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Buccaneers-Rams, Week 4: What we learned from Tampa Bay’s upset

Thomas Bassinger: It was closer than it should have been, but the Bucs showed us resolve we haven’t seen in years.
 
Bucs tight end Cameron Brate celebrates his first touchdown of the season. Jameis Winston completed passes to eight players Sunday in Tampa Bay's 55-40 win over Los Angeles.
Bucs tight end Cameron Brate celebrates his first touchdown of the season. Jameis Winston completed passes to eight players Sunday in Tampa Bay's 55-40 win over Los Angeles. [ MARK J. TERRILL | Associated Press ]
Published Sept. 30, 2019|Updated Sept. 30, 2019

Observations from the Buccaneers’ 55-40 win over the Rams on Sunday:

1. What a week for Tampa Bay sports. The Rays clinched a postseason berth for the first time since 2013, the Bucs — nine-point underdogs — beat the defending NFC champions in Los Angeles and the Lightning open their season Thursday. As for USF football, well, let’s not talk about that …

2. In a hushed locker room after the Bucs lost to the Giants, tight end Cameron Brate admitted, “It’s hard to bounce back from a loss like that. Good teams do it, and (the Rams game) will be a good measure of who we are as a team and the kind of guys we have in the room.” Tampa Bay showed the resolve Sunday that past teams have lacked. Brate did his part, too. He caught a touchdown, his first of the season, at the start of the fourth quarter to give the Bucs a 38-20 lead.

3. Who saw the Bucs breaking a team record for points scored? The Rams came into the game allowing fewer than 17 points per game. The most Tampa Bay had scored in a Jameis Winston start was 45 (Nov. 22, 2015 vs. the Eagles in Philadelphia).

4. One of the reasons for the Bucs’ offensive explosion: They finally started capitalizing on their red-zone opportunities. Tampa Bay came into the game with the second-worst red-zone touchdown percentage (27.3 percent). On Sunday, the offense scored touchdowns in its first five trips inside the 20-yard line and five of six overall.

5. The 95 combined points scored also is a new team record, eclipsing the 90 points the Bucs and Jets scored in 1985 (New York won 62-28) and the 88 points the Bucs and Saints scored last season (Tampa Bay won 48-40).

6. The Bucs and Rams combined to gain 982 yards, the third most ever in a Bucs game. The team record is 1,023, set in a November 1980 game between Tampa Bay and Minnesota.

7. The Bucs last faced a Wade Phillips-coached defense early in the 2016 season. The Broncos held the Bucs to seven points and intercepted Winston twice.

8. Where would Winston and the Bucs be without Chris Godwin? He caught 12 passes for 172 yards (both career highs) and two touchdowns Sunday, the sixth time in his career and second time this season that he has gained at least 100 receiving yards in a game. He gained 125 of those yards in the first half, the first time in his career that he has gained 100 or more yards in a single half. Godwin also delivered a key block on Ronald Jones’ 5-yard touchdown near the end of the second quarter.

9. Just when you were thinking Winston couldn’t throw the deep ball … he threw a 67-yard dime to Mike Evans in the fourth quarter. It was the longest touchdown pass of his career and the third-longest completion. He threw a 68-yarder to Evans in 2015 and a 70-yard to Godwin in 2017.

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10. Just when you were thinking Winston could play a clean game … he threw an interception that Marcus Peters returned 32 yards for a touchdown that made it 45-40 with eight minutes left. Aside from the pick, Winston was outstanding, completing nearly 70 percent of his passes for 385 yards and four touchdowns.

11. Shaquil Barrett is for real. The Bucs linebacker harassed Rams quarterback Jared Goff all afternoon. In addition to recording his ninth sack of the season, he forced a game-sealing fumble, intercepted a pass and deflected two others. Lavonte David and Jordan Whitehead also picked off Goff, who threw three interceptions for only the second time in his career. Tampa Bay intercepted just one pass in its first three games this season.

12. The Rams were relentless. Goff threw 68 passes, tied for third most in a single game in NFL history. He gained 517 yards, the most the Bucs have ever allowed.

13. Big rebound for kicker Matt Gay, who missed the potential game-winning field goal a week ago. His first extra point was a close call — bounced off the upright and then through the goal posts — but he made his next eight kicks, including a 58-yard field goal, look easy.

14. The Bucs should have been able to run away from the Rams, but penalties wiped out a pair of big Jones gains. An illegal shift penalty negated a 24-yard run in the first quarter, and an offensive holding penalty negated a 54-yard run in the third quarter.

Contact Thomas Bassinger at tbassinger@tampabay.com. Follow @tometrics.