There’s no shame in being burned by Robert Quinn. The St. Louis Rams’ defensive end, only 23 years old, is a delicious combination of size, speed and power, traits he has matured and mastered in only his third NFL season.
Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome, he was the tip of the hammer in the Rams’ 23-13 bludgeoning of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a score that was far from indicative of how Quinn and other members of the Rams’ defense treated an overmatched Bucs line in the second half.
This was domination, aside from a fleeting 85-yard scoring drive in the first quarter that represented 50 percent of Tampa Bay’s yardage output. This was decisive, as shown by the Rams’ seven sacks (three from Quinn), raising the number of times rookie quarterback Mike Glennon has been planted on the turf the past five games to 21. This was damning, for coach Greg Schiano, whose future remains a large question mark until some clarity is gained after Tampa Bay ends its bizarre season next week in New Orleans.
”You feel for the young man, and he’s out there trying to do his job,” Schiano said of Glennon on Sunday. ”I know the guys that are trying to protect him feel bad too. Nobody’s trying to let that happen. Guys are doing their best. It’s just not good enough.
For the Bucs, a large reason for loss No. 11 is captured in one stat line: three sacks, six tackles from Quinn. The former Rams regime of general manager Billy Devaney and coach Steve Spagnuolo, now long gone, envisioned this rare mix of force and strength when they drafted the raw-but-promising North Carolina product in the first round, 14th overall, in 2011.
”A whole bunch of tears and joy,” Quinn told reporters about the moments after Spagnuolo called him at a gathering of friends and family in Ladson, S.C., to tell him he was drafted.
Quinn, in a short time, has become a rare success story with ties to the failed Devaney/Spagnuolo era. This season, he has made a compelling case for NFL Defensive Player of the Year, with an NFL-best 18 sacks. He has 52 tackles, already 23 more than he produced last season, and he has forced seven fumbles (recovering two) after only causing one in his first two years in the league.
This package, of course, made Glennon’s life miserable Sunday. The young quarterback completed 16 of 26 passes for 158 yards, but he became the chicken to Quinn’s fox so often that, at one point, Bucs team physician Dr. Kevin Elder checked Glennon’s pulse.
”I’ve taken some shots here and there, but give them credit,” Glennon said Sunday. ”The guy has however many sacks. He’s a really good football player. It was just a tough day for our offense.”
This should be a humbling moment for everyone in pewter and red. They’re one of the NFL’s worst outfits, but the Rams were beatable at 6-8 and play at a mausoleum of a dome.
This felt different than recent blowout losses to the Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers. This felt more hopeless, sinister. This felt like a missed opportunity, especially when the Rams produced only 277 yards but outgained the Bucs by 107.
If December is the telltale month that will decide whether Schianoâs keycard at One Buc Place works next spring, then these weeks aren’t his season to be jolly. Tampa Bay, after breaking through with a 3-1 record in November, has gone 1-3 in December. The Bucs have been outscored 89-60 this month, and they have a date against the desperate New Orleans Saints, losers of three of their last four, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome next Sunday.
Chances are, Glennon will feel pressure again. Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is known for gambling with diverse blitz packages, and the Bucs’ offensive line has shown lately it struggles to neutralize such a threat when tested.
New Orleans only reached Josh Freeman for one sack in a come-from-behind victory at Raymond James Stadium in Week 2. But after Quinn cut through Tampa Bay’s offensive line, making tackle Donald Penn look silly at times, who doesn’t think Glennon’s jersey will receive a larger turf burn?
Who doesn’t think the rookie must run for his life again?
The Bucs’ season is long past the point of bracing for the best. The optimism, so prevalent after a headliner offseason with the additions of Dashon Goldson and Darrelle Revis, was dashed with the 0-8 start. There were blips with good vibes in November, but the dive at the Edward Jones Dome brings to mind failures of the seasonâs first half.
”You’ve got to have a short memory in this game,” Bucs running back Bobby Rainey told reporters Sunday, ”and just keep moving forward.”
The good news: It’s almost over.
Come Dec. 30, no matter the result in New Orleans (a likely loss), there will be no more Sundays to rehash the latest letdown, the latest collapse, the latest failure of Mike Sullivan’s offense to generate points. This silly season will end.
Hopes for anything meaningful other than a high draft pick were dead long before kickoff in St. Louis. But another afternoon, for those who still cared, came and went only to deliver more pain.