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A year after finishing with one of the league?s worst records, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers already are coming off a surprising victory.
The Buccaneers look to carry some momentum from their last game and hand the St. Louis Rams their third loss of the year when the teams meet Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.
Last season, Tampa Bay (1-1) lost its first four games en route to a 4-12 record and a last-place finish in the NFC South.
The Bucs looked sluggish in their season-opening 20-6 loss to Seattle, but dominated defending division champion New Orleans in last Sunday’s 31-14 victory.
“I don’t think anyone really gave us a chance to win this game except ourselves. … We have to build on that,? said Joey Galloway, who had four catches for 135 yards and two touchdowns. “We didn’t play our best game, but we played a good one.?
Tampa Bay built a 21-0 halftime lead, and kept one of the NFL’s most potent offenses from a year ago off the scoreboard until there were 49 seconds left in the third quarter.
Jeff Garcia completed 10 of 16 passes for 243 yards and had his first two touchdown passes of the season. He has thrown for 444 yards and no interceptions this year.
The Bucs signed Garcia in March, finally giving coach Jon Gruden a quarterback who fits his version of the West Coast offense. The three-time Pro Bowl selection’s ability to make plays on the run was especially attractive to Gruden, who has started eight different QBs since arriving in Tampa Bay in 2002.
“When you throw the ball successfully people have to account for that,” Gruden said. “That will help us become more balanced. We’re counting on Garcia with his playmaking ability and his feet to add to our rushing game.”
Garcia has not had much success versus the Rams, though, winning one of nine career games against them. In those contests, he has passed for 1,574 yards, nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He has not beaten St. Louis since a 37-13 win for San Francisco on Oct. 6, 2002.
These teams have not met since a 28-21 St. Louis victory on Oct. 18, 2004. The Rams snapped a four-game losing streak in the series.
St. Louis (0-2) opened this season with both of its losses coming at home, and now plays four of its next five on the road. The Rams, who split their eight road games last year, have not started a season 0-3 since dropping their first five games in 2002.
“It’s going to be hard and it’s going to be hard because we’re on the road,” Steven Jackson said. “But since we’re on the road you hope that the 53 guys know that we don’t have our crowd to depend on and it’s only us.”
St. Louis? highly regarded offense has been held to two touchdowns, scoring on its opening drive in each game. The Rams outgained San Fransisco 392-186 in total yards in last Sunday’s 17-16 loss, but once again, struggled to control the ball.
St. Louis has led at halftime of each game, but in its season-opening 27-13 loss to Carolina, Jackson lost two fumbles. Last Sunday, the team had three turnovers in the second half.
“We’ve got to find ways when we’ve got a lead, lead at halftime, lead in the third quarter, to sustain it,? Rams coach Scott Linehan said. “You can’t have opportunities and squander them. And we did.
“If we take care of the ball offensively and start getting that baby in the end zone, we can start our roll in Week 3. Yeah, we’re in a little hole. We put a little more pressure on ourselves than we wanted to, but sometimes that’s good.”
St. Louis also has had problems protecting two-time Pro Bowl quarterback Marc Bulger, who has been sacked seven times.
Bulger was 24-for-41 for 368 yards and one touchdown last Sunday, completing passes to seven receivers. He has thrown for 535 yards and two TDs and no interceptions in two games this season.
Jackson has failed to reach 100 total yards in either game this season, something that happened only twice all of last season. He has rushed for 118 yards on 39 attempts without a touchdown after finishing among the league?s rushing leaders last season with 1,528 yards and 13 TDs.
Against the Bucs in 2004, Jackson was held to 48 yards on 13 carries.