The St. Louis Rams defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday Night Football by a score of 31-23. Rams quarterback Case Keenum had his best game of the season, going 14-of-17 for 234 yards and two touchdowns. As well as being efficient with the football, Keenum didn't turn the ball over.
The passing game surprisingly carried the Rams offense tonight, as the rushing attack is usually the only offense for the Rams. The Buccaneers did outgain the Rams 509 to 313, but Tampa Bay did turn the ball over. The Rams also received a big boost from their special teams unit, as Benny Cunningham had a 102-yard kickoff return which he took down to the Tampa Bay four yard line. This also set the mark for second longest non-scoring kick return in NFL history, which only trails Percy Harvin who had a 104-yard return back in 2011.
The Rams came out strong, capping off a three minute opening drive with a Case Keenum touchdown pass to Tavon Austin. The Rams defense stood strong, only allowing three points to the Bucs in the first half. Later in the first quarter, Keenum threw a bomb to wide receiver Kenny Britt for a 60-yard touchdown pass to put the Rams up 14-3.
Then just before the two minute warning, Todd Gurley found the endzone to make it 21-3, a lead the Rams would take into the half. The Bucs contained Gurley, as he finished the game with only 48 rushing yards. Gurley did also have 31 receiving yards on two catches. Despite the rushing difficulties, Gurley reached the 1,000 rush yards mark, becoming the first Ram rookie to run for 1,000 yards since Jerome Bettis did it in 1993. Gurley is also third in the NFL in rushing.
In the second half, the Bucs had to play catchup. The Bucs added a field goal but Tavon Austin found paydirt again, putting the Rams up 28-6 at the end of the third quarter. Jameis Winston tossed a touchdown to Luke Stocker to make it 28-13 and then the two teams exchanged field goals. Winston would proceed to throw a touchdown to tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins to bring Tampa Bay within eight. But the Rams would recover the following onside kick to preserve the win.
In Tampa's loss, quarterback Jameis Winston finished the game 29-of-50 for 363 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. A good chunk of those yards were thrown to wide receiver Mike Evans who finished with nine catches for 157 yards.
There was a lot of uncertainty going into the game, as it was the Rams last home game of 2015 and could have possibly been the last game they played in the city of St. Louis. Many have critiqued Rams fans for lack of attendance over the last few years but since the 2005 season, the Rams have gone 55-118-1, which accounts for the 31st ranked winning percentage in the league since then.
When asked about the relocation situation, linebacker James Laurinaitis added, “It's kind of uncomfortable for everybody, I'm not very good at things I can't control, I've struggled with that my whole life, and this is one of those things.” Laurinaitis also stated his appreciation for what the fans in St. Louis have done for him and the team.
Defensive end Chris Long said, “I'm appreciative of this place and I'll play as hard as I can. You never know, you just never know. As we've done all year, you have to worry about doing our jobs and handling what we can control." Laurinaitis and Long are the longest tenured Rams on the team. Long was drafted by the Rams in 2008 and Laurinaitis was drafted in 2009.
Apart from the relocation controversy, it was announced earlier Thursday that the Rams have no intentions to fire head coach Jeff Fisher. Fisher has been the Rams head coach since 2012 and is yet to coach the Rams to a record better than 7-9 in his tenure. Fans have been calling for his job and with this announcement; it is very frustrating for some fans.
However, with new offensive coordinator Rob Boras, the Rams are 2-0 and their offense against the Bucs tonight looked great, as they put up over 30 points for only the second time this season. With Fisher staying, it’ll be interesting to see how the Rams attack free agency and the draft this upcoming offseason. But as for now, they sit at 6-8 and finish off the season with road games against the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers.