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Chris Godwin fuels Bucs’ big first-half with touchdown receptions

Third-year receiver sets tone early, finishes with career high in catches and yards.

LOS ANGELES — While he spent the past week fighting through a hip injury that forced him to miss the majority of practice this week, Bucs receiver Chris Godwin’s focused on being in uniform Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams. And Godwin quickly put any questions about whether the injury would affect him from making an impact.

Throughout this season, Godwin benefited from teammate Mike Evans fighting double teams, and in the Bucs’ 55-40 upset win over the Rams at the Los Angeles Coliseum, Godwin had arguably the best game of his career, totaling 172 receiving yards on 12 receptions, both career highs. His 12 catches are one shy of the Bucs team record for most in a single game.

Godwin had 125 yards at halftime, scoring two of the Bucs’ four first-half touchdowns — his nine receptions in the first half setting a new Bucs record — as Tampa Bay ran out to a surprising 28-17 halftime lead.

“All of this is for nothing if you don’t get a win,” Godwin said. “If you have a big game and you get a win, that’s like the icing on the cake.”

Both of Godwin’s touchdowns came following Bucs interceptions, shortening the field for Tampa Bay.

Seeing how much the hip injury affect Godwin, Bucs coach Bruce Arians was impressed with his performance.

“I can’t say enough about Chris," Arians said. “Chris in practice, he’s hurting and to put that performance out there and again, the way he blocked. He’s a tough bird.”

Safety Jordan Whitehead intercepted a Jared Goff pass that outside linebacker Shaq Barrett deflected to give the Bucs the ball at midfield. The second pick came from inside linebacker Lavonte David, who gave the Bucs the ball at the Rams 9-yard line with his first interception of the season. Godwin scored on the next play.

Godwin's first score was set up by his own 30-yard gain over the middle on a second-and-7 play in which Godwin gained 15 yards after the catch and took the ball to the Rams 2-yard line. Jameis Winston found Godwin in the end zone three plays later.

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Winston was under pressure and found Godwin toward the back right corner of the end zone for his first touchdown, giving the Bucs a 14-0 lead with 9:57 left in the second quarter.

Tampa Bay went up 21-0 just 1:29 later when Winston hit Godwin on a screen pass from Winston and darted down the right sideline to the end zone, trucking over former Bucs cornerback Aqib Talib on the way.

“I didn’t even see the play, but anytime I get the ball I’m trying to score,” Godwin said. “I was actually frustrated with myself from a couple catches earlier because I didn’t get in the end zone. So I think when I got that ball I tried whatever I could to get into the end zone.”

Godwin’s hip injury forced him to miss practice on Wednesday and Thursday. He was a limited participant on Friday’s final practice of the week, but was listed as questionable for Sunday’s game.

“It was pretty frustrating,” Godwin said. “I think I pride myself in being out there and practicing and getting those reps. I think that’s really important in getting a feel for the gameplan. So it was pretty frustrating but, I was happy I could help my teammates and contribute to a win.”

After the Bucs went up 21-0, the Rams scored quick touchdowns on each of their next two possessions, cutting the Tampa Bay lead to one possession, The Bucs scored again with 47 seconds remaining in the half on a Ronald Jones five-yard touchdown run, and Greg Zuerlein hit a 58-yard field goal with two seconds left.

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at Follow @EddieInTheYard.