LeRoy Irvin intercepted a pass from Steve DeBerg and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown with 5:58 remaining to give the unbeaten Los Angeles Rams a 31-27 NFL victory today over the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Rams linebacker Carl Ekern returned an interception 33 yards for a score in the third quarter as Los Angeles (6-0) overcame four turnovers of its own.
The Buccaneers, 0-6 under first-year Coach Leeman Bennett, took a 27-24 lead in the fourth quarter. DeBerg threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Gerald Carter with 13:13 on the clock. On the 13th day of the month, it was DeBerg's 13th completion of the game and Carter's 13th reception of the season.
That ended a 57-yard drive highlighted by a 24-yard completion to Theo Bell on third and five from the Tampa Bay 48.
Irvin, who had two of the Rams' four interceptions, picked off a throw intended for Carter and ran up the right sideline untouched for the game-winning score. It was the fourth time this season DeBerg has thrown an interception that was returned for a touchdown.
Irvin also intercepted DeBerg's next pass, and many of the 39,607 in attendance started a chant of "We want Young," referring to backup quarterback Steve Young, signed last month after playing in the U.S. Football League.
Turnovers and penalties proved costly for Los Angeles in the first half. Tampa Bay took a 20-14 lead as James Wilder scored on a one-yard run, DeBerg threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Kevin House, and Donald Igwebuike kicked field goals of 34 and 49 yards.
Rams wide receiver Michael Young lost a fumble to set up Wilder's touchdown, and running back Eric Dickerson lost two fumbles -- one preceding Tampa Bay's second touchdown and the other stopping a drive that reached the Tampa Bay six in the second quarter.
Two roughing-the-passer penalties against Rams linebacker Mel Owens also played an important role in a 13-point burst that carried Tampa Bay from a 14-7 deficit to a 20-14 halftime lead.
"I hope we can live through the season," said Rams Coach John Robinson. "It was wild and chaotic out there today. We had an overwhelming amount of penalties in the first half (eight for 69 yards) and we were trying to drown in our own mistakes."
Place kicker Mike Lansford started the Rams' second-half comeback with a 27-yard field goal. Ekern's interception return -- on a pass intended for Jerry Bell -- 22 seconds later gave the Rams a 24-20 lead with 4:11 left in the third period.
Dickerson, who scored on a six-yard run in the second quarter, finished the game with 75 yards rushing on 25 carries. Rams quarterback Dieter Brock, who was sacked seven times, completed 16 of 23 passes for 195 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown to Bobby Duckworth.
DeBerg completed 14 of 34 passes for 161 yards. Wilder, who entered the game as the NFL's leading rusher, gained 49 yards on 24 carries.
"Today our defense played as well as it has played all year," Tampa Bay linebacker Chris Washington said. "It's frustrating to say you're getting better when you keep losing."