nearly equaled St. Louis is total net yardage (339-332) and first downs (20-18). The Bucs converted 50 percent of their third-down situations (4 of 8) compared to 45 percent by Rams (5 of 11).
Two of Tampa Bay’s biggest struggles last week against Carolina were running the football and sustaining drives. The Panthers enjoyed a 35:12-24:48 advantage in time of possession. Rainey’s performance helped the Bucs in that category Sunday, but Tampa Bay still trailed in that category, 32:05-27:55.
Leading all Bucs pass catchers Sunday was receiver Vincent Jackson (four catches for 51 yards), followed by Evans (four for 49), Rainey (three for 30) and tight end Brandon Myers (two for 33).
Free safety Dashon Goldson paced all defenders with 11 combined tackles. In fact, the Buccaneers’ top three tacklers were members of their seconday. Cornerback Alterraun Verner and strong safety Mark Barron both collected eight apiece. Defensive tackle Clinton McDonald and weakside linebacker Lavonte David each finished with seven.
Two Bucs managed to bring down Davis in the backfield on two separate occasions. McDonald and recently activated defensive end William Gholston recorded the team’s two sacks. Davis was hit four times.
Saturday’s announced paid attendance at Raymond James Stadium was 59,923, about 2,500 less than last week’s opener. Skies were cloudy and it rained sporadically throughout the game. The temperature at kickoff was 88 degrees.
Buccaneers reported defensive starters: LE William Gholston, DT Gerald McCoy, DT Clinton McDonald, RE Da’Quan Bowers, SLB Jonathan Casillas, MLB Mason Foster, WLB Lavonte David, CB Alterraun Verner, CB Johnthan Banks, FS Dashon Goldson and SS Mark Barron.
Buccaneers reported offensive starters: WR Vincent Jackson, LT Anthony Collins, LG Logan Mankins, C Evan Dietrich-Smith, RG Patrick Omameh, RT Demar Dotson, TE Brandon Myers, WR Mike Evans, QB Josh McCown, RB Bobby Rainey and TE Luke Stocker.
The only Buccaneer who did not see action was QB Mike Glennon.
Tampa Bay’s inactives were CB Rashaan Melvin, RB Doug Martin, T Kemin Pamphile, G Rishaw Johnson, G Kadeem Edwards, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins and DE Michael Johnson.
Pathetic, just pathetic. I know we cant expect miracles over night, but I expected better than this.
If we cant beat these two teams with scrub QB’s, what chance do we have against the upcoming Ryan, Brees & Big Ben??
one of the few things I was hoping for this year was for the season to not be over before the first Quarter of the season.
But know, I see us being 0-6 going into the break.
Again, its pretty sad that in week two I am already looking ahead to next years draft.
…and after the break, Mike Glennon will try to salvage a couple of wins to screw up our draft position.
Network alert: The Bucs are the Special Guest Stars on next week’s show – The Biggest Loser.
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