TAMPA, Florida — Austin Davis felt right at home making his first NFL start.
"There's always a lot of pressure, but the ability to stay calm and execute the plan is what allowed us to be successful and eventually get a win," the second-year pro out of Southern Mississippi said. "You really just try not to think about it."
Greg Zuerlein's fourth field goal, a 38-yarder with 38 seconds remaining, won it.
"I can't say enough about Austin. ... I felt like he'd be OK because of the entire weeks' worth of preparation," coach Jeff Fisher said. "He was very poised. ... Nothing overwhelming to him. He made really good decisions against a good defense, an injury-depleted defense, but a good defense."
Davis completed 22 of 29 passes for 235 yards with no interceptions. Zac Stacy had a 2-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, and Zuerlein also made field goals of 36, 35 and 46 yards to help the Rams (1-1) rebound from a lopsided season-opening loss to Minnesota.
Davis made his debut in that game after Shaun Hill was injured, throwing for 192 yards but also having an interception returned for a touchdown.
The Bucs (0-2) lost to a reserve quarterback at home for the second straight week. Carolina backup Derek Anderson beat them in the season opener, but at least he's a 10-year veteran with more than 40 career starts under his belt.
Bobby Rainey, standing in for the injured Doug Martin, rushed for 144 yards for Tampa Bay. Quarterback Josh McCown scored on runs of 1 and 5 yards, and Patrick Murray kicked a 36-yard field goal for a 17-16 lead with 5:15 to go.
In the end, the Bucs fell short — in part — because of a blocked punt that led to a St. Louis field goal, as well as an interception and a blocked field goal that denied them oppotunities to score more points.
McCown also had them on the move in the closing seconds for a possible game-winning field goal, when the game ended abruptly after rookie Mike Evans was slow getting up after a 29-yard reception to the St. Louis 32.
Officials stopped the clock with 8 seconds remaining and Evans was eventually helped off the field, But by rule, an injury timeout in that situation requires a 10-second runoff, and the remaining time was wiped off the clock.
"Unfortunately he just took a hard hit. Mike was just trying to find his bearings, I think, and so the refs blew (the whistle for an injury timeout), I guess. It's unfortunate because I felt like we were getting to the spot where we wanted to let (Murray) take a swing at it."
Reasons why the Rams evened their record and it could be a while before Tampa Bay gets its first victory under coach Lovie Smith:
INJURIES MOUNTING: In addition to playing without Martin, the Bucs featured a new look on the defensive line with starting ends Michael Johnson and Adrian Clayborn out after being injured in the season opener. Two-time Pro Bowl tackle Gerald McCoy left with a broken hand and linebacker Mason Foster followed him to the sideline with shoulder injury.
HELPING DAVIS: Stacy rushed for 71 yards on 19 carries and Brian Quick had seven receptions for 74 yards for the Rams. Tavon Austin missed part of the game after appearing to injure his right knee when he was hit by Tampa Bay's Mark Barron while trying to catch the only pass thrown to him.
PROTECTING THE FOOTBALL: The Rams' only turnover, Stacy's third-quarter fumble, led to McCown's second TD run. However, Davis was only sacked twice and avoided mistakes that inexperienced players often make to undermine a team's chances of winning.
NOT QUITE GOOD ENOUGH: McCown was 16 of 21 for 179 yards. But his second-quarter interception stopped a promising drive at a time when it looked like the Bucs offense could do anything it wanted against a reeling Rams defense.
QUICK TURNAROUND: The injury-depleted Bucs don't have much time to prepare for their next game, which is Thursday night at Atlanta. After that, they go on the road again to face Pittsburgh.