Three things revisited: Rams-Buccaneers

December, 23, 2013
12/23/13
4:30
PM ET
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Looking back at three things to watch from the St. Louis Rams’ 23-13 victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

Keep it simple

The first part of the Rams’ formula to wins this season has centered on the ability to get turnovers while not giving it up themselves. In their six previous wins, the Rams were plus-17 in the turnover battle and only the opening win against Arizona saw them produce less than a plus-three margin.

The Rams took the lead for good after getting the first takeaway of the game against the Bucs on a William Hayes fumble recovery which setup receiver Stedman Bailey’s 27-yard touchdown run on a double reverse.

Despite that takeaway and another Hayes’ fumble recovery, the Rams coughed up a pair of fumbles of their own, leaving them at a neutral margin for the game. That normally wouldn’t bode well for the Rams so perhaps it says something about their progress that they were able to win without a resounding turnover edge.

Keep it simple, part two

The other consistent key to success for the Rams in 2013 has been their ability to establish the run on offense and take it away on defense.

For this meeting, that was mission accomplished. Yards on the ground were hard to come by against Tampa Bay’s stout front seven but the Rams remained committed to handing it off and produced 129 yards on 39 carries with a pair of touchdowns.

That 3.3 yards per carry average won’t wow anyone but is a testament to the Rams’ ability to keep the chains moving and win a slugfest.

The defense, meanwhile, has enjoyed a full-on renaissance when it comes to stopping the run. Although dreadful outings against the likes of San Francisco (first meeting), Dallas and Tennessee taint the numbers, those games now look more like exceptions rather than the rule of Rams run defense.

Tampa Bay mustered just 59 yards on 23 carries to go with a 1-yard rushing score but never got anything going aside from a 19-yard run on a reverse. Believe it or not, the Rams now sit seventh in the NFL in run defense.

Focus on finishing

Entering Sunday’s matchup, the Bucs were eighth in the league in red zone defense, a penchant that’s allowed them to keep teams out of the end zone and keep games close for most of the season. The Rams were a middle of the pack red zone offense.

The Rams cashed in a trip to the red zone early on Zac Stacy’s 1-yard plunge but otherwise missed some golden chances to put this one away as the Bucs followed their usual blueprint.

St. Louis was one of four on its trips to the red zone with the aforementioned touchdown and managed a field goal on another. You can throw out the fourth journey inside Tampa Bay’s 20 since the Rams were simply trying to run out the clock but a costly fumble by quarterback Kellen Clemens prevented the Rams from taking a two-score lead early in the game.

Nick Wagoner

ESPN St. Louis Rams reporter

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