Buccaneers-Rams Preview

The NFC teams with the longest playoff droughts have ensured

that their runs of futility will extend for another season.

There are some signs of improvement, however, for the St. Louis

Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in recent weeks heading into Sunday’s

matchup at the Edward Jones Dome.

St. Louis (6-8) hasn’t been to the postseason since the 2004

campaign while Tampa Bay’s last playoff appearance came after the

2007 season.

Optimism for the future is possible since the Rams have won

three of their last five games while the Buccaneers have won four

of six since an 0-8 start.

Neither team is using the quarterback it began the season with

since Sam Bradford is out after season-ending knee surgery and Josh

Freeman was cut by Tampa Bay (4-10) on Oct. 3.

Those two were under center in Week 16 last season in St. Louis’

28-13 road win. Freeman was sacked five times and threw four

interceptions, with Janoris Jenkins running one back 41 yards for a

touchdown.

Tampa Bay will visit St. Louis for the first time since 2004,

with Mike Glennon looking to bounce back after an uneven

performance. Glennon was sacked four times and finished 18 of 34

with two touchdowns and an interception in last Sunday’s 33-14 home

loss to San Francisco.

The Buccaneers had a season-low 183 yards. They are last in

total offense with 305.9 yards per game and have converted on a

league-worst 32.0 percent of third downs.

Tampa Bay has gone 1 for 10 on third down in its last two

losses.

“I think the biggest problem is first and second down and

getting into those third-and-longs,” Glennon said. “In the NFL when

you get in third-and-long situations, it’s almost impossible to get

that first down.”

Glennon has been sacked 14 times in the last four games. He will

have to be wary of Rams defensive end Robert Quinn, who leads the

NFC with 15 sacks and has forced a league-best seven fumbles.

“He’s as good at tomahawk chopping the backside of the

quarterback, you haven’t seen a guy do it with that effectiveness

since LT (Hall of Fame New York Giants linebacker Lawrence

Taylor),” Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. “LT used to – wap – knock

that ball out with a vicious tomahawk chop. He’s bringing it that

way.”

The Rams tied for the league lead with 52 sacks a year ago and

have 42 to tie for fifth this season.

Quinn dropped Drew Brees twice in last week’s 27-16 victory over

New Orleans. The Rams held the high-powered Saints out of the end

zone until the fourth quarter.

”There’s a lot of character,” said Quinn, who will likely

match up with Bucs tackle Donald Penn, who is tied for second in

the NFL with 9 1/2 sacks allowed. ”We don’t have much to play for

except for the fun of it and guys aren’t giving up or hanging their

heads.”

Rookie Zac Stacy rushed for 133 yards on 28 carries with a

touchdown and Kellen Clemens threw two touchdowns for the Rams, who

are seeking to win five games at home for the first time in three

years.

Stacy leads all rookies with 854 rushing yards and his six

touchdowns on the ground have come in the last six games.

”He never takes negative runs,” Clemens said. ”If it’s there,

he hits it. If it’s not there, he creates a hole.”

Fellow rookie Tavon Austin’s status is uncertain after he did

not practice Wednesday. There was good news for the receiver since

he is no longer in a walking boot.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher expects a difficult test from the

Bucs.

“They were close in some games despite the fact that they lost

eight straight, then you come back and they win four out of their

last six and beat some good football teams,” he said. “They hung in

there.

“Their defense is playing with discipline. They’re getting a lot

of turnovers. They run the football and the quarterback’s throwing

the ball well, so it’s a talented team. It’s a very dangerous team

at the end of the season.”