Quarterback Austin Davis, making his first NFL start in place of the injured Shaun Hill, played efficient, turnover-free football. But it took injured Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Evans to allow the Rams to escape with a 19-17 victory — their first of the season.
A 27-yard completion from Josh McCown to Evans on the final series of the game gave the Bucs a first down at the St. Louis 32, within range of a field goal attempt by Tampa to win the game.
But because Evans was injured and Tampa had no timeouts left, there was a 10-second runoff _ by rule. (It's designed to keep trailing teams from faking injury to stop the clock.)
There were only 8 seconds left on the clock at the time. So the game ended right there: Rams 19, Bucs 17.
Greg Zuerlein's game-winning field goal came from 38 yards out with 38 seconds left.
For the second time in as many games, the Rams won the coin toss and deferred to the second half, which meant their defense took the field first.
Maybe the Rams should re-think that next week. Because for the second week in a row, the opposing team scored off the opening kickoff. Last week, it was Minnesota with a field goal on its first drive.
This week, Tampa Bay scored a touchdown off the opening kickoff, on a five-yard scramble by Josh McCown with 8:56 to go in the first quarter. The Rams were gracious on defense, getting called offsides on two of the game's first four plays.
The first penalty (against William Hayes) was declined because running back Bobby Rainey, starting in place of the injured Doug Martin, ran for 24 yards around right end.
And then, on second-and-6 from the Rams 40, Michael Brockers was called for offsides. This proved very costly because it looked like James Laurinaitis recovered a fumble by McCown and returned it 66 yards for a Rams touchdown.
Instead of a Rams TD, it was second-and-1, Bucs, from the St. Louis 35. Rainey was stopped by Eugene Sims for no gain on third-and-1 from the 35. But Sims brought Rainey down with a horse-collar tackle drawing the flag.
So instead of a fourth-down choice from the 35 between kicking a field goal and going it for it, the Bucs had a first down at the St. Louis 20 after the 15-yard penalty.
The Bucs were in the end zone six plays later.
The Rams came right back on their first possession, marching 80 yards on 10 plays for a game-tying touchdown. Back-to-back receptions by Brian Quick accounted for 30 of those 80 yards, and Tavon Austin tacked on 18 with an end-around that advanced the ball to the Tampa 18.
The next three plays were carries by Zac Stacy, with the third going for two yards and a game-tying touchdown behind a heavy formation that included backup center Tim Barnes as an eligible extra blocker.
Tampa Bay was in scoring position on its next series, advancing all the way to the St. Louis 9. But McCown, under pressure from Laurinaitis, made a horrible decision in throwing towards the end zone instead of throwing it away.
Rams free safety Rodney McLeod scooped up the low throw for an interception _ the third of his NFL career _ and the Rams took over at their 2 with 11:14 to go in the second quarter.
Five minutes later, the lightning came and the game was delayed. On the last play before the delay, Austin suffered a knee injury trying to make a catch on an Austin Davis pass that fell incomplete.
Austin warmed up with the team after the weather delay, but when play resumed he was watching with his right knee wrapped and his helmet off on the sideline.
A blocked punt by safety T.J. McDonald gave the Rams possession at the Tampa Bay 28 with 3:19 left to go in the half. By the drive stalled when Davis couldn't handle a shotgun snap from center Scott Wells on third-and-5 from the Bucs' 12. After the six-yard loss Greg Zuerlein kicked a 36-yard field goal to give the Rams a 10-7 lead _ their first lead of the season.
That lead disappeared in the third quarter after a Zac Stacy fumble in Tampa territory on the opening drive of the second half. Safety Dahon Goldson recovered on the Bucs 40 and in the end zone seven plays later on a one-yard run by QB McCown. Wide receiver Vincent Jackson had catches of 20 and 18 yards on the play.
But the Rams added a pair of Zuerlein field goals to take a 16-14 lead 6 minutes into the fourth quarter. But as was frequently the case Sunday, the Rams couldn't stand prosperity. A roughing the passer penalty against Jo-Lonn Dunbar on Tampa's next drive prevented the Bucs' from punting.
A 31-yard run by Rainey put the Bucs in position for a 36-yard field goal by rookie Patrick Murray, giving Tampa a 17-16 lead with just over 5 minutes to play. It was Murray's first NFL field goal.