Rams vs. Bucs Notebook: Cooper Kupp Dazzles, But Tom Brady Steals Win from LA

The Los Angeles Rams let an ugly win turn into an even uglier loss after a late collapse against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday.

The Los Angeles Rams marched into Raymond James Stadium Sunday to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the third time in 14 months.

But unlike last season’s heart-pounding finish in the NFC Divisional Playoffs, the Rams and Bucs seemed to battle in Week 9 to see which offense could play worse. 

Tampa Bay seemed to be the winner of this battle as the contest winded to a close, but a late one-yard touchdown connection from quarterback Tom Brady to tight end Cade Otton with nine seconds left also gave the Bucs a 16-13 win in a game that saw both teams stumble to the end.

Let’s look at a few takeaways from LA’s loss.

Rams offense has another forgettable day

The Rams went scoreless in the second half against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 8. And while they got on the board in the second half on Sunday, the Rams’ overall offensive performance was just as bad as a week ago.

LA had a whopping eight three-and-outs. The Bucs and Rams combined for seven three-and-outs in the first half, the most combined between two teams in a half this season. So much for an NFC Divisional rematch.

Aided by their strong defense and equally-poor Tampa Bay offense, the Rams still managed to hold a lead from the beginning of the second quarter until the closing seconds of the game. LA’s defense gave the team a chance at an ugly win, but the offense’s lack of production outside of receiver Cooper Kupp allowed the Bucs to remain within striking distance.

Same opponent, different game for Cooper Kupp

LA’s offense would have had no answers on offense if not for Kupp.

Despite entering Sunday with an ankle injury, the star receiver was the only source of offense for LA, as he once again burned the Bucs for eight catches for 127 yards and a 69-yard touchdown.

His catch-and-run touchdown grab was the only trip into the end zone by either team until the game’s final 10 seconds. He added a 34-yard catch late in the third quarter that set LA up for a field goal and a 13-6 lead, but this was the Rams’ final first down of the night.

The Rams’ second-leading receiver was Allen Robinson II, who only totaled three catches for 24 yards. Despite being the obvious No. 1 passing option, Kupp wasn’t going to be stopped from leading the Rams in receiving again.

Kupp decimated Tampa Bay’s spirits in last season’s NFC Divisional win, totaling nine catches for 183 yards and a 70-yard touchdown. And in Week 3 of last season, he posted nine grabs for 96 yards and two touchdowns.

Add Sunday’s performance to a list of some dominant games for Kupp against the Bucs, though he certainly would’ve liked to secure a win instead.

Darrell Henderson Jr. gives LA’s running game a spark

Saying the Rams have been shut down on the ground through seven games might be an understatement. LA came into Sunday averaging the second-fewest rush yards per game (68.4) this season.

The first half on Sunday saw similarly poor production despite the return of running back Cam Akers. But Darrell Henderson Jr. provided a much-needed spark that has been lacking in LA’s running back room. He totaled 12 carries for 56 yards, the second-most rushing yards by a Rams running back this season.

It might be a reach to call this subpar stat line a “spark,” but Henderson Jr.’s tough-nosed running spoke louder than the stats. Early in the third quarter, the four-year vet bounced off multiple tackles for a 23-yard run that nearly saw him bowling ball his way into the end zone. LA added a field goal a few plays later.

Akers had just five carries for three yards in his return. And based on how Henderson Jr. played Sunday, no one appears to be coming for his starting job anytime soon.

Rams defense holds Tampa Bay out of end zone for 59 minutes and 51 seconds

Despite all the offensive shortcomings, LA still had a shot at a win behind a stout defense that was forcing the Bucs to settle for field goals and punts all night.

Before Brady’s game-winning touchdown, he was 35 of 57 passing for 279 yards. LA’s defense wasn’t forcing turnovers, but also wasn’t allowing Brady to get anything down the field. His longest completion of the day (28 yards) didn’t come until Tampa Bay’s game-winning drive, as he found Otton open in the middle of the field.

Additionally, the Bucs’ porous rushing attack was held to 20 carries for 51 yards and a long of just seven yards.

The Rams had seemingly done everything right. But all the LA will remember is the final 35 seconds, as its defense allowed a 60-yard touchdown drive to happen in a blink.

You can follow Zach Dimmitt on Twitter at @ZachDimmitt7

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