Entering Sunday’s matchup, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the team with the high-powered offense.
But during a stretch in the late second and early third quarters Sunday, it was the St. Louis Rams offense that seemingly couldn’t be stopped. Three touchdowns over the span of 4:44 gave the Rams a 28-6 lead en route to a 28-13 victory at Raymond James Stadium.
As a whole, the offense struggled to move the ball much of the day, failing to score for almost the entire first half before running back Steven Jackson punched it in from five yards out with 38 seconds left in the half. That score gave the Rams a 14-6 lead after cornerback Janoris Jenkins scored his fourth touchdown of the season on a 41-yard interception return earlier in the quarter.
Coming out of the break, the Rams needed just one offensive play to reach the end zone again. Quarterback Sam Bradford found tight end Lance Kendricks running free in the middle of the field and Kendricks, with help from wide receiver Danny Amendola, took it to the house. The 80-yard touchdown was the longest pass of Bradford’s career.
After cornerback Trumaine Johnson intercepted Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman – one of four picks Freeman threw on the day – the Rams were set up at the Tampa Bay 30-yard line. They needed six plays to score this time, with Bradford hooking up with Austin Pettis for a five-yard touchdown.
The day had the possibility to be a historic one for Jackson, who was just 91 yards shy of his eighth-straight 1,000-yard rushing season. Jackson finished 10 yards short of the record – a record he should set in the season’s final game against the Seattle Seahawks – but his touchdown tied him for second on the franchise’s all-time rushing touchdown list with Eric Dickerson. He is now just two touchdowns shy of Marshall Faulk’s franchise-record 58 rushing scores.
It will be an interesting final week for Jackson, whose future with the team is in question. Jackson holds the option to opt out of the final year of his contract, meaning this Sunday’s game in Seattle could potentially be Jackson’s last in a Rams uniform. With so much on the line, it should be a meaningful day for Jackson and his teammates.
Unfortunately, a berth to the postseason will not be on the line. Despite the Rams win, the team was officially eliminated from playoff contention Sunday.
Still, the team has the opportunity to finish with a winning record for the first time in almost a decade. The last time the Rams finished above .500 was 2003. Though there’s little left in terms of postseason implications, there will be plenty to watch for in Sunday’s season finale.