Call them the “cardiac kids,” the “comeback kids” or whatever you want, but the kids are all right. In fact, after their 18-17 victory over the visiting St. Louis Rams, the young, ascending Tampa Bay Buccaneers moved to 4-2 on the season and the legacy of second-year quarterback Josh Freeman continues to grow.
In all but Tampa Bay’s 20-7 win at Carolina, the Bucs have used the same formula for their success in their other two come-from-behind triumphs over Cleveland and Cincinnati – timely, second-half stops by the defense and fourth quarter magic by Freeman, who now has five comeback wins in 15 career starts. Tampa Bay’s defense held St. Louis scoreless in the second half and the Bucs had climbed back into the game thanks to a career-high four field goals from Connor Barth to cut the Rams’ lead to 17-12 when Freeman took over at his own 19.
Thanks to clutch receptions from wide receiver Sammie Stroughter for 11 yards on third-and-14 from the St. Louis 41, tight end Kellen Winslow for nine yards on fourth-and-3 on the next play down to the 21, and rookie wideout Mike Williams, whose 20-yard catch set up Tampa Bay at the 1-yard line.
“Sammie Stroughter had a [big catch] on that drive,” Freeman said. “Mike Williams catching the hitch, shaking the safety and getting down to the 1 really put us in good position.”
Freeman, who finished the game 23-of-40 for 212 yards, drove the team 81 plays in 16 plays for the game-winning touchdown, which occurred on second-and-goal with 10 seconds left as he rolled to his right under pressure and found running back Cadillac Williams streaking across the middle of the end zone open against St. Louis’ zone defense for a 1-yard touchdown.
“We anticipated they would play Cover 2. They were playing Cover 2 down there [throughout the game], but they blitzed us,” Freeman said. “I told Cadillac, ‘If they blitz us, it’s you. It’s all you. Make something happen.’”
And that’s exactly what Williams did.
“I was just thinking we won the game, and to not see a yellow flag out there was big,” Williams said after scoring his first touchdown of the season despite rushing just four times for 12 yards.
The Bucs, who were one of the least penalized teams in the league coming into Sunday’s game, hurt themselves with penalties. Tampa Bay had a season-high 12 infractions for 92 yards, with four absolute killers.
After a sack and a forced fumble by Stylez G. White gave Tampa Bay the ball at the St. Louis early in the first quarter, back-to-back penalties on tight end Kellen Winslow (offensive pass interference) and center Jeremy Zuttah (holding) forced the Bucs into a first-and-goal situation from the 26. Tampa Bay had to settle for the first of Connor Barth’s career-high four field goals.
In the second quarter, cornerback Ronde Barber jumped offside during a 32-yard field goal attempt by Josh Brown. The Rams took the points off the boards and cashed in on a touchdown a few plays later, which gave them four more points en route to building a 17-3 lead late in the second quarter.
The fourth devastating penalty occurred early in the fourth quarter as right tackle Jeremy Trueblood illegally blocked a Rams defender in the back, negating a run of close to 50 yards by LeGarrette Blount. The rookie from Oregon still rushed for a team-high 72 yards on 11 carries, including a tackle-breaking 17-yard jaunt that was Mike Alstott-esque.
Had Blount’s big run not been wiped out due to a penalty, he would easily had a 100-yard day, which is something that no Tampa Bay runner has accomplished in the last seven games. Blount will likely see more carries as a featured runner, while Williams will continue to serve a role as a third-down, pass-catcher, which he excelled at today, catching eight passes for 34 yards, including the game-winner.
“I think Blount did a great job,” Freeman said. “On that big run, he just kind of willed his way.”
While Tampa Bay would prefer not to always triumph in come-from-behind fashion, Freeman said that is the team’s style right now.
“It’s really a culture thing, it’s a mentality thing,” Freeman said. “When the game is on the line we have a lot of guys that are ready to make a play.
“It’s an awesome, awesome win.”
The oft-criticized Bucs defense gave up 189 yards at halftime to the Rams, including 121 yards on the ground with Steven Jackson gaining 74 on 12 carries (6.2 avg.). Not only had Tampa Bay trailed 17-6 at halftime, the team had been outgained 189-87. The Rams had converted 5-of-8 third downs (63 percent), while the Bucs converted just 1-of-7 (14 percent) in the first half.
The second half would prove to be a different story, as St. Louis would be held to 96 yards and Tampa Bay’s offense got in gear, gaining 226 yards.
“There is no quit in this team,” Barber said. “There is no lip service when [Bucs head coach Raheem Morris] is saying it to [the media] or to us. It’s what we believe in. You guys may want to write that we came in and made a whole bunch of adjustments and yada, yada, yada. He came in and said two sentences. He said it was the worst half of football we’ve ever played, and thank God we have 30 minutes to make up for it. That’s all he said.”
The Bucs defense stuffed Jackson for no gain on his first carry of the game, and then on third-and-15 from the Rams’ 8, defensive end Stylez G. White sacked Bradford and forced a fumble that was recovered by defensive end Kyle Moore at the St. Louis 6. But an offensive pass interference penalty on Kellen Winslow and a holding call on center Jeremy Zuttah set up first-and-goal at the St. Louis 26. A sack by Rams defensive tackle Jermelle Cudjo put Tampa Bay in a second-and-goal situation at he 36. On third down, Freeman completed a 20-yard pass to Mike Williams, who fumbled, but recovered the ball at the 12-yard line. Connor Barth’s 35-yard field goal gave Tampa Bay a 3-0 lead with 5:45 left in the first quarter.
St. Louis countered with a field goal of its own on a 13-play, 72-yard scoring drive. Jackson rushed for 22 yards and caught two passes for 13 yards. Backup running back Kenneth Darby also contributed with an 8-yard run and a 19-yard catch. On fourth-and-8 from the Tampa Bay 8, Josh Brown’s 25-yard field goal was good. With 14:55 left in the second quarter, the game was tied at 3-3.
After the Bucs went three-and-out, the Rams would take the lead in the second quarter following an 11-play, 80-yard drive. On third-and-goal from the Tampa Bay 5, Bradford hit wide receiver Danny Amendola with a touchdown pass against safety Cody Grimm. Amendola got things started with an 18-yard catch and then had a 31-yard reverse on With 8:22 left in the second quarter, St. Louis had a 10-3 lead.
Tampa Bay went three-and-out again on its next possession and St. Louis capitalized. Jackson ripped off 25 yards on two straight carries, but on third-and-4 at the Tampa Bay 14, cornerback Ronde Barber was penalized for offsides, which gave the Rams new life. Instead of settling for a 32-yard field goal, the Rams pressed on for a touchdown. On third-and-goal from the Tampa Bay 2, Bradford threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Michael Hoomanawanui. With 2:59 left, St. Louis took a commanding 17-3 lead.
The Bucs offense finally moved the ball and got some points. After two catches by Cadillac Williams covered 15 yards, Freeman overcame a sack by rushing for 16 yards on third-and-16. An 18-yard catch by Sammie Stroughter moved the ball to the 21-yard line, but three straight incompletions by Freeman forced the Bucs to settle for a 39-yard Barth field goal. With 24 seconds left before halftime, St. Louis’ lead was reduced to 17-6.
Tampa Bay’s defense forced a three-and-out and the offense covered 60 yards in 10 plays to add to its point total. Winslow also made a critical 11-yard catch to move the chains on third-and-8 at the Tampa Bay 7. Blount ripped off 32 yards on four carries with runs of eight, nine and 12 yards on the drive and Mike Williams hauled in a 21-yard catch to move the Bucs across midfield. But on fourth-and-5 from the St. Louis 35, Tampa Bay had to settle for a 53-yard field goal by Barth. With 7:13 left in the third quarter, Tampa Bay trailed 17-9.
The Bucs covered 49 yards in nine plays thanks to some great running by Blount, who had a 17-yard run and totaled 21 yards on three carries on the drive. Stroughter had a big, 8-yard catch on third-and-8 to move the chains. Cadillac Williams gained four yards on a reception, but a 15-yard facemask penalty put the Bucs into field goal range a few plays later. Barth nailed a 38-yard field and with two seconds left in the third quarter, St. Louis’s lead was cut to 17-12 before Freeman and Tampa Bay finally found the end zone in the nick of time for the come-from-behind victory.
For the second time this season the Bucs have bounced back from a big, blowout loss. After losing to Pittsburgh 38-13 in Week 3, Tampa Bay rallied to beat Cincinnati, 24-21. Last week, the Bucs lost to New Orleans, 31-6.
“I don’t know where the credit comes from or goes to for our resiliency, but we’ve got it,” Barber said. “We’re a young football team that doesn’t like to lose and comes back when we have to.”
With four wins, the Bucs have now won more games this season than they had all last year after going 3-13. If recent history is any indicator, the winning ways may continue for Tampa Bay as it embarks on a stretch where three of its next four games are on the road. Dating back to the end of the 2009 season, the Bucs are 4-0 away from Raymond James Stadium.BUCS’ DOUBLE-DIGIT COMEBACK WINS SINCE 2008
10/24/10 vs. St. Louis – trailed by 14, 17-3, and won, 18-17
9/12/10 vs. Cleveland – trailed by 11, 14-3, and won, 17-14
12/27/09 at New Orleans – trailed by 17, 17-0, and won, 20-17 in overtime
11/8/09 vs. Green Bay – trailed by 11, 28-17, and won, 38-28
11/23/08 at Detroit – trailed by 17, 17-0, and won, 30-27 in overtime
9/21/09 at Chicago – trailed by 10, 24-14, and won, 27-24 in overtimeSTATS THAT COUNT
Rookie Todd Larsen got his first NFL start in place of Keydrick Vincent at left guard. … Defensive end Stylez G. White’s first quarter sack of Sam Bradford ended a three-game drought when it comes to sacks. The Bucs went sackless against Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and New Orleans. White’s sack was Tampa Bay’s only QB capture of the game. He is tied with Tim Crowder for the team’s sack lead with two this year. Kicker Connor Barth made a career-high four field goals on Sunday is now 10-of-12 on the season (83.3 percent) and 24-of-31 (77.4 percent) since joining the Bucs last year. He is now tied for seventh for most made field goals in team history. … The Bucs’ 12 penalties for 92 yards was the most this season by Tampa Bay. … The Bucs out-gained the Rams 313-285 yards. … Tampa Bay held Steven Jackson, who became the Rams’ all-time leading rusher on Sunday, to 110 yards on 22 carries (5.0 avg.). … Bucs running back LeGarrette Blount had a career-high 72 yards on 11 carries (6.5 avg.) on Sunday. … Wide receiver Mike Williams had five catches for 82 yards (16.4 avg.) against the Rams. … The Bucs won the turnover battle 1-0 on Sunday. Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman threw one touchdown and had no interceptions on Sunday and now has seven TDs and just three INTs on the season. Freeman also rushed for 40 yards on five carries (8.0 avg.). … Middle linebacker Barrett Ruud had a game-high 11 tackles (eight solo) while cornerback Ronde Barber had 10 tackles (nine solo). … Linebackers Niko Koutouvides and Adam Hayward each had two special teams stops.SUNDAY’S STARTING LINEUPS
The announced Tampa Bay starting lineup for Sunday’s game was as follows:BUCS STARTING OFFENSE
WR Mike Williams
LT Donald Penn
LG Ted Larsen
C Jeremy Zuttah
RG Davin Joseph
RT Jeremy Trueblood
TE Kellen Winslow
TE John Gilmore
WR Arrelious Benn
RB Cadillac Williams
QB Josh FreemanBUCS STARTING DEFENSE
LE Kyle Moore
DT Gerald McCoy
DT Roy Miller
RE Stylez G. White
WLB Geno Hayes
MLB Barrett Ruud
SLB Quincy Black
LCB Aqib Talib
RCB Ronde Barber
FS Cody Grimm
SS Sean JonesBUCS’ GAMEDAY INACTIVES
Here is a list of Tampa Bay players that did play in Sunday’s game:
QB Rudy Carpenter
FB Earnest Graham
TE Jerramy Stevens
C Jeff Faine
G Keydrick Vincent
DT Brian Price
DE Alex Magee
CB Elbert MackBUCS IN-GAME INJURIES
Bucs kick returner Preston Parker injured his knee on the opening kickoff and did not return. He was replaced by Micheal Spurlock.
In the fourth quarter, Tampa Bay right tackle Jeremy Trueblood left the game with an undisclosed injury and was replaced by James Lee. Trueblood did not return.KICKOFF CONDITIONS
The announced attendance for the Buccaneers vs. Rams game at Raymond James Stadium was 42,020. The kickoff temperature was 84 degrees under sunny skies with 62 percent humidity. UP NEXT
The Buccaneers (4-2) will travel to Arizona to face the Cardinals (3-3), who lost at Seattle, on Sunday, October 31. Kickoff is set for 4:05 p.m. ET and will be televised on Fox.
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