During last night’s NFL Thursday Night Football, the Tamp Bay Buccaneers traveled to St. Louis for what was potentially the last time the Rams take the field in the Edward Jones Dome. Their playoff hopes all but crushed already, the Rams gave the loyal St. Louis crowd an exciting victory in what could be the last time the team plays in the Gateway City. The passionate fans were heard chanting “Keep the Rams,” as the 6-8 franchise may end up returning to Los Angeles for the 2016 NFL season.
With just two games left in the NFL regular season, both Tampa Bay and St. Louis have little hope for postseason play. If St. Louis can manage to get victories over both the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers in the next two weeks, it will be the first time that head coach Jeff Fisher will finish the year without a losing record. Fisher started coaching the Rams in 2012 and has been struggling to turn the team around ever since.
Neither team has mathematically been eliminated from the NFL postseason just yet. But with matching records of 6-8, the Rams and Bucs are currently the 10th and 11th seeded teams competing for one of the NFC Wildcard berths. For either team to get that chance, they would have to win their last two games, and either the Seahawks or the Vikings would have to lose their last three games. Even that wouldn’t guarantee anything.
Regardless of the fact that the Rams haven’t had a winning season since 2003, the St. Louis fans were electric last night, spurred on by fantastic play from Tavon Austin, Aaron Donald, and the pressure the Rams defense put on Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston. As noted at NFL.com, however, the fans’ pleas to keep the Rams in St. Louis was more noteworthy than any play of the game.
Despite a dominating fourth quarter, in which Tampa Bay outscored St. Louis 17-3, the 21-3 deficit they faced at halftime was too much to overcome in front of the incredibly excited hometown audience. Tampa Bay quarterback Winston placed a lot of blame on himself for the Bucs’ loss.
“The first half, I didn’t play good enough for us to win. We were protecting good enough, I just have to make the throws.”
Even with the disappointing loss, ESPN reported that several of the Buccaneers had impressive numbers last night. Winston had a career-high 363 passing yards to go with his two touchdowns. Winston’s 20 touchdown passes on the season set a new franchise record for rookie quarterbacks. The Bucs offense collectively racked up 509 yards, 157 of which came off of nine receptions from wide receiver Mike Evans, who officially passed 1,000 yards for the season.
The battle for second place in the NFC South is a close one. Going into Sunday’s action, Tampa Bay is a half-game behind the 6-7 Atlanta Falcons and have a half-game lead over the 5-8 New Orleans Saints. Even if the Seattle Seahawks manage to lose as they host the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, they’ll still be two games ahead of the St. Louis Rams with just two regular season games left.
In the event that the Browns manage an upset victory in the Pacific Northwest, Week 16 will be huge for St. Louis. They travel to Seattle, and theoretically could be within one game of the Seahawks going into the final week of the regular season. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Chicago Bears in Week 16, another team that technically hasn’t been eliminated from playoff contention and the NFC Wildcard.
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