ST. LOUIS — Gerald McCoy didn’t want to hear about it.
After the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dropped a 23-13 decision to the Rams, someone pointed out to the Pro Bowl defensive tackle that his group forced two turnovers in Bucs territory.
“Not good enough,’’ McCoy said of the overall defensive effort. “Just being honest, defensively, we got our butts kicked in the first half. They ran the ball on us at will, whenever they felt like it. They didn’t do anything special. They lined up, shifted and went. They just came straight downhill on us.’’
Rookie back Zac Stacy inflicted most of the damage, rushing for 66 of his 104 yards on 16 first-half carries. Buoyed by an effective ground game, Kellen Clemens completed 16 of 20 passes en route to a passer rating of 99.6.
“They beat us and I don’t really know what else to say,’’ Bucs cornerback Darrelle Revis said. “They made more plays ... period.’’
Playing without rookie wide receiver Tavon Austin (ankle) for the second consecutive week, the Rams converted 43 percent on third down and maintained possession for 34:06.
“They ran it pretty good on us in the first half,’’ said defensive end Adrian Clayborn, who was born and raised in St. Louis and had 60 friends and family members at the game.
“We didn’t shut it down, so there was no reason for them to pass. They were really focused on running the ball and that’s how it went down. Yes, we got a couple of takeaways, but they still scored 23 points.’’
The Rams benefited from superior field position, with an average start at their own 42 for the 10 St. Louis possessions.
In contrast, Tampa Bay’s average starting point was the Bucs’ 22.
“Tampa Bay has a great defense,’’ said Stacy, who needs 42 yards in next week’s season finale at Seattle to reach the 1,000-yard mark as a fifth-round draft pick out of Vanderbilt. “They have a lot of good young playmakers up front like McCoy, but it was all about executing. We had to get those tough yards.’’
St. Louis went three-and-out on its first drive, but Stacy began finding running room after Tampa Bay went ahead 7-0. He carried eight times on a 13-play march, capping the 80-yard drive with a leap over the pile from one yard out.
Clemens said the Rams altered their offensive identity when Stacy was installed as the primary back.
“Going back to Week 5, we made a change,’’ Clemens said. “That’s our blueprint — we’re going to run the football, we’re going to get completions when we can and play good defense.’’
Bucs linebacker Lavonte David wasn’t surprised by the St. Louis game plan.
“We knew they were going to run the football,’’ he said. “And their offensive line just kept feeding Stacy. We needed to force more turnovers and do a better job against their running game.’’