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Buccaneers vs. Rams: Five Takeaways From an Eye-Opening Loss for Tampa Bay

There aren't many positives to pull from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' disastrous loss to Los Angeles.

There's no other way to put it: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Week 3 defeat against the Los Angeles Rams was a bad loss.

Aside from a 400+ yard game from Tom Brady, the Buccaneers shot themselves in the foot on both sides of the ball and ultimately couldn't slow down a potent Rams' passing attack. And even considering Brady's performance, the Bucs' offense struggled in protection, couldn't run the ball, and committed five penalties - three false starts, offensive pass interference, and illegal formation - preventing Tampa Bay from matching scores throughout the game.

After a close game with Dallas to start the season and a duel with Atlanta that revealed some potential concerns, the Bucs ended a ten-game winning streak dating back to Week 14 of the 2020 season and including the Super Bowl LV run.

You can find AllBucs' five takeaways from the loss below.

Both offenses started slow: Rams picked up the pace, while the Bucs failed to catch up

It took four offensive drives before either team was able to convert a first down, that being the Rams on their second possession. 

Once the Rams started picking up first downs, they didn't stop. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers struggled to consistently do the same.

After two punting drives to start the game, the Rams would score on six consecutive possession - four touchdowns and two field goals. In that same stretch, the Bucs scored two touchdowns and one field goal, as well as missed a field goal and punted twice.

Brady put the Buccaneers' offense on his back, en route to a completion percentage of 74.5% and 432 yards passing. A lack of a running game, numerous false start penalties, and big plays by the Rams' defense - including three sacks - halted Tampa Bay from creating any serious momentum, though, which prevented the Bucs from catching up with the Rams' ability to score at will.

Giovani Bernard's usage increased, but he exited with an injury

After taking the field for 23 offensive snaps in the first two games of his Buccaneers' career, running back Giovani Bernard topped that total with 31 on Sunday and was productive to show for it. 

Bernard, after tallying four receptions for 28 yards to start the season, accumulated nine receptions on ten targets for 51 yards and a touchdown - albeit in garbage time - against the Rams. He didn't post a rushing attempt, but that's okay: Bernard was signed to offer a passing game presence and he did just that in Los Angeles.

The Buccaneers should absolutely continue to utilize Bernard in this fashion moving forward as its backfield has struggled to create anything in the passing game, as well as protect Brady, throughout the year. The issue is, however, Bernard went down with an injury on his score and left the game, taking a shot to the lower body as he flew into the end zone.

Head coach Bruce Arians said after the game that Bernard "looks like he's fine," but wondered if the injury could swell on the plane. We'll find out when injury reports come out this week if it turns into a serious situation or not.

The Buccaneers' secondary is a massive concern, due to poor play and injuries

The Bucs' cornerback room has been plagued in every game this season. Sean Murphy-Bunting went on the injured reserve after dislocating his elbow in Week 1; Jamel Dean and Carlton Davis III left the game against Atlanta in Week 2 - Dean did so twice - with various injuries although both would finish the game.

Then, this week, Dean got hurt once again and did not return to the game, being diagnosed with a knee injury. The Bucs resorted to Dee Delaney at outside cornerback, a preseason standout who appeared in three career games dating back to 2018 before debuting with Tampa Bay in Week 1.

Oh, and this goes without mentioning that Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford threw for 343 yards and four touchdowns on Sunday. When Dean was in the game, he dropped an interception that was tipped right into his hands in the first quarter which could have created early momentum. Another example of poor coverage is featured in our next takeaway.

Tampa Bay entered the game as the NFL's third-worst passing defense.

As most know, the Buccaneers have been in contact with cornerback Richard Sherman over the past few weeks to gauge interest. It'd be a surprise if Sherman wasn't on line one with Bucs general manager Jason Licht following the conclusion of this game - the unit needs help, both for depth purposes as well as to improve its performance.

Bucs couldn't stop the Rams on third down

Let's touch on the Rams' offense again: Los Angeles went 10-of-15 on third down throughout the game, and 10-of-13 after its first two drives of the game.

There isn't a ton of context to add here, but we'll provide two examples. The Rams' third drive began at their own ten-yard line, but three third-down conversions allowed the Rams to build momentum and move down the field. DeSean Jackson's 75-yard touchdown came on third down too, where Davis (although he was in a Cover 2 trail position) and safety Mike Edwards both bit on a double move that left Jackson wide open. These two situations speak perfectly to the Bucs' third-down woes defensively.

The Bucs won't win many games if offenses are able to convert on third down the way the Rams did. Tampa Bay could also lose some surprising games if the team continues to post worse third-down efficiency than their opponent - they were average offensively in that department on Sunday, but have yet to win that battle in a game this year. 

Almost every time the Bucs could have forced a punt, they instead gave the Rams more chances to score - and that, they did.

Brady led the Buccaneers in rushing... which speaks for itself

You read that right: Tom Brady led Tampa Bay in rushing, with a whopping 14 yards on three attempts. Ronald Jones II was next up with 11 yards on five carries; Leonard Fournette posted eight yards on four rushes, and wide receiver Chris Godwin recorded the Bucs' only rushing score on a two-yard jet sweep.

In fairness, Tampa Bay bailed on the run being down 21-7 at the beginning of the third quarter, but yet another week of lackluster rushing production speaks to the limitations of the Bucs' offense this season. Through three games, no Buccaneers' rusher has posted over 100 yards, Forunette being the closest with 92 yards on 24 carries.

The Bucs seemingly will live and die by the passing game this year. It isn't a terrible idea considering how Brady has played and the weapons Tampa Bay possesses in its receiving corps - but the ability to run the ball could add a dimension to the offense it may need in big games to control the pace. It certainly would have helped against Los Angeles to keep the Rams' offense off the field and out of the end zone.

Stay tuned to AllBucs for further coverage of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and other NFL news and analysis. Follow along on social media at @SIBuccaneers on Twitter and Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sports Illustrated on Facebook.