LOS ANGELES – Despite a late rally, a quartet of untimely turnovers along with missed opportunities on offense were too much to overcome for the Rams (3-1) in a 55-40 loss to the Buccaneers (2-2) Sunday afternoon at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Rams WR wide receiver Robert Woods finished with 164 yards on a career-high 13 receptions in the defeat, while RB Todd Gurley II found the endzone twice. QB Jared Goff set new career highs in passing yards (517) and pass attempts (68), completing 45 with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Safety Eric Weddle paced the Rams defensive with 15 total tackles, and CB Marcus Peters added a pick six.
The Rams won the toss and deferred to the second half, but the opening kickoff went out of bounds. The ensuing penalty set up the Buccaneers at their own 40, and they were able to capitalize on the condensed field position with a 3-yard touchdown run by RB Peyton Barber for an early 7-0 lead. It was the first touchdown surrendered by the Rams defense in the first half this season and snapped a streak of eight consecutive regular season games without one.
Driving deep into Tampa Bay territory early in the second quarter, Goff got hit as he threw the ball and was intercepted by Buccaneers safety Jordan Whitehead. Whitehead's return, plus a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty against WR Robert Woods after the play, set up the Bucs at midfield.
The takeaway helped Tampa Bay extend its lead to 14-0 with 9:57 left in the second quarter, as QB Jameis Winston found WR Chris Godwin for a 3-yard touchdown on the ensuing drive – set up in part by a 30-yard catch-and-run by Godwin.
The Bucs collected their second takeaway on the Rams' next offensive drive, with LB Lavonte David intercepting Goff and returning it to the Rams 9-yard line. Tampa Bay needed just one play to capitalize, as Winston threw a second touchdown pass to Godwin to extend its lead to 21-0 with 8:28 left in the first half.
Los Angeles avoided a first-half shutout thanks to a 8-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 13-yard touchdown run by RB Todd Gurley II with 5:34 left in the second quarter, cutting its deficit to 21-7.
Facing a 3rd and 12 from his own 23, Winston looked deep down the right sideline for WR Mike Evans. However, Evans was shoved out of bounds by Rams safety Eric Weddle as he hauled in the catch, resulting in an incompletion.
A fair catch interference penalty on the ensuing punt return against Tampa Bay set up the Rams at midfield, and Goff was quick to respond with a 37-yard completion to Woods. Assisted further by a 5-yard roughing the passer penalty against Buccaneers DE Carl Nassib, the Rams cut further into the Bucs' lead with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Goff to TE Gerald Everett for a 21-14 deficit with 2:50 left in the first half.
LB Bryce Hager suffered a shoulder injury in the first half and did not return. He was replaced by rookie Troy Reeder.
The Bucs quickly took the momentum back, extending their lead to 28-14 on a 6-yard TD run by Ronald Jones II with 47 seconds left in the first half. However, the Rams responded with a 58-yard field goal by kicker Greg Zuerlein to head into halftime with an 11-point deficit.
Zuerlein knocked in a 48-yard field goal on the opening drive of the second half after Los Angeles failed to convert on 3rd and 10 from the Tampa Bay 28. However, it was nullified by a roughing the holder penalty against the Bucs.
Given a second crack at reaching the endzone, the Rams couldn't take advantage, settling for a 44-yard field goal by Zuerlein and 28-20 deficit with 9:03 left in the 3rd quarter.
Zuerlein's 44-yarder moved him into second on the Rams' all-time career scoring list with 790 points.
Tampa Bay responded with a 58-yard field goal by Matt Gay to extend its lead to 31-20 with 4:43 left in the third quarter, overcoming a long run by Jones which was negated by a holding penalty.
Seeking to convert on 4th and 2 near midfield, Goff threw his third interception of the afternoon as his pass short right intended for RB Malcolm Brown was picked off by Bucs LB Shaq Barrett. On the same series, Goff just missed on a completion deep right to Cooks that would've been a 43-yard touchdown and made it a one-possession game.
On the next series, the Rams' defense lost safety Taylor Rapp to an ankle injury which knocked him out of the game. The Bucs extended their lead to 38-20 on the same drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Winston to TE Cameron Brate.
The Rams moved quickly to respond, mounting an 8-play, 75-yard drive that lasted two and a half minutes and was capped off a five-yard touchdown run by Gurley. Gurley's second rushing score cut the deficit to 38-27 with 12:31 left.
The Bucs countered with a 67-yard strike from Winston to WR Mike Evans to extend their lead to 45-27 with 11:35 left, but the Rams would answer with a 29-yard touchdown pass from Goff to WR Cooper Kupp to trim their deficit to 11 with 9:12 left.
A 32-yard interception return for a touchdown by Peters made it a one-possession game. The Rams went for two but failed to convert after Goff's pass intended for Kupp fell incomplete, making it 45-40 Bucs with 8:11 left.
The Bucs added a 21-yard field goal by Gay to extend their lead to eight. However, with the score coming with 2:35 left, it still left plenty of time for the Rams to tie it up.
Los Angeles reached its own 40 yard line on the ensuing series when Goff was stripped of the ball by Barrett. Bucs DT Ndakumong Suh picked up the fumble and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown to make it a two-possession game with 1:06 left and put the game out of reach for the Rams.