NFL NEWS: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sunday’s game against the St. Louis Rams was a statement, it’s the Bucs are rebuilding, on the mend and not yet ready despite what personnel say.
The game was almost a repeat of week one against the Carolina Panthers with the Bucs going for the final drive with less than a minute to play. They came up short again, but this time on a formality and an injury when receiver Mike Evans caught a 29-yard ball but was slow to recover. Officials stopped the clock with eight seconds remaining and by NFL rule, 10-seconds had to run off and the game ended. No miracle Hail Mary or defensive penalty to set them up for a game-winning field goal, just a final whistle and the Rams won 19-17.
The Bucs scored on their initial drive after the opening kickoff driving 77 yards on 10 plays that finished with quarterback Josh McCown running up the middle for a five-yard touchdown. Not sure how many in the crowd at Raymond James Stadium outside of Rams fans expected the opponent to respond in kind, but they answered with a 10-play, 80 yard drive culminating in rookie running back Zac Stacy‘s two-yard score. He finished with 71 yards on 19 carries.
The man at the other end of the center, rookie QB Austin Davis making his first professional NFL start. To the ones who saying this is supposed to be an automatic win for Lovie Smith, let’s not forget the head coach on the other end of the sidelines in Jeff Fisher, who also made a Super Bowl. Fisher was successful for a long time with the Tennessee Titans even after his team fell to Dick Vermeil‘s Rams at Super Bowl XXXIV.
Without Doug Martin in the game as a precaution, running back Bobby Rainey filled in for 144 rushing yards in 22 carries. McCown ran for a second score on the Bucs’ first drive in the second half following a 50 minute lightning delay with 6:03 left in the first half.
The Bucs had a more balanced game plan before stalled drives and miscues cost them momentum. Following the Rams initial score, the Bucs responded with an 11-play 71 yard campaign before an ill-advised throw from McCown intended for receiver Vincent Jackson was intercepted by safety Rodney McLeod at the St. Louis 2-yard line.
The “bend, but don’t break” effort from the Bucs defense yielded four field goals from kicker Greg Zuerlein, who was perfect for the day. Ultimately the broken Bucs offense and special teams cost the team 10 points that would have put the game away. At the start of the fourth quarter, the Bucs Patrick Murray’s 26 field goal was blocked by T.J. McDonald. Rams special teams also recorded a blocked punt in Bucs territory late in the second quarter which resulted in three points.
Austin was quick on the release completing 22 of 29 passes for 235 yards. The Bucs defense only recorded two sacks on him. McCown completed 16 of 21 for 179 yards and was sacked once.
The challenges only get tougher for the Bucs as they travel to the Georgia Dome on a short week Thursday to face Matt Ryan and the 1-1 Atlanta Falcons. Losing Gerald McCoy and Evans can make that elusive first victory a Herculean task for this squad.