There’s no good way to lose to the Los Angeles Rams, a team that scored a grand total of nine points through the first eight quarters of the season and is quarterbacked by something called “Case Keenum.” But of all the possible ways to fall to a team as bad as the Rams (really, there aren’t many!), the Bucs found the worst one.
Thirty-seven points! The Buccaneers managed to surrender 37 goddamn points to a team that would have counted 14 as a huge step forward. Two of the Rams’ scores—a 44-yard bomb to Brian Quick and a 43-yard catch-and-run by Tavon Austin—featured some of the sorriest defending you’ll ever see.
Quick just ran through everybody here:
And this looked like a play out of intramural game:
And yet, the Bucs still had a great shot at winning the game. Right after the two-minute warning, the game was suspended for 69 minutes due to lightning, and when it restarted the Bucs found themselves with the ball on their own 44 with 1:43 to play. They had two time outs, and were down 37-32. Despite having had over an hour to plan a two-minute drill, head coach Dirk Koetter and quarterback Jameis Winston combined to run the clumsiest drive of the season.
Everything starts out great with a 16-yard completion to Vincent Jackson, who gets out of bounds and stops the clock. Winston follows that up with a 6-yard completion to Adam Humphries in the middle of the field. The Bucs no-huddle and snap the ball in less than 15 seconds, and Winston completes another short pass over the middle for the first down. Maybe it’s time to use one of those timeouts now?
Nope. The clock keeps ticking, and Winston slings an incomplete pass to Jackson. Suddenly, there’s just 49 seconds remaining. The next play is a pass in the flat to Charles Sims, who cuts up field for 12 yards but fails to get out of bounds. Definitely time to call one of those timeouts, right? Right??
Nooope. The clock keeps running and Winston throws another incomplete pass—26 seconds left to play. The next four plays go as follows: incomplete pass, false start, pass interference, incomplete pass. Now there are four seconds on the clock, and the Bucs finally call a timeout to draw up one last play. They end up doing this:
Koetter didn’t really have a good explanation for swallowing his timeouts, telling reporters after the game, “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.”
And what of Winston’s decision to shuffle a good 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage before realizing he couldn’t make a throw? “I was just trying to bait them and get closer to the end zone,” he said. “In that moment, I’ve just got to give somebody a chance in the end zone. That was just dumb on my part.”
This isn’t how the Bucs—a team you could have called a sleeper coming into the season while keeping a straight face—were hoping to start the year. Koetter was supposed to remove all the rot that had taken hold under Greg Schiano and Lovie Smith, the defense was supposed to keep improving, and Winston was supposed to stake a claim as one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
So far, it’s been a mixed bag. A 31-24 win over the Falcons in Week 1 seemed to signal that good things were ahead, but Week 2's 40-7 blowout loss against the Cardinals and yesterday’s self-immolation have dampened the optimism. It’s still very early, but the Bucs have the Broncos at home and the Panthers on the road for their next two games, and a 1-4 hole is not a place a team that’s supposed to be on the rise wants to find itself.