Tampa Bay's nosedive continued on Sunday, as another poor outing from QB Josh Freeman helped St. Louis jump out to a 28-6 lead en route to a 28-13 victory at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
Freeman had already faced heat from Bucs fans for his uneven play this season, and his performance against the Rams did nothing to quiet his doubters. Freeman threw four interceptions for the second consecutive week, leading directly to 21 of the Rams' 28 points -- including a 41-yard touchdown return for St. Louis' Janoris Jenkins.
The Rams became the latest team to take advantage of a porous, injury-plagued Buccaneers secondary (the Bucs extensively used CB Danny Gorrer, who was acquired off waivers in midseason and wasn't even active until Week 11), as St. Louis QB Sam Bradford maximized the opportunities presented by Freeman's picks to throw for 196 yards and two touchdowns. Despite the win, the Rams were eliminated from playoff contention due to results from other games around the NFL.
When the game turned: Neither team played especially well early, but the Rams took control late in the second quarter and early in the third. St. Louis RB Steven Jackson ran in for a 5-yard TD with less than a minute left in the first half to send his team to the locker room with a 14-6 lead. Bradford hooked up with wide open TE Lance Kendricks for an 80-yard TD pass on the first play of the third quarter. Barely four minutes later, Bradford threw a short TD pass to Austin Pettis. The Rams scored 21 points in only 4:44 of game time, turning a close game into a rout.
Highlight moments: Jenkins' long interception return, which came on a play that saw Bucs WR Mike Williams fall down. Still, it was a bad decision from Freeman, as Jenkins was in position even if Williams had been on his feet. … Kendricks' long TD reception, when he found himself wide open in the middle of the field and had just enough speed to beat the Bucs to the end zone. … Freeman was stuffed on a QB sneak on fourth-and-short at the Rams' 5-yard line in the fourth quarter, ending any chance of a Bucs comeback.
- Rams LB James Laurinaitis -- 12 total tackles, 11 solo tackles, 1 INT, 2 passes defensed.
- Rams TE Kendricks -- 4 receptions, 119 yards, 1 TD
- Bucs WR Williams -- 7 receptions, 132 yards, 1 TD
Numbers you should know: Despite his struggles, Freeman tied the Tampa Bay franchise records for TD passes in a season (26) and a career (77). … Williams had a career-high 132 yards on seven grabs. … Both Williams and teammate Vincent Jackson topped 100 yards receiving, as Jackson registered 108 yards on seven catches. … Rams RB Jackson needs 10 yards next week against Seattle to get to 1,000 rushing yards for the eighth consecutive season, as he rushed for 81 yards on 19 carries against the NFL's No. 1 run defense. … Kendricks now has a TD catch in three of his last five games. ... Tampa Bay managed only 13 points despite punting only once.
Injury update: Rams -- There were no significant injuries sustained by St. Louis in the win, as S Craig Dahl's minor shoulder issue was the only problem that caused any missed time. Bucs -- OG Jeremy Zuttah went out with an ankle injury early in the fourth quarter. C.B. E.J. Biggers left the game with a groin injury and did not return. CB Leonard Johnson (arm) and WR Tiquan Underwood (back) both went out for a stretch, but each returned to action.
Going forward: Rams -- The team's playoff hopes may be over, but St. Louis can finish the season with a winning record if it goes to Seattle and wins in Week 17. It won't be easy, as the Seahawks were a perfect 6-0 at home heading into Sunday night's game against the 49ers. Buccaneers -- A miserable stretch run for Tampa Bay won't get any easier with the season finale at Atlanta next week. Perhaps the Falcons, who clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs with a Saturday night win over Detroit, will rest some of their starters and help the Bucs end their five-game losing streak.
For more from Tampa Bay Bucs blogger Patrick Southern, follow @CBSBucs on Twitter.
Get more Rams updates and analysis from Larry Hartstein on Twitter @CBSRams.