ST. LOUIS — For three quarters, Tampa Bay Buccaneers left tackle Donald Penn and Rams defensive end Robert Quinn slugged it out, exchanging haymakers.
In the final round, Quinn landed the knockout blows.
After an admittedly substandard game last week against Aldon Smith and the 49ers, Penn was geared up for a big day against Quinn, who entered the day with an NFC-high 15 sacks.
Quinn beat Penn inside for a late second-quarter sack against rookie quarterback Mike Glennon, but the Bucs were still very much in the game with almost 10 minutes left, trailing 20-13. Then Glennon’s fumble at midfield led to Greg Zuerlein’s third field goal of the game and a 10-point lead for St. Louis.
With Glennon passing on every snap, Quinn sacked him on fourth down just after the two-minute warning. Ninety seconds later, Quinn’s sack on the final play of the game gave him 18 for the season, breaking the franchise record set by Kevin Carter in 1999.
“I went into this game thinking I was going to have a dominant performance,’’ Penn said. “It started off great. Late in the game, (Quinn) adjusted and I didn’t. I’ve got to find a way. I’m disappointed. This has been a rough year for me, to be honest.’’
Quinn, who was carried off the field by teammates at the end of the game, finished with three sacks, three tackles for loss, four QB hits and six unassisted tackles.
Quinn lined up in different spots and not all of his damage came against Penn, but it was quite an encore performance for the third-year pro a week after he dropped Drew Brees twice in an upset against the Saints.
“They had the running backs or tight ends there to chip,’’ said Quinn, a strong candidate for NFL Defensive Player of the Year. “The back seven covered their tails off. When you get the quarterback to keep pumping the ball, holding, standing back there, you get numbers like that. I’ve been blessed all year and it was a nice way to end the game.’’
Head to head
Bucs safety Dashon Goldson is still trying to learn the new rules of the NFL road.
The league suspended Goldson one game for a helmet-to-helmet hit against Atlanta wide receiver Roddy White on Nov. 17 and on Sunday, the two-time Pro Bowler was flagged for a personal foul after rookie wide receiver Stedman Bailey hauled in a 12-yard pass early in the fourth quarter.
The unnecessary-roughness penalty gave St. Louis a first down at the 6-yard line and the Rams eventually settled for a field goal and a 20-13 advantage.
“This new football is discouraging, man,’’ said Goldson, who appeared to lead with his head while launching himself into Bailey’s helmet. “It’s hard, it’s really hard. What are you supposed to do in that position? You do a form tackle and wrap the guy up. It’s deeper than what I thought it was, for sure.’’
Early misfortune for Jake Long
The game was only a few minutes old before the Rams saw a mainstay on their offensive line carted off the field. Left tackle Jake Long, the first overall pick in the 2008 draft who signed with the Rams in 2013 as a free agent from Miami, went down with a serious knee injury and never returned.
“I countered and he buckled his knee,’’ said Bucs defensive end Adrian Clayborn, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 3 last year. “I hope he’s all right. I know what that’s like.’’
Rams coach Jeff Fisher didn’t sound optimistic.
“We are anticipating the worst for Jake,’’ Fisher said. “We’re suspecting he has a torn ACL.’’
With Long sidelined, the Rams moved right tackle Rodger Saffold over to the left side and played backup Joe Barksdale in Saffold’s usual spot.
With safety Mark Barron out with a hamstring injury, Keith Tandy made his fourth start of the year for Tampa Bay and finished with seven tackles and a fumble recovery. ... Ted Larsen replaced Jamon Meredith at left guard for the Bucs early in the game and played the rest of the way. ... Rookie wide receiver Skye Dawson and defensive tackle Derek Landri did not get into the game for Tampa Bay. ... It took 33 carries, but Zac Stacy joined Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy (116) and Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch (125) as runners who topped 100 yards against the Bucs this year. ... Tampa Bay fell to 0-7 when trailing at halftime. ... Rookie quarterback Mike Glennon has been sacked 38 times in 375 pass attempts.