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Ex-Buc Matt Gay’s 40-yard field goal in the closing minutes gave the Rams a 27-24 win over Tampa Bay in a nationally televised game Monday night at Raymond James Stadium.
The Bucs dropped to 7-4, 1-1/2 games behind the Saints (8-2) in the NFC South. The Rams improved to 7-3 and slipped ahead of the Seahawks (7-3) — who they beat earlier this season — into first place in the NFC West.
Gay, waived by the Bucs in September, also converted from 38 yards on the final play of the second quarter to give Los Angeles a 17-14 halftime lead. He missed wide right on a 44-yard attempt in the third quarter.
Starting at its 25-yard line with 3:53 remaining, Los Angeles drove 53 yards in eight plays. Jared Goff completed passes of 23 yards to Robert Woods and 19 to Cooper Kupp on the drive.
But William Gholston stopped Malcolm Brown for no gain on third-and-eight from the Tampa Bay 22, and the Rams had to settle for Gay’s second field goal of the game with 2:36 remaining.
The Bucs got the ball back with at their 19 with 2:32 to play. But after picking up one first down, Tom Brady was intercepted by Jordan Fuller on a deep pass down the middle for tight end Cameron Brate.
Los Angeles kept the ball on the ground, and Tampa Bay forced the Rams to go three-and-out.
Johnny Hekker punted with nine seconds remaining, but the clock expired during Kenjon Barner’s seven-yard return.
Brady was 26 of 48 for 216 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Both interceptions came on deep throws downfield.
Antonio Brown caught a team-leading eight passes for 57 yards. Chris Godwin had seven receptions for 53 yards and a touchdown, and Mike Evans added five catches for 49 yards and a score.
Jason Pierre-Paul and Jordan Whitehead had interceptions for the Bucs defense. Lavonte David led the team with eight tackles, including three for losses.
Bucs tie game on Godwin TD reception
The Bucs turned the ball over on downs with just over eight minutes remaining when Tom Brady’s pass for Chris Godwin on fourth-and-1 from the Rams 43 was incomplete.
But Tampa Bay got the ball back in Los Angeles territory just two plays later, as Jordan Whitehead intercepted a Jared Goff pass at the 48 and returned it to the 44.
The Bucs needed just six plays to take advantage, as Brady hooked up with Chris Godwin on a 13-yard scoring pass — Godwin leaping over cornerback Darious Williams and reaching over the goal line — to tie the score at 24 with 3:53 to play.
Two completions on same play
Tom Brady completed two passes on the same play when a pass was batted back to him in the fourth quarter, he caught the ball and threw again to Mike Evans.
That’s illegal, of course, so the Bucs were penalized on the play.
But because the Rams declined the penalty, Tampa Bay was awarded the yards it gained on the reception.
It was still short of a first down, and the Bucs were forced to punt.
Bucs dodge a bullet
One play after Samson Ebukam sacked Tom Brady for a 7-yard loss, Morgan Fox hit Brady in the end zone, knocking the ball out of the quarterback’s hands.
The play was ruled an incomplete pass, and a replay review upheld the ruling on the field.
The Bucs were forced to punt, and the Rams took over on their 42-yard line, leading 24-17 as the third quarter expired.
Brady interception leads to Akers TD run
Tom Brady badly underthrew Chris Godwin on a post pattern in the third quarter, and Jordan Fuller intercepted, setting up the Rams’ go-ahead touchdown.
Fuller returned the ball to the Bucs 37 before being pushed out of bounds by Tristan Wirfs.
After a short Cam Akers run and a delay-of-game penalty, back-to-back 18-yard passes from Jared Goff to tight end Gerald Everett and wide receiver Josh Reynolds moved the ball to the Bucs 4.
One play later, Goff hit Akers, a former Florida State standout, out of the backfield for a four-yard touchdown and a 24-17 Los Angeles lead with 5:39 to play in the quarter.
Gay misses wide right
The Rams drove 49 yards to the Bucs 26 on their next possession, but Matt Gay’s 44-yard field goal missed wide right, keeping the game tied at 17 with 8:25 remaining in the third quarter.
Bucs turn pick into points
The Bucs got the ball deep in Rams territory early in the second half thanks to a Jason Pierre-Paul interception and tied the game at 17 on Ryan Succop’s 38-yard field goal.
Pierre-Paul picked off a screen pass intended for Darrell Henderson Jr. and returned it to the Los Angeles 22.
After Ronald Jones ran for two yards over left guard, Tom Brady threw incomplete twice and Tampa Bay had to settle for Succop’s field goal with 12:41 to play in the quarter.
Ex-Buc gives Rams halftime lead
The Rams took a 17-14 lead on ex-Buc Matt Gay’s 38-yard field goal as time expired in the first half Monday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
After forcing a Tampa Bay punt, Los Angeles gained possession at its 19 with a minute remaining in the half. The Rams used five plays to move the ball 22 yards to their 41 with 25 seconds remaining.
A 35-yard pass from Jared Goff to Robert Woods advanced the ball to the Bucs 20, and Goff managed to clock the ball with one second remaining, leaving just enough time for Gay’s field-goal try.
Bucs feature Brown late in first half
The Bucs featured wide receiver Antonio Brown on their final possession of the first half.
Brown had four touches on the 8-play, 24-yard drive that ended with a punt from the Tampa Bay 49.
Brown caught passes of 12 and 7 yards for first downs, in addition to a four-yard reception and a 1-yard run.
Ex-Gator ties game for Rams
The Rams tied the game at 14 on a seven-yard pass from Jared Goff to former Florida Gator Van Jefferson with just over four minutes remaining in the first half.
The Rams picked up the tempo after falling behind by a touchdown midway through the second quarter.
Los Angeles crossed midfield on a 19-yard completion from Goff to wide receiver Robert Woods.
Two plays later, Cooper Kupp took a short pass from Goff 24 yards to the Tampa Bay 18.
A neutral zone infraction called against Bucs linebacker Shaquil Barrett on third-and-4 from the Tampa Bay 12 gave the Rams a first down at the 7.
Goff hit Jefferson on a slant pass for the touchdown one play later.
Fournette TD run gives Bucs first lead
Leonard Fournette’s two-yard run up the middle gave the Bucs their first lead of the game, 14-7, with 8:35 remaining in the second quarter.
The touchdown capped a 10-play, 68-yard drive that began at the Tampa Bay 32 following a Los Angeles punt.
The big play was a 25-yard pass interference penalty on Jordan Fuller against Scotty Miller that moved the ball to the Rams 20.
The Bucs converted twice on third down earlier in the drive on Brady passes of 9 and 7 yards to tight end Cameron Brate.
An 18-yard pass fro Tom Brady to Mike Evans moved the ball to the Los Angeles 2, setting up Fournette’s scoring run.
Bucs tie game on Mike Evans TD catch
Mike Evans fought his way into the end zone for a nine-yard touchdown, tying the game at 7 less than a minute into the second quarter.
Evans caught a pass from Tom Brady at the 8-yard line, lowered his shoulder, bounced off one tackler, twisted away from another, put a hand down to steady himself at the 2 and lunged across the goal line.
A 20-yard pass interference penalty on Jalen Ramsey got the 10-play, 75-yard drive started, moving the ball from the Tampa Bay 25 to its 45.
Five plays later, Brady found tight end Rob Gronkowski for 16 yards to the Rams 18.
Rams get on the board first
Wide receiver Cooper Kupp caught five passes from Jared Goff as the Rams drove 80 yards on their opening possession to take a 7-0 lead with just over four minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Kupp accounted for 62 yards on the drive, including a 38-yard reception to the Bucs 12. He caught a pass from Goff over the middle and broke tackles from Antoine Winfield Jr. and Mike Edwards before being forced out of bounds by Jamel Dean.
Tampa Bay linebacker Devin White was called for a neutral-zone infraction on third-and-2 from the Bucs 4, giving the Rams a first down at the 2.
Jordan Whitehead dropped Darrell Henderson Jr. for a two-yard loss, and Goff threw incomplete for Josh Reynolds, bringing up third down.
But Goff found Robert Woods open in the back of the end zone for a four-yard touchdown and a 7-0 Rams lead with 3:55 to play in the quarter.
Donovan Smith briefly leaves game
Bucs left tackle Donovan Smith left with an apparent ankle injury on the first play from scrimmage, a Ronald Jones run over left guard for no gain.
He was replaced by Josh Wells but returned with about four minutes left in the quarter.
The Bucs picked up one first down on the drive before being forced to punt from their 41-yard line.
Another classic in the making?
What will it be this time? An offensive onslaught? A defensive duel? A captivating comeback?
The Bucs and Rams don’t meet often. But when they do, something remarkable always seems to happen.
Two conference championship games. The first prime-time game in Bucs history. A memorable Monday-night matchup. And a pulse-pounding payback win, among them.
So, what will it be this time?
Postseason aspirations will be on the line when the teams meet tonight at Raymond James Stadium in a game that will be broadcast nationally by ESPN on Monday Night Football.
Tampa Bay (7-3) needs a win not only to stay within striking distance of New Orleans (8-2) in the NFC South but to remain in front of Los Angeles (6-3) in the wild-card race. If the season ended right now, both teams would make the playoffs. But a loss will put one team perilously close to the cut line.
The Bucs will have to face the Rams and star defensive tackle Aaron Donald without arguably their best offensive lineman. Left guard Ali Marpet will be out for the third straight game, as he remains in concussion protocol.
A.Q. Shipley will start at center, and Ryan Jensen will move to left guard as they did for last week’s win over the Panthers. They’ll have their hands full with Donald, who has nine sacks and three forced fumbles for the Rams, who rank fourth in the NFL in rushing defense.
It’s no secret that the Bucs have struggled in prime-time games this season, losing to the Bears and Saints and narrowly defeating the then-one-win Giants. To better prepare his team, Bruce Arians held practices Friday and Saturday nights at the Bucs’ indoor practice facility.
The game also will be notable in that it will feature the first all-Black officiating crew in NFL history.
Follow along, starting at 8:15 p.m., as the Bucs look to win for the fifth time in their past six games and solidify their standing in the NFC playoff race.
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A little light reading
Here’s some of our content leading up to today’s game: