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Bucs fall to Rams despite huge night by offensive stars

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Jameis Winston threw for more yards than he has ever thrown in the NFL.

Doug Martin took over the NFL rushing lead.

Mike Evans caught the most passes of any game in his career.

And the Bucs lost. Badly. They outgained the Rams by 190 yards, and they had 30 first downs. And still, Tampa Bay lost a 31-23 game in what might have been the Rams’ final game in St. Louis.

That’s how bad the Bucs’ pass defense was Thursday night. Case Keenum, who had started only two games this season and won only once, carved up the Bucs by hitting 14 of 17 passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns. Keenum led the Rams to a 28-6 lead.

Winston led the Bucs back to make the score close, but his last touchdown pass was with only 1:34 to play. For the night, Winston hit 29 of 50 passes for 363 yards, 314 of them in the second half. Evans caught nine of those for 157 yards. Martin added 91 yards rushing.

Rams rookie running back Todd Gurley gained only 48 yards on 21 carries.

Besides doing a poor job against the pass, the Bucs also botched several scoring opportunities with drops (Donteea Dye), penalties (Austin Seferian-Jenkins) and bad routes (Russell Shepard). Keenum threw first-period touchdowns of 17 yards to Tavon Austin and 60 to Kenny Britt. Gurley and Austin added running touchdowns and the Rams led 28-6 after three periods.

The defeat ends any shot the Bucs had of reaching the post-season. They would have to sweep the Bears and undefeated Panthers to get to .500. It was the Bucs’ third loss in four games.

Martin had 91 yards rushing, giving him a league-leading 1,305 on the year. He leads Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson by 54 yards.

The Bucs are off this weekend before playing host to the Bears in their final home game of the season.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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