TAMPA, Fla. — Two weeks after looking like an offensively challenged team staring at a potentially long season, the Los Angeles Rams are off to their best start in 10 years.
They’ve even got some touchdowns to show for the progress they’ve made since being shut out in their first game after relocating back to the West Coast after a 21-year stay in St. Louis.
“All I know is we got Arizona at Arizona next week,” coach Jeff Fisher said after Sunday’s 37-32 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “None of them are easy, but we’ll take it.”
Case Keenum threw for the franchise’s first TD as the L.A. Rams since 1994 , and Robert Quinn tackled Jameis Winston from behind 5 yards short of the end zone on the game’s final play to seal the team’s second straight win.
In between, Todd Gurley scored on a pair of 1-yard runs, Ethan Westbrooks returned a fumble caused by Quinn 77 yards for a TD, Tavon Austin made a nice nifty move to turn a deep throw into a 43-yard scoring play, and the Rams (2-1) even weathered a 69-minute delay caused by a thunderstorm passing over Raymond James Stadium.
“I think we are in a good spot,” Keenum said. “I think we are getting better each week, which is what you want to do.”
Tampa Bay (1-2), meanwhile, has lost two straight since Winston’s sparkling performance in a season-opening win over Atlanta.
Winston threw for 405 yards and three touchdowns, but looked tentative on the game’s last play. He never took off full speed and was wrestled down after a 10-yard gain.
The Bucs have yielded 101 points through three games, and the defense gave up two more plays of 40-plus yards against the Rams.
“The lesson our team has to learn — every week is a battle. Our culture is not where it needs to be. … I put that squarely on my shoulders,” Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said.
“There’s something about our culture that let games like this get away,” Koetter added. “We’ve got to get over that hump.”
Some things to know about the Rams and Bucs moving forward:
RESiLiENT BUNCH: The Rams were far from perfect against the Buccaneers. Keenum threw a first-quarter interception that was returned by linebacker Kwon Alexander for a touchdown, and Kenny Britt’s second-quarter fumble led to another Tampa Bay TD. Los Angeles wasn’t fazed, though, and forced a couple of turnovers — ex-Buc Mark Barron’s second quarter interception and Quinn’s fourth quarter, sack/strip that caused the fumble Westbrooks scooped up — to score themselves.
“Turnovers hurt us early, but we go get two big plays on defense … and that kind of balanced things out,” Fisher said.
WIDE LEFT: Bucs rookie kicker Roberto Aguayo had a tough day and may be a hot topic of conversation as the team prepares to face defending Super Bowl champion Denver next Sunday. The second-round draft pick out of Florida State struggled early in the preseason, hooked an extra-point to the left after Tampa Bay’s first touchdown and later missed a 41-yard field goal attempt wide left, drawing boos from the announced crowd of 55,009. The team has drawn some criticism for the decision to use such a high draft pick to select a kicker. If he makes the two kicks he missed Sunday, the argument could be made that the Bucs could have employed different strategy and/or might not have needed a touchdown at the end to win.
“Times like this are going to happen,” Aguayo said, adding his confidence isn’t shaken. “I’m excited for next week, to move on.”
BACK ON TRACK?: Los Angeles RB Todd Gurley rushed for 1,106 yards and 10 TDs as a rookie a year ago, however he averaged just 2.7 yards per attempts while running for 98 yards on 36 carries in the Rams’ first two games. He was more effective Sunday, even though he only averaged 3.1 yards on his way to 85 yards on 28 carries.
“He’s not there yet, but not because of Todd Gurley personally,” Fisher said, adding the team has to do a better job converting third downs and doing other things to create more opportunities for the second-year pro.