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Bucs fall to 4-11 with loss to Rams

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Published:   |   Updated: December 22, 2013 at 11:58 PM

ST. LOUIS — Nearly half an hour had passed since Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon left the field following his team’s 23-13 loss to the Rams on Sunday, yet there he sat, in front of his locker, still being attended to by a team medical staffer who appeared to be checking Glennon’s pulse.

“I’m fine,’’ the rosy-cheeked rookie said about 20 minutes later as he waved off the incident with a chuckle and a slight smile. “Again, it’s the NFL and as a quarterback, sometimes you get hit pretty good.’’

This had definitely been one of those times.

Taking a big leap in a race that could result in them leading the league in sacks for the second straight year, the Rams took Glennon down seven times.

Still, for the day, the Rams’ fifth-ranked pass rushers ranked second in effectiveness to their 12th-ranked run stoppers. That latter group is sure to take a leap in the NFL’s statistical rankings after limiting the Bucs to 59 yards on 23 carries, including the 37 yards that rookie running back Bobby Rainey gained on his 20 carries.

“Yeah, we obviously struggled to run the football today and that, in turn, made it harder for us to throw the football,’’ Bucs coach Greg Schiano said with a sigh. “It was a tough afternoon.’’

It was the latest in what has become a string of them for the Bucs offense. One week after being held to a season-low 183 yards by the 49ers, the Bucs set a new low by gaining just 170 yards against the Rams.

As Schiano suggested, it was the inability to run the ball that dragged the offense down, and it wasn’t the first time that’s happened. The Bucs now have been held to 66 rushing yards or fewer in four of their past five games, including the past two.

Schiano said again Sunday that the quality of the opponents has contributed largely to the slump. The other three efforts of fewer than 67 yards came against Detroit, Carolina and San Francisco, which are three of the top six rush defenses in the league.

But the Bucs went into this season thinking their offensive line would be a strength capable of matching those top units and with the exception of left guard Carl Nicks, who has missed all but two games with a foot problem, that unit has been intact all year.

“We just couldn’t seem to get into a rhythm today,’’ said right guard Davin Joseph, one of two former Pro Bowlers with left tackle Donald Penn on the Bucs’ line. “We’re just not getting it done.’’

That became apparent early on Sunday, and the Bucs tried to fix the problem by pulling starting left guard Jamon Meredith and replacing him with Ted Larsen. That change, though, made little or no difference.

In fact, it might have made the situation worse. The Bucs converted four of their first five third downs while taking a 7-0 lead on a 1-yard Rainey run midway through the first quarter, but were 0-for-9 on third down the rest of the game.

Again, their inability to run the ball, particularly on early downs, was a culprit. But it wasn’t the only one. Five of the Bucs last nine third downs were for 3 yards or less, but Gennon was sacked on all but one.

“We just didn’t hold up very well in pass protection today,’’ Joseph said. “We showed some flashes today, but we just weren’t consistent. It was just a tough day all around.’’

No one took better advantage than Robert Quinn, the Rams right defensive end who recorded three sacks and now has 18 on the year, the most in the NFC and the most ever in a season for a Rams defender.

Quinn got plenty of help setting that record, but not necessarily from the Bucs, who tried to slow him down by throwing running backs, tight ends and extra lineman at him on almost every down.

Quinn said the Rams defensive back seven did a good job of covering up the Bucs receivers and forcing Glennon to hold the ball longer than he wanted to, and Schiano backed Quinn up on that point.

“I’m anxious to watch the tape because some of the things we had in place (in pass protection),” Schiano said. “I didn’t expect (Glennon) to stand back there for three seconds because that’s not going to happen with those guys. But I didn’t expect it to be two seconds either.

“So, either we asked our guys to do something they’re not capable of doing or we did something from a schematic standpoint that didn’t have a chance to work against what they were doing. But that’s why you examine the tape — to find those things out.’’

An examination of this game tape will reveal more than just trouble protecting the passer and moving the ball. It also will reveal trouble holding onto the ball as the Bucs gave it up twice on fumbles, one by Rainey and the other by Glennon.

The first of those came early in the second quarter — Rainey losing the ball at his own 27-yard line — and led directly to the Rams’ second touchdown, which came one play later on a double reverse in which wide receiver Stedman Bailey ran 27 yards for the score and a 14-7 lead.

“We made a mistake on that,’’ Schiano said of the Bucs’ defense of the reverse. “We had a breakdown. It’s a good play but it shouldn’t be a touchdown. There should be somebody on that guy and he wasn’t there. We busted on that one.’’

The Rams soon busted open what had been a close game following Glennon’s fumble, which came while he was being sacked at his own 42-yard line with just over nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

Though a penalty on that play forced St. Louis to start its ensuing drive at its own 41, the Rams worked the Bucs defense just enough to get into range for a 48-yard Greg Zuerlein field goal and a 23-13 edge.

“As a defense, that’s what we want to do,’’ Bucs cornerback Darrelle Revis said of limiting the Rams to a field goal. “We either want to hold them out of the end zone or hold them to a field goal and we did a good job of that today.

“But at the same time, we have to find a way to put it all together as a team. That’s what it comes down to and we feel we have a great group of guys here. We just have to keep on pushing.’’

rcummings@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7979

Twitter: @RCummingsTBO

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