Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bucs blow 10-point lead, lose to Rams 37-32 in home opener

TAMPA — Sixty-nine minutes. That's how long the Bucs and coach Dirk Koetter had to talk about what proved to be a great chance for a winning drive. Sixty-nine minutes during a weather delay.

All that time, but somehow, they mismanaged the clock.

Trailing the Rams 37-32, the game ended Sunday on second down when Jameis Winston was tackled from behind by defensive end Robert Quinn at the Los Angeles 5-yard line as the Bucs quarterback more or less tiptoed toward the end zone, pump-faking a pass that had become illegal to throw.

Koetter walked off the field at Raymond James Stadium with, still in his pocket, one of the two timeouts he had when the drive started.

"I've got to complete the ball. That's the main thing," said Winston, who passed for a career-high 405 yards, with three touchdowns and an interception.

"I had Vincent Jackson wide open for a touchdown in the corner of the end zone. That's just pitch and catch. I had Vincent Jackson wide open for another big completion. That's just pitch and catch. I overthrew him. I had Charles Sims on a little check-down and overthrew him. But I'm going to get better. I guarantee you I will get better."

It was a devastating loss to a Rams team that had not scored a touchdown this season until Sunday. And it came after the Bucs (1-2) opened a 10-point lead in the second quarter, only to see Los Angeles' league-worst offense help the Rams reel off 21 straight points. The killer was a 77-yard return of a fumble by defensive tackle Ethan Westbrooks after Winston was sacked by Quinn and lost the ball.

Making the mountain steeper were Bucs rookie kicker Roberto Aguayo's missed extra point and 41-yard field goal.

Winston twice brought the Bucs back to within one score, with a touchdown pass to tight end Cameron Brate and another to Mike Evans with 2:15 remaining.

But with the Rams facing third and 11 at their 5, referee Ed Hochuli called for a weather delay because of a thunderstorm approaching Raymond James Stadium from the east.

"Both offense and defense, the coaches met and talked about the strategy," Koetter said of the delay. "What we were going to do defensively. It was going to be one play basically to get off the field, what the punt return was going to be. We had a list of plays. We figured we'd only have one timeout left and maybe we would get the ball somewhere on the 35-yard line."

When play resumed, Rams quarterback Case Keenum threw incomplete along the sideline, allowing Koetter to have both timeouts after the two-minute warning.

The Bucs took over at their 44, and Winston completed three passes to move the Bucs to the Rams' 27 with 49 seconds remaining.

On the next play, he threw short to Sims, who gained 12 yards to the Rams' 15 but failed to get out of bounds.

Unbelievably, Koetter did not call his first of the two timeouts. This despite having assigned Andrew Weidinger, the assistant receivers and game-management coach, to help him remember end-of-game situations.

It's an end-of-game scenario Koetter said he worried about before the season because he is also the play-caller.

"Yeah, there was an opportunity (to call timeout)," Koetter said. "I got a lot of confidence in our two-minute (drill), and I sometimes push the envelope on that, on getting to the next play. I thought we were slow getting lined up on that next one. I thought we still had time to check it down again and use it. But as it worked out, we were a little slow, so I probably should've used (the timeout) there."

Instead, the clock ran down to 26 seconds when Winston threw high to Jackson. He missed Jackson again in the end zone and was wild high to Sims, but a pass interference penalty gave the Bucs at first down at the Rams' 15 with nine seconds left.

After an incompletion to Brandon Myers that stopped the clock with four ticks left, Koetter then used his first timeout.

On the next play, Winston scrambled out of the pocket and crossed the line of scrimmage, but he never fully committed to put his head down and diving for the end zone.

"I was just trying to bait them and get closer to the end zone," Winston said. "In that moment, I've just got to give somebody a chance in the end zone. That was just dumb on my part."

Perhaps, but who knows what would've happened if he had had a little more time?

Bucs blow 10-point lead, lose to Rams 37-32 in home opener 09/25/16 [Last modified: Monday, September 26, 2016 12:24am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Ronde Barber: Want intimidation? Look at past Bucs teams


    Ronde Barber says these days "it's hard to find throwbacks, where you go, 'That guy is a badass.' Where do you find that now? It's such a show-off sport." (Times 2012)
  2. Rays blow lead in ninth, lose in 10 to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash liked the way Alex Cobb was competing Friday night. He liked the way the hard contact made by the Rangers batters went away after the second or third inning. So as the game headed toward the ninth, there was no doubt in Cash's mind that sending Cobb back to the mound was …

    Rays starter Alex Cobb can hardly believe what just happened as he leaves the game in the ninth after allowing a leadoff double then a tying two-run homer to the Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo.
  3. Rays journal: Steven Souza Jr. gets extra day off to let hip heal

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — RF Steven Souza Jr. ran in rightfield before batting practice under the watchful gaze of the Rays training staff and manager Kevin Cash. Afterward, Souza told Cash he could use one more day of rest before playing on the left hip he strained Wednesday in Oakland.

    Steven Souza Jr., hugging Mallex Smith after Smith’s solo home run in the eighth inning, feels relief after tests are negative on his injured hip.
  4. Rays vs. Rangers, 7:10 p.m. Saturday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Rangers

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: FS1; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)