TAMPA, Fla. – Tom Brady had another rough night at the office on Monday night.
And boy, does he want that last pass back.
Brady was intercepted by Jordan Fuller with just under two minutes left to seal the Los Angeles Rams’ 27-24 victory – and another prime-time deflation for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The fateful throw sailed beyond intended receiver Cameron Brate for what turned out to be an easy pick for Fuller, who also intercepted Brady earlier in the second half.
The Bucs quarterback was outdueled by Jared Goff, who threw two picks himself but also passed for 376 yards and three touchdowns.
The game-winning points came from the leg of Matt Gay, a former Buc signed just this week as an emergency replacement. Gay’s 40-yard field goal with 2:36 remaining broke a tie that Tampa Bay managed with a 13-yard, catch-run-and-leap TD by Chris Godwin.
And here’s to Goff’s prime supporting cast: Cooper Kupp snagged 11 passes for 145 yards while Robert Woods stung the Bucs for 12 receptions and 130 yards with a touchdown.
The result lifts the Rams (7-3) into a first-place tie with the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West, while the Bucs (7-4) fall further behind the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South.
Four other things we learned:
1. History didn’t impede on the actual game — The NFL assembled an all-African-American officiating crew for the first time in the league’s 101-year history. And then they played the game.
As it should have been, the social statement issued with the crew headed by referee Jerome Boger didn’t matter much. That’s what anyone would want with the officiating: no obvious blunders to fuel controversy. On the one play that might have generated buzz – Brady’s arm was moving forward with the ball when he was hit in the end zone by Morgan Fox and the ball fluttered to the turf only a few feet away – was confirmed by instant replay that the officials were correct in ruling it an incompletion rather than a fumble.
In any event, it’s no surprise that the crew handled the historic assignment without a hitch. Boger was the second African-American to referee a Super Bowl, and three of the other officials on Monday night – Carl Johnson, Barry Anderson and Greg Steed – graded well enough last season to earn assignments for Super Bowl LIV. So, basically, social statement or not, a top-shelf crew worked the game on Monday night.
2. The NFL’s No. 1 defense was no match for Kupp — The Rams’ surehanded receiver burned the Bucs for nine catches and 109 yards…by halftime! And the guess from the press box is that at least half of the yards came after the catch, including a big chunk on a 37-yard gain when Bucs safeties Antoine Winfield and Mike Edwards missed Kupp and crash-tackled each other. Slippery. That’s Kupp’s M.O. He brings some Harry Houdini moves to his game and finished with 11 catches for 145 yards. Since the start of last season, no NFL receiver has had more yards after the catch. Yet for a defense that leads the league in fewest yards allowed, the poor tackling was glaring.
3. Mike Evans would be a great defensive back, too — The Bucs’ star receiver not only had a highlight-worthy, 9-yard TD with a plow-spin-stretch job in the second quarter, but he also provided arguably the best pass breakup of the night. As Brady’s deep pass sailed beyond the receiver and into the arms of Rams safety John Johnson III for an apparent interception late in the half, Evans barreled into Johnson to jar the ball loose. Incomplete.
4. The Rams still can’t exhale when it comes to the kicker — Gay suited up on Monday night as the third kicker this season for Sean McVay’s team. And there was suspense for that in the days before the game as the option loomed that Austin MacGinnis might be promoted from the practice squad. Sure enough, Gay missed a 44-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter to accelerate the angst. Gay, stepping in after Kai Forbath injured an ankle in Week 10, nailed a 38-yard kick as the first half expired. But following that up with a miss was not a good sign – especially since Gay was cut loose by the Bucs of all teams after missing 8 of 35 field goal attempts and 5 PATs in 2019. The Rams started the season with since-released Samuel Sloman as the kicker. There’s no telling how they’ll end up at the position.