ST. LOUIS — Two weeks ago, the St. Louis Rams were eliminated from playoff contention. Just don’t tell Robert Quinn there’s nothing to play for.
Quinn led a dominant defensive effort with three sacks, taking the NFL lead and setting a franchise record, in Sunday’s 23-13 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Last week he had two sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in a victory over the Saints.
Fellow defensive ends Chris Long and William Hayes carried Quinn off the field after the Rams (7-8) kept the Buccaneers (4-11) in neutral or reverse, and matched their victory total from last year.
“At first, I was just waiting to congratulate him because I didn’t get to congratulate him after the third one because it was fourth-and-1, and we had to get back out there,” Long said. “Some people might think it’s overkill out there. I’ve never see anybody like him. He deserves it.”
Quinn has 18 sacks, 1½ more than the Colts’ Robert Mathis. The last of the Rams’ seven sacks of Mike Glennon snapped the franchise record of 17 by Kevin Carter in 1999, the franchise’s Super Bowl championship team.
“The guys are happy for me,” Quinn said. “I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Whatever happens next week at Seattle, the Rams will complete a decade without a winning record. They’re determined to finish strong.
The Bucs must rally before finishing at New Orleans.
“It was a tough loss,” coach Greg Schiano said. “Not for a lack of work or for a lack of not caring, but the result is what the result is.”
Quarterback Kellen Clemens is 4-4 as the stand-in starter while Sam Bradford recuperates from knee surgery.
Though he lost a fumble and didn’t have a touchdown pass, he was effective managing another win. Clemens has five TD passes and no interceptions in the four victories, and two TD passes with five interceptions in the losses. He’s struggled against top competition, with three of the losses to top-10 defenses — Seattle, San Francisco and Arizona.
“When Sam went down, we rallied,” Fisher said.
The Buccaneers entered ranked last in the NFL in total offense and passing offense and didn’t improve their position against the Rams.
Though they’ve enjoyed early success, scoring on their second possession 11 times in 15 games with four TDs, including Bobby Rainey’s 1-yard run for the lead Sunday, they finished with just 170 yards of offense, setting a season low for the second straight game, and were held to 20 or fewer points for the eighth time.
Vincent Jackson was the lone standout, making five catches for 98 yards.
Rams rookie Zac Stacy carried the load again, shaking off a lost fumble and finishing with 104 yards on 33 carries and a TD.
Stacy didn’t start until Week 5 but needs just 42 yards in the finale to give the Rams a 1,000-yard rusher for the ninth consecutive season. Steven Jackson put up eight straight before taking a free agent deal with the Falcons. The Rams have emphasized the run since Bradford was hurt in Week 7. Trickery produced their other first-half TD: rookie Stedman Bailey’s 27-yard reverse.
“Just being honest, we defensively got our butts kicked in the first half,” Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “They ran the ball on us at will, whenever they felt like it.”
Rodger Saffold returned to his original NFL position, left tackle, after Jake Long was sidelined with a torn ACL on his right knee on the first series.
Shelley Smith was plugged in at right guard, where Saffold had been, and the new line did enough things right. The most notable play was a 5-yard quarterback sneak by Clemens on fourth-and-inches in the fourth quarter, with more than enough push from the line to help set up a 25-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein that made it 20-13.
“Basically, what it comes down to is following my rules,” Saffold said. “Basically, what I did was constantly work on my technique because I knew I would be able to react to whatever happens.”
Rams rookie outside linebacker Alec Ogletree forced two fumbles, one leading to the go-ahead score and the second setting up the clinching field goal.
Bailey’s TD came the snap after Rainey lost a fumble and Glennon coughed one up in the fourth quarter on a sack by Ogletree and James Laurinaitis that set up Zuerlein’s 48-yard field goal that made it a two-score game.
“I did a terrible job of securing the ball the way I’m supposed to, so I put the game on me,” Rainey said. “We played behind because of me.”