Rams late drive ends Bucs’ season, 30-27

by Gary Shelton on January 24, 2022

in general

Brady won't say if he'll be back./TIM WIRT

Monday, 4 a.m.

The Tampa Bay Bucs ran out of miracles Sunday afternoon.

Only the coming days will decide if they ran out of miracle-workers, too.

The Bucs, behind Tom Brady, staged a furious comeback to pull into a tie with the Los Angeles Rams late in their NFC Divisional Playoff game. But even quicker than the Bucs' comeback was the giveaway after the Bucs' season-long deficiencies in the secondary cost them the game.

Rams quarterback Matt Stafford hit receiver Cooper Kupp with a pair of passes for 64 yards to salvage the game in the final 42 seconds. On a 44-yard reception to set up the winning field goal, the Bucs blitze a defenive back and left their safety exposed, a call that will be qiestioned throughiut the coming off-season.

Former Buc Matt Gay kicked the winning points on a 30-yard field goal. The Rams won 30-27.

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The Bucs fell three wins short of repeating their Super Bowl championship of a year ago.

"Obviously, not the final that we wanted," Bucs' coach Bruce Arians said. "At halftime, we knew [we needed] to come back and get this thing to where it was. To lose it like that, it’s hard. The finality of this league is [difficult]. Now, that locker room of guys have been through hell and back this year and I love them. They have stuck together through all the injuries and everything else. Really, really proud of the comeback and not the finish, but I can’t say enough about all of them. We had the guys that stepped in and stepped up with all the receivers, DBs and everybody else this year. They were a part of this journey. It’s a shame we didn’t complete it.”

Despite one of his finest comebacks (Brady threw for 217 yards in the second half), the loss left the Bucs in the unsettling position of wondering just who their quarterback might be next season.

Left up in the air is Brady's future. He was non-committal after the game when asked if he would be back next season, adding to the pregame speculation this could be the end for him.

Asked about the final pass to Kupp, Arians said "Some guys didn’t blitz. I don’t know if we didn’t get the call, but it was an all-out blitz that we should had a ton of pressure.”

Asked about his strategy, Arians said "never second-guess."

“These guys are fighters," Arians said. "They’ve shown it all year. 14-5 or whatever we are, but this team is over. This team will not be back together. They never are and make sure you say thank you to your teammates. We’ll try to regroup this thing and come in next year.” 

Said Brady: "Obviously, we showed a lot of fight, but at the end of the day you lose a game, you lose a game.”

Brady was asked about his future. “I haven’t put a lot of thought into it, so you know, we will just take it day by day and kind of see where we are at.” he said.

The Bucs were thoroughly outplayed for most of the game, but they rallied from a 27-3 deficit to tie behind four turnovers by the Rams. But the secondary, a flaw for the Bucs most season, came back to haunt them. Stafford hit 28 of 38 passes for 366 yards.

Kupp caught nine passes for 183 yards.

For much of the game, it appeared the Bucs had run out of stars. The offensive line, without Tristan Wirfs, struggled to contain Aaron Donald and Von Miller all afternoon. The pass rush rarely hurried Stafford.

Still, the Bucs came back, and would have gone into an overtime with an equal chance of winning the game. But the secondary lost Kupp twice in a row.

“It’s tough," linebacker Lavonte David said. "To come back in the game like the way we did, battling back – I’ve got a lot of respect for those guys in the locker room, coaches and players. It was just the situation – hurry up, guys scrambling all over the place trying to get lined up – just an unfortunate situation. Some people got the call, some people didn’t. It is what it is. They made a great play, they had a great play call lined up, and they made a play.

" It just sucks for us to lose in that manner, from battling back the way we did. This season was a tough season, and you have to take your hat off to everyone in that building. Grinding it out, putting together a great group of guys to be able to be in a situation like that and just grind through it and be able to put us in a situation to win a football game.”

The Rams will be home against the 49ers next weekend for the NFC championship.

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