WHAT HAPPENED IN TAMPA BAY’S 28-13 LOSS VS. ST. LOUIS?
Tampa Bay’s late-season slide continued at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday as the team lost its fifth consecutive game, 28-13, to the St. Louis Rams. The Bucs stood little chance of winning as quarterback Josh Freeman, who is mired in a four-game slump, struggled mightily once again. After throwing a season-high four interceptions in last week’s 41-0 loss at New Orleans, Freeman threw another four picks in Sunday’s loss to the Rams.
“You can’t turn the ball over,” Bucs head coach Greg Schiano said. “That’s what it boils down to in this league.
“We have to, have to, have to make improvement there. The number one job of a football team is to not turn the ball over and take the ball away.”
Freeman was accountable but frustrated after Sunday’s loss.
“I’m trying to cut these turnovers out of my game and win,” Freeman said. “I have to take the blame as the quarterback. ... I’m not depressed by any stretch, but I’m frustrated.”
Nearly as bad as Freeman’s interceptions was the fact that he couldn’t throw touchdown passes in the red zone despite given multiple opportunities. Trailing 28-13 in the second half, the Buccaneers had two golden opportunities to tie the game but saw the offense sputter twice inside the Rams’ 10-yard line. Late in the third quarter after an incompletion on third-and-1 from the St. Louis 5, a QB sneak by Freeman failed to pick up a first down and it was a turnover on downs.
The same thing happened early in the fourth quarter as Tampa Bay went for it on fourth down from the St. Louis 7-yard line. But Freeman threw three straight incompletions before hitting Doug Martin with a 2-yard gain down to the 5-yard line on fourth-and-goal, which was another turnover on downs.
“It’s rough, trying to make something happen,” Freeman said. “We have to figure out a way to eliminate these turnovers.
“Untimely turnovers these last couple weeks … I’m the quarterback and that’s on me.”
Two more turnovers on downs occurred late in the fourth quarter as Freeman was sacked on fourth-and-5 in St. Louis territory to end one drive, and his completion to tight end Dallas Clark fell short of the first down on the Bucs’ final drive. Freeman was harassed all day and sacked five times as Tampa Bay’s banged up offensive line, which lost left guard Jeremy Zuttah to an ankle injury, struggled to block St. Louis’ aggressive defensive front.
Defensive lineman William Hayes led the Rams with two sacks, while defensive end Chris Long, defensive tackle Kendall Langford and safety Quintin Mikell each had one sack.
“We have to examine all that stuff,” Schiano said. “At the end of the day, we aren’t going to win turning the ball over.”
Freeman finished the game completing 30-of-54 passes for 374 yards with one touchdown, a 61-yard strike to Mike Williams, to go along with his four interceptions. Williams was Tampa Bay’s leading receiver with a season-high seven catches for 132 yards.
“When [Freeman] makes those [good] plays they are spectacular,” Schiano said. “When he doesn’t, he’s forcing it. When it works, it’s a great play. Calculated risk-taking is a huge component of quality quarterback play.”
Bucs wide receiver Vincent Jackson had seven catches for 108 yards, including a 46-yarder. Sunday marked Jackson’s fifth 100-yard receiving game of the season.
Martin, Tampa Bay’s rookie running back, gained just 62 yards on 18 carries (3.4 avg.) and was out-gained by Steven Jackson, who gained 81 yards on 19 carries (4.3 avg.) and scored a touchdown in the third quarter to give St. Louis a commanding 28-6 lead. Martin did catch a career-high seven passes for 57 yards on Sunday for the Buccaneers.
After not generating a turnover on defense in the last two games, Tampa Bay’s defense got the team off to a good start with a forced fumble by cornerback Leonard Johnson in the first quarter, but after his recovery, he fumbled it back to St. Louis. In the second quarter, cornerback Danny Gorrer picked off St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford in the end zone to end a potential Rams scoring drive, but that was it for the Bucs defense in the takeaway department.
“If you are going to have a four- or five-turnover game you need to be able to match that,” Schiano said.
Although Tampa Bay’s defense did not record a sack it played reasonably well outside of an 80-yard touchdown pass to tight end Lance Kendricks on the first play of the second half. Kendricks, who led the Rams with four catches for 119 yards, was wide open down the middle of the field as there was a bust in Tampa Bay’s coverage.
“That was a shame,” Schiano said, refusing to name the player that blew the coverage on Kendricks. “Certainly disappointing. St. Louis took advantage of their opportunities and we didn’t.”
The Bucs defense surrendered 285 yards to the Rams with 80 of it coming on one play. Bradford completed 13-of-27 passes for 196 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, and outplayed Freeman, who has now thrown nine interceptions and just five touchdowns in the last four games.
“I do say this to our fans we have good players in this program and we’re going to get more and we’re going to win,” Schiano said at the end of his press conference. “I ask our fans to hang in there.”
Sunday’s loss assures Tampa Bay, which is now 6-9, of its third losing season in the last four years. The Bucs travel to Atlanta to face the NFC-leading Falcons in the 2012 season finale. Tampa Bay has a better chance of winning that game and snapping its five-game skid if the Falcons rest their starters for the playoffs since Atlanta has clinched home-field advantage and a first-round bye in the postseason.HOW DID THE TEAMS SCORE? – BUCS vs. RAMS SCORING SERIES
First Quarter – Buccaneers 3, Rams 0
Josh Freeman started off the game hot by completing 5-of-6 passes for 52 yards and running twice for 13 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Vincent Jackson had three catches for 38 yards, but the drive stalled at the St. Louis 11 after Freeman got sacked and the Bucs had to settle for a 29-yard field goal by Connor Barth to take a 7-0 lead.Second Quarter – Rams 7, Buccaneers 3
Freeman threw an ill-advised pass off his back foot on third-and-15 from the Tampa Bay 31 and it was picked off by cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who returned the ball 41 yards for a touchdown to give St. Louis a 7-0 lead.Second Quarter – Rams 7, Buccaneers 6
On third-and-2 from the Tampa Bay 28, tight end Dallas Clark made a great one-handed catch for eight yards. A 15-yard facemask penalty on Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis gave the Bucs another first down. Mike Williams picked up seven yards on third-and-6 to move the chains down to the St. Louis 38, but the drive stalled at the 31 and the Bucs had to settle for a 49-yard field goal by Barth.Second Quarter – Rams 14, Buccaneers 6
Steven Jackson ran four times for 20 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown run to put St. Louis ahead of Tampa Bay right before halftime. Jackson started off the 65-yard scoring drive with a 12-yard run and Sam Bradford hit tight end Lance Kendricks for a 19-yard pass on the drive.Third Quarter – Rams 21, Buccaneers 6
It took the Rams 14 seconds to score on the first offensive play of the second half as tight end Lance Kendricks was wide open for an 80-yard touchdown catch as St. Louis built a 21-6 lead.Third Quarter – Rams 28, Buccaneers 6
The Rams took over at the Tampa Bay 30-yard line after Freeman threw his third interception of the game. On third-and-3 from the Tampa Bay 23, Bradford hit wide receiver Danny Amendola for an 8-yard gain to the 15-yard line. Three plays later, Bradford hit wide receiver Austin Pettis for a 5-yard touchdown to put the Rams ahead 28-6.Third Quarter – Rams 28, Buccaneers 13
The Bucs traveled 80 yards in four plays with Freeman hitting wide receiver Mike Williams for a 61-yard touchdown pass. That play gave Tampa Bay some life and cut into St. Louis’ lead, which was reduced to 28-13.WHAT WAS NOTABLE ABOUT SUNDAY’S GAME FOR THE BUCS?
Bucs cornerback Leonard Johnson forced and recovered his first NFL fumble in the first quarter. …. Tampa Bay cornerback Danny Gorrer recorded his first NFL interception in the second quarter. … With two interceptions on Sunday, Bucs QB Josh Freeman has thrown multiple picks in four games this season. … Bucs wide receivers Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson each surpassed 100 yards receiving against the Rams. … With his touchdown pass on Sunday, Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman has now thrown a career-high 26 touchdowns this season. His previous best was 25 touchdowns in 2010.WHO WAS THE PEWTERREPORT.COM BUCS MVP?
Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Williams stepped up and had his best game of the year on Sunday, catching a season-high seven passes for 132 yards, including a 61-yard touchdown. On third-and-2 from the Tampa Bay 39, quarterback Josh Freeman found Williams wide open on a crossing route, and the receiver eluded linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar and safety Craig Dahl to score. The touchdown was his third play of 60 yards or more this season.
Williams only had two catches for 20 yards at halftime, but erupted for five receptions for 112 yards in the second half. Four of Williams’ second-half catches went for first downs and the other one went for a touchdown. For his efforts, Williams is this week’s PewterReport.com Bucs MVP.WHICH BUCCANEERS WERE INACTIVE?
Bucs' inactives against the Rams were: Bucs' inactives: CB LeQuan Lewis, RB Michael Smith, G Roger Allen, WR Chris Owusu, WR David Douglas, DT Corvey Irvin and DT Matthew Masifilo.
Rams inactives against the Bucs were: QB Austin Davis, WR Steve Smith, RB Terrance Ganaway, TE Cory Harkey, LB Sammy Brown, OT Joe Barksdale, DT Matt Conrath.WHICH BUCS GOT HURT?
• Tampa Bay wide receiver Tiquan Underwood suffered a back injury in the first quarter and was replaced by Roscoe Parrish. Underwood later returned.
• Bucs cornerback E.J. Biggers suffered a groin injury in the second quarter and was replaced by Anthony Gaitor. He did not return.
• Tampa Bay cornerback Leonard Johnson hurt his left shoulder making a tackle in the third quarter. Johnson later returned.
• Bucs left guard Jeremy Zuttah suffered a right ankle injury in the fourth quarter. He was replaced by Derek Hardman.WHAT WILL UPSET GREG SCHIANO WHEN HE WATCHES THE FILM?
• Right tackle Demar Dotson got beat by defensive end Chris Long twice in the first half. Long got a sack in the first quarter and his pressure allowed Kendall Langford to sack Josh Freeman in the second quarter.
• On third-and-15 from the Tampa Bay 31, a frustrated Josh Freeman threw a pick-six off his back foot and the interception was returned 41 yards by rookie cornerback Janoris Jenkins for a touchdown to give the Rams a 7-3 lead. The Bucs had three offensive players, including Freeman, in position to make a tackle near the goal line, but Jenkins was still able to score.
• On first-and-10 from the St. Louis 49, Freeman was sacked by safety Quintin Mikell after running back LeGarrette Blount whiffed on the block. Mikell forced a fumble on the play, but the ball was recovered by Tampa Bay right guard Jamon Meredith.
• After the defense forced three straight punts in the second half, the Bucs failed to score points and capitalize on great field position every time. Tampa Bay had two golden chances for touchdowns in the second half, but saw two drives end at the Rams’ 5-yard line and the 3-yard line with turnover on downs.WHAT’S UP NEXT FOR THE BUCS?
Tampa Bay (6-9) travels to Atlanta to play the Falcons (13-2) on Sunday, December 30 at 1:00 p.m. The game will be televised on Fox.
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