Sam Bradford threw for 196 yards and a pair of touchdowns on Sunday as the St. Louis Rams topped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 28-13, at Raymond James Stadium.
Bradford completed 13-of-27 passes with one interception, while Lance Kendricks had a huge day through the air, catching four passes for 119 yards — including an 80-yard touchdown — for the Rams (7-7-1), who still can finish with a winning record with a victory next week against the Seahawks.
One week after becoming just the 27th player in NFL history to reach the 10,000 rushing yard plateau, Steven Jackson ran for 81 yards and a score on 19 carries as the Rams bounced back from a 36-22 loss to the Minnesota Vikings and have won four of their last five. Austin Pettis added a touchdown catch in the triumph.
“It’s huge for us,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said of his team’s positive momentum to close the season. “We could either take the approach that we have won four of five, or we just lost to Minnesota. We’re playing hard, having fun and we got a great effort out of the defense today.”
Josh Freeman threw for an impressive 372 yards on 30-of-54 efficiency with one touchdown, but was intercepted four times. Freeman also ran four times for 18 yards, while Doug Martin collected 62 rushing yards on 18 carries.
Mike Williams hauled in seven passes for 132 yards and a touchdown, while Vincent Jackson caught seven balls for 108 yards for the Bucs (6-9) who have lost five in a row.
Trailing 28-13 after three quarters, the Bucs appeared poised to score on their first drive of the fourth quarter, moving down to the Rams’ seven, but they turned the ball over after Martin’s grab gained four yards on a 4th-and- goal.
The Bucs offense continued to struggle through the final period, as their next two drives resulted in an interception and a turnover on downs after Freeman was sacked on 4th-and-5 at the Rams’ 24.
Tampa Bay got the ball for the final time with 1:52 to play at its own 24, but went nowhere and turned the ball over on downs, which allowed the Rams to run out the final 1:03 for the victory.
“It’s certainly disappointing,” Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. “If you look at the game, it’s a case where St. Louis took advantage of their opportunities and we had a lot of missed opportunities.”
Tampa Bay got the ball to start the game and immediately embarked on a 15-play drive that chewed up more than nine minutes of game time. Freeman completed 5-of-6 passes, converting a pair of third downs along the way, but the drive stalled at the St. Louis 11 and Connor Barth drilled a 29-yard field goal attempt to put the home side up 3-0.
The Rams responded by bridging the first and second quarters with a 13-play drive down to the Tampa Bay 31, but the trek did not end with points as Bradford lofted one deep for Danny Amendola, but it was overthrown and picked off in the end zone by Danny Gorrer.
Five plays into the ensuing Bucs drive, Freeman was intercepted along the right sideline by Janoris Jenkins, who raced 41 yards to the end zone for the score and a 7-3 Rams lead.
Tampa Bay’s next touch lasted 11 plays and 49 yards to the Rams’ 31. The trek stalled, however, and Barth nailed a 49-yard field goal to make it 7-6 with 5:56 to play before halftime.
After forcing a three-and-out, the Bucs got the ball at their own 36, but on the third play of the drive, Freeman was intercepted by James Laurinaitis, giving possession back to the Rams at their own 35.
From there, the Rams went 65 yards in nine plays before Jackson finished the march with a 5-yard TD plunge, putting the Rams up 14-6 at the half.
St. Louis quickly added to its lead on the first play of the second half when Bradford found Kendricks over the middle and he rumbled 80 yards to the end zone for a 21-6 advantage.
Three plays into the ensuing Tampa drive, Freeman was picked off again — this time by Trumaine Johnson — and the Rams were able to turn the short field into points as Bradford hit Pettis in the back of the end zone for a 5-yard strike and a 28-6 margin.
The Bucs finally found the end zone with 8:50 to play in the third quarter when Freeman found Williams, who broke a few tackles and hustled 61 yards for the touchdown.