TAMPA -- It would be easy for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to lose perspective after dropping two games in five days while all but falling out of the playoff race.
But taking a helicopter view of his team, head coach Lovie Smith remains upbeat.
Despite back-to-back setbacks to the Saints and Rams, the Bucs (6-8) still could finish with a .500 record with victories over the Chicago Bears and at Carolina the next two weeks.
Following the 31-23 defeat to the Rams, Smith said his team has to look at the big picture.
"We lost two games. It's no more than that,'' Smith said. "You look at the big picture. Tonight, disappointment for this game. But overall, we're headed in the right direction. We have a couple spots, we are short-handed. We're not as well as we need to be. That can affect a lot of things. Big picture is what you have to look forward to. Disappointment tonight. But we're still headed in the right direction.''
The Bucs trailed 28-6 in the fourth quarter, thanks to a slow start by quarterback Jameis Winston, who only went 6 of 12 for 49 yards in the first half. But he finished 29 of 50 for a career-high 363 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
"It was one of those days,'' Winston said. "We had plenty of opportunities. The good thing is, our offense, Doug Martin still did what he does. Mike Evans showed up to play. Adam Humphries showed up to play. In these situations, the quarterback has to show up to play. That's what happened.''
The Bucs actually outgained the Rams in total yards 509-319 total yards and the Rams converted only two of 10 third downs.
"I think overall, there were times we were moving the ball,'' Smith said. "Throughout the game, we at least were able to have some semblance of a running game. Whenever you have over 500 yards, there's some things you've done fairly well moving the ball, moving the sticks. But we didn't finish as much as anything."
--St. Louis had just one touchdown pass in the previous six games - an NFL-low eight all season - and Case Keenum had two in the first quarter against the Bucs.
A passing offense that had gone over 200 yards once in the previous 12 games had 175 at the half, with Keenum having a near-perfect passer rating. He threw only four passes in the second half, finishing 14 for 17 for 234 yards and a 158.0 rating.
"That's something we didn't expect," defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said of the Rams being able to throw the ball on the Bucs defense. "I don't know. I have to watch to see what happened."
--Even if you think you're down, don't hold up the ball after a huge gain inside the 5-yard line. Receiver Donteea Dye caught a 44-yard pass, thought he'd been touched down and held the ball up, only to have a Rams defender knock it loose.
Fortunately for the Bucs, tight end Luke Stocker was there and jumped on the loose ball at the 3-yard line. He was rewarded with a touchdown catch on the next play - his first score since 2012.
"He saved my life right there," Dye said of Stocker's recovery. "That's on me."
REPORT CARD VS. RAMS
--PASSING OFFENSE: C. The Bucs had trouble handling the pressure packages of Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Winston had a slow start but a great fourth quarter to finish with 363 yards passing.
--RUSHING OFFENSE: A. The Bucs had as much success running the football as they wanted. As a team they averaged 5.4 yards per carry. Martin led the way with 91 yards on 18 attempts.
--PASS DEFENSE: F. Case Keenum had a career day, going 14 of 17 passing for 234 yards and two TDs. They gave up a 60-yard bomb to Kenny Britt and only sacked Keenum twice.
--RUN DEFENSE: A. The big focus was stopping running back Todd Gurley and the Bucs did that. Gurley had 48 yards rushing on 21 carries and a touchdown.
--SPECIAL TEAMS: F. The Bucs lost a lot of special teamers because they were forced to start on defense because of injury. The Bucs allowed Benny Cunningham to return kickoffs 44 and 102 yards.
--COACHING: D. Tough duty playing two games in five days when you have to travel. But the Bucs had slow starts in both games and didn't seem well-prepared to play. Smith has to quickly get his team focused on finishing 8-8.