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Bucs’ Shaquil Barrett: an agent of change in victory over Rams

Barrett recorded only one sack, but found ways to impact the game
 
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff, right, passes under pressure from Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Shaquil Barrett during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019, in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff, right, passes under pressure from Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Shaquil Barrett during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019, in Los Angeles. [ MARK J. TERRILL | AP ]
Published Sept. 30, 2019|Updated Oct. 1, 2019

LOS ANGELES — Shaquil Barrett’s first sack of the game Sunday didn’t come until the final minutes of the fourth quarter.

And while it was still one of the Bucs’ biggest defensive plays in sealing their 55-40 upset win over the Los Angeles Rams, the Bucs outside linebacker found different ways to change the game.

Yes, the Bucs' bend-but-don't-break defense allowed 40 points and 517 passing yards, but overcame that with four takeaways: three interceptions and a fumble for a touchdown.

Barrett was in the middle of it all, creating two turnovers in the second half. He made a late third-quarter interception of Rams quarterback Jared Goff that led to a touchdown — the first interception of his pro career — then made a sack/fumble on Goff late in the fourth quarter that Ndamukong Suh scooped up and returned 37 yards for a touchdown that made it a two-possession game with 1:17 remaining.

Barrett also caused a second-quarter deflection — hitting Goff’s arm as he threw — that led to the Bucs’ first interception.

“They sealed the deal, yeah," Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said. “Big strip fumble and also an interception that Shaq got.”

After the game, Barrett harped on the fact that the Bucs defense allowed so many points, albeit to one of the NFL’s best offense.

“I don’t like giving up 40 points,” Barrett said. “I know we still won but, no, that’s what you do in college. I used to wonder, ‘They’ve got all these good players on defense and they’re giving up all these points.’ I see it now though.

"We’re going to fix it. We’re going to change it. It’s not going to be an every-week thing. It definitely won’t.”

Barrett’s nine sacks this season ties him for the most sacks through four games in NFL history, matching the Jets’ Mark Gastineau (1984), the Packers’ Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (2001) and the Panthers’ Kevin Greene (1998). Barrett’s three forced fumbles lead the Bucs.

After posting a turnover margin of minus-18 last season, they are plus-3 after Sunday’s win.

With last week’s 32-31 loss — in which the Bucs blew an 18-point halftime lead — to the Giants still fresh in their minds, the Bucs defense knew it had to find a way to preserve another second-half lead.

“We understand we’ve got to play 60 minutes,” Suh said. “We were in a situation last week, being up 18 points at the half and understanding we have to come out at halftime and take care of business. Although we gave up a lot of points, and we were not wanting to do so, but you have to find ways to win, especially on the road.”

The Bucs needed every big play from Barrett on Sunday.

With Tampa Bay leading by 11, the Rams faced a fourth-and-2 play at the Bucs 40 when Goff threw an errant pass to his right intended for running back Malcolm Brown. Barrett stepped in front of the route and tipped the ball to himself for the interception.

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Six plays later, Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston connected with Cameron Brate from 13 yards out for a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter to extend the Bucs lead.

In the fourth quarter, the Rams narrowed the lead to eight, but stalled near midfield. On a first-and-20 at the Tampa Bay 46, Barrett came off the left side — he typically lines up on the right — won his one-on-one matchup with an inside spin move and sacked Goff, paving the way for Suh’s scoop and score.

“I don’t know we were ever like, here we go again, because we had faith that we were going to hold them when we needed to hold them and the offense was going to keep doing what it was doing,” Barrett said. "I don’t think it was to that same point as last week.

"But it was close," he said, laughing. "It was close."

In all, the Bucs scored 28 points off those four turnovers, scoring touchdowns after first-half interceptions by Jordan Whitehead and Lavonte David. His deflection caused Whiteheads deflection.

“It’s just amazing to be the guy to step up and may the play," Barrett said of his strip sack. ”We’ve always got got guys stepping up to make the plays. Early on it was Whitehead, it was Lavonte. It’s everybody. It was my turn (in the second half) to make a play and I made a play when it was my time.”

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.