NFL Preview - Tampa Bay (4-10) at St. Louis (6-8)|
By Michael Rushton, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - An upset victory last weekend kept the St. Louis Rams'
chances of avoiding a seventh straight losing season alive.
The Rams look to get to within a game of .500 this Sunday as they play host to
the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
St. Louis snapped a two-game slide by holding off the New Orleans Saints 27-16
last weekend. The Rams scored 24 of their points in the first half and sacked
Saints quarterback Drew Brees four times in total, holding on to the win
despite getting outgained 432-302 in the game.
"Everybody contributed and everybody last night felt like we had a chance to
win the game," noted Rams head coach Jeff Fisher. "We got a couple early
turnovers which really helped us put them in a hole."
Zac Stacy posted 106 of his 133 rushing yards in the first half, a club rookie
record, and Kellen Clemens completed 14-of-20 pass attempts. He connected with
Cory Harkey and Lance Kendricks for first-quarter touchdowns.
Stacy capped the Rams' first half with a 40-yard touchdown run, but the club
was held to just a Greg Zuerlein field goal over the final two quarters.
"Any time you win, it's a good feeling, regardless of who you're playing,"
The victory improved the Rams to 6-8 on the season, giving them a chance to
finish a season with at least a .500 record for the first time since going 8-8
St. Louis closes out the regular season next weekend in Seattle to face a
Seahawks club that could have little to play for.
The Rams also have won five of their six all-time home meetings with the
Buccaneers, splitting two games in St. Louis since relocating from Los
The Bucs have won six of the past eight encounters overall, but lost the most
recent matchup 28-13 in Tampa on Dec. 23 of last year.
Tampa Bay is trying to finish strong following an 0-8 start. The Buccaneers
had won three straight and four of five before getting bested by the visiting
San Francisco 49ers 33-14 last weekend.
The game was closer than the score indicated, at least through the first three
quarters. Tampa Bay pulled within six points six seconds into the fourth
quarter on Tim Wright's 24-yard touchdown catch, but the Niners came back with
a 17-play, 77-yard drive that ended with a field goal.
Tampa Bay then tried to make something happen on the kickoff with a reverse
attempt, but the exchange between Eric Page and Russell Shepard was fumbled
and San Francisco returned it two yards for a score.
"It was a tough loss. It was a hard-fought game. Unfortunate the way it
ended," said Bucs head coach Greg Schiano. "We had opportunities, without a
doubt, to stop them and we didn't do it. That's what it boils down to."
Wright and Vincent Jackson both caught TD passes, with Wright notching game
highs of seven catches and 82 yards. Quarterback Mike Glennon was 18-of-34
passing for 179 yards with an interception and running back Bobby Rainey had
just 27 yards on 11 carries.
Tampa Bay was outgained 376-183 and the defense failed to force a turnover
while getting two sacks.
The Buccaneers, 1-5 on the road this season, ends the season next weekend at
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Rams have been without their franchise quarterback Sam Bradford since he
suffered a torn ACL on Oct. 20, complicating an offense that lost former star
running back Steven Jackson to free agency this past summer.
However, they may have found their running back of the future in Stacy, who is
just 146 yard shy of a 1,000-yard season despite not becoming the starting
back until Week 5. He is coming off the longest touchdown run of his career
and have found the end zone in five of his past six games.
"The thing about Zac is that he understands blocking schemes," complimented
Clemens. "He's obviously talented. He's very strong. He's built to run
forward, and he runs behind his pass well, and he never takes negative runs.
If it's there, he hits it. If it's not there, he creates a hole and it gets us
While the 22-year-old running back figures to have earned his chance at being
the featured back next season, 23-year-old defensive end Robert Quinn
continues to emerge as one of the top pass rushers in football.
Quinn leads the NFC with 15 sacks after getting two versus the Saints. That
comes after he logged 10 1/2 sacks in his second season last year and the 264-
pounder has forced seven fumbles this season. He has recovered two fumbles in
the past four games.
"I think Robert is definitely arguably one of the best in the league," noted
Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis. "The way he's been extremely productive and
has been consistently that way. The thing is, when you watch games where he
hasn't had the numbers, he's always around the quarterback. He's been on a
tear this year."
Quinn could find himself on a Pro Bowl line with Tampa Bay's Gerald McCoy, who
picked up his eighth sack of the season last weekend. That further extended
his career high and he joined Warren Sapp, Santana Dotson and Brad Culpepper
as the only defensive tackles in Bucs history to reach eight sacks in a
The third overall pick of the 2010 draft battled through biceps injuries over
his first two seasons, but managed 30 tackles and five sacks in 16 games last
season. In 2013, he has 42 tackles in 14 games.
"I look at a guy like Gerald and say when I arrived here there wasn't a heck
of a lot of excitement about Gerald," said Schiano, who is in his second
season as coach of the Bucs. That 'B-word' (bust) was even being mentioned and
all he's done is busted his rear-end to be in great physical condition ...
obviously last year was a Pro Bowl season, I think this year is a Pro Bowl
season. He's really doing some great things in the pass rush."
Glennon, meanwhile, is still trying to prove he can lead the Bucs next season.
He threw for 617 yards with five touchdown passes to one pick during Tampa
Bay's three-game winning streak from Weeks 10-12, but has logged 449 yards
passing with four touchdowns and four interceptions in the past three.
Though his numbers last weekend weren't flashy, Schiano noted that Tampa Bay
moved the ball best versus San Francisco in the no-huddle, a credit to his
"Mike's the one who controlled the whole operation, moving it down the field
against, arguably, one of the top three defenses in the league. We didn't
perform in some areas, but I thought Mike actually, without watching the tape,
gave us the spark," Schiano said after the loss.
While Jackson has surpassed 1,000 yards receiving this season and leads the
Bucs with seven touchdown catches, Wright has made a name for himself as a
rookie out of Rutgers.
The 23-year-old is second on the club with 45 receptions and 486 receiving
yards and his four touchdown catches are a new team record for rookie tight
Schiano doesn't think that Glennon has regressed since a quick start and this
will serve as a great test to prove that is true. The Rams are tied for fifth
in the NFL with 42 sacks and were able to knock one of the league's top
quarterbacks off the rails for a half last weekend.
"It shows that we can play along with great teams, beat great teams," Quinn
said of the win over the Saints. "Throughout this year, we were a little
inconsistent up and down, but if we finally start playing like this more
consistently, we can definitely be a great team."
Great teams beat the ones they are supposed to and that is what the Rams need
to do this weekend.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Rams 23, Buccaneers 17
12/19 15:39:38 ET