Rams-Buccaneers: What we learned

Bucky Dent, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchangeDecember 22, 2013


ST. LOUIS -- It's not very often that a player from a 7-8 football team gets a ride off the field.
Then again, St. Louis Rams defensive end Robert Quinn hasn't been your ordinary player in 2013.
Quinn's three sacks, including one on the game's final play Sunday, gave him a team single-season record of 18 as St. Louis notched a 23-13 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.
Moments after concluding a post-game interview on the field, Quinn was carried off it by teammates Chris Long and Will Witherspoon as the remnants of a crowd of 54,423 cheered and chanted "MVP!"
"I was just hoping they wouldn't drop me," Quinn joked.
Although the Rams have been out of playoff contention since early December, Quinn continued to burnish his credentials for NFL Defensive Player of the Year. To go along with his 18 sacks, Quinn also has an NFL-high eight forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Tampa Bay (4-11) did everything it could to protect rookie quarterback Mike Glennon, running the ball with undersized back Bobby Rainey even though he was held to 37 yards on 20 attempts. It used backs and tight ends to help left tackle Donald Penn double-team Quinn.
But when the Buccaneers fell behind by two scores with 3:15 left in the game after St. Louis placekicker Greg Zuerlein boomed a 48-yard field goal, they had to go to Plan B.
Quinn nailed Glennon for his 17th sack with 1:55 remaining, tying Kevin Carter's 14-year old team record. When Glennon couldn't find a man downfield on the last snap, Quinn swooped in behind him and notched the record-breaker.
"It's hard to get 17 sacks in a season," Quinn said. "It's a great honor to have (Carter's) record. We've still got one more game. I'm going to see if I can push it a little bit."
Rams backup defensive end William Hayes won't be surprised by anything Quinn accomplishes.
"I've played with a lot of great players over the years," Hayes said. "Believe me, this kid is special. He can do anything."
Led by Quinn's performance, St. Louis allowed just 170 yards -- half coming on Tampa Bay's only touchdown drive in the first quarter -- and 14 first downs. Glennon absorbed a considerable amount of punishment, taking seven sacks and getting hurried on seven other throws.
"You feel bad for the young man," Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano said of Glennon. "And you feel bad for the offensive line, too. They were trying their best, but we just didn't get it done."

What the Rams said
"It's been amazing to watch him work every day in practice. He does this every day in practice, so it's not a surprise." -- Linebacker Alec Ogletree on defensive end Robert Quinn's team-record 18 sacks this season.

What the Buccaneers said
"Yeah, I'm fine. Again, it's the NFL. As a quarterback, you sometimes get hit pretty good, but I'm fine." -- Quarterback Mike Glennon on absorbing seven sacks Sunday.

What we learned about the Rams
1. While the offense has done an admirable job changing on the fly to a run-oriented approach, it has to address the quarterback position in the offseason. Will they trust starter Sam Bradford, who was knocked out for the year back in October with a knee injury, or go draft a quarterback with what could be the No. 1 overall pick, courtesy of the Washington Redskins' continued losing? To reach their potential, the Rams must figure out their plan and then execute it
2. In place kicker Greg Zuerlein and punter Johnny Hekker, St. Louis has a pair of long-term solutions in the kicking game. Zuerlein's three field goals Sunday made him 25 of 27 for the season. Hekker is averaging 46.1 yards per punt and netting 43.8, an amazing figure for the NFL. Opponents have just 81 return yards against Hekker in 15 games. If the Rams could eliminate penalties in the return game, their special teams could consistently win games in the future.

What we learned about the Buccaneers
1. Running back Bobby Rainey could fit into this team's 2014 picture as a third-down back, but he's not an every-down back. Rainey had just 37 yards on 20 carries Sunday, failing to find creases as the offensive line was whipped most of the day by the St. Louis front seven. Tampa Bay's preference to run between the tackles doesn't suit the tiny Rainey, who doesn't have the power to grind out tough yards consistently.
2. Finding a reliable No. 2 receiver has to be high on this team's wish list for next season. Wide receiver Vincent Jackson has 74 catches for 1,189 yards and seven touchdowns, but no one else on the roster makes defensive coordinators lose sleep at night. With a young quarterback like Mike Glennon, you have to supply him with help, and at the moment, there's simply not enough of it.