WHAT HAPPENED IN TAMPA BAY’S 31-23 LOSS AT DENVER?
The Buccaneers held a surprising 10-7 lead at halftime in Denver before the Broncos had a huge third quarter with three touchdowns to take a commanding 31-10 lead that ultimately sealed Tampa Bay’s fate. The Broncos held off the Bucs’ fourth quarter rally, in which Tampa Bay outscored Denver 13-3, to prevail, 31-23, and win the AFC West division. The Bucs’ playoff hopes took a hit as the loss drops them to 6-6 on the season.
Quarterback Peyton Manning led the way for Denver by completing 27-of-38 passes for 242 yards with three touchdowns, setting the Broncos’ single-season passing touchdown record with 29 for the year. Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas gave Bucs cornerback Leonard Johnson fits, catching eight passes for 99 yards, including two touchdowns. Johnson gave up one touchdown and was flagged for illegal contact and pass interference while guarding Thomas.
Tight end Jacob Tamme was Manning’s other reliable target on Sunday as he caught nine passes for 89 yards.
Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman started the game hot, but finished the contest completing just 18-of-39 passes for 242 yards, two touchdowns and one interception that was returned for a touchdown by linebacker Von Miller, who also had a sack and forced a Freeman fumble. The Bucs offense generated just 10 yards in a disastrous third quarter that ultimately cost Tampa Bay a chance to win.
Tampa Bay was just 3-of-12 (25 percent) on third downs in Denver, and further hurt itself by committing 11 penalties for 80 yards. Denver was flagged for their share of penalties, too, with eight infractions for 75 yards.
Although Freeman was only sacked once by Denver, he was under constant pressure, especially in the second half. Not only did the Broncos defensive line do a sensational job of getting in Freeman’s face, the secondary also clamped down on Tampa Bay’s receivers.
Mike Williams led the way with six catches for 93 yards and one touchdown, but that score and the majority of those yards came on Tampa Bay’s final touchdown drive. Vincent Jackson had 55 yards on three catches.
After Denver took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter after Manning found defensive tackle Mitch Unrein, who was serving as a fullback, in the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown, the Bucs rallied with 10 straight points to take a surprising 10-7 lead at halftime. Freeman was 8-of-14 for 121 yards and an 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dallas Clark in the first half. Connor Barth added a 31-yard field goal to provide the deciding points at halftime.
Bucs rookie running back Doug Martin was held to just 50 yards in last week’s 24-23 loss to Atlanta but had 48 yards rushing on 15 carries by halftime, and also had a 26-yard gain on a screen pass. Due to Tampa Bay’s offensive ineptness and the Broncos’ 21-point explosion in the third quarter, Martin was held to just eight yards on three carries in the second half.
Tampa Bay’s defense did an outstanding job of pressuring Manning enough and playing sound football on third down to force more punts than Denver is used to in the first half, but the second half was a different story. Rookie linebacker Lavonte David recorded his first career interception against Manning and that helped set up one of Barth’s two fourth quarter field goals. Barth was a perfect 3-of-3 on the afternoon, connecting from 50 and 55 yards in the fourth quarter.
Freeman’s fourth quarter touchdown pass to Williams brought the Bucs within eight points, but it was too little too late for their rally to tie the game. Now 6-6, Tampa Bay is still on the outside of the NFC playoff picture. The Bucs return home to play the imploding Philadelphia Eagles next Sunday at Raymond James Stadium and face a must-win situation after losing two straight games in order to remain in contention for the sixth and final NFC wild card spot.HOW DID THE TEAMS SCORE? – BUCS vs. BRONCOS SCORING SERIES
First Quarter – Broncos 7, Buccaneers 0
Denver benefited from three penalties on Tampa Bay’s defense – an illegal contact call on cornerback Leonard Johnson, a 12-men on the field call and a critical defensive pass interference call on nickel cornerback Ronde Barber. Peyton Manning was 5-of-7 for 37 yards on the drive, including a 1-yard touchdown pass to defensive lineman Mitch Unrein to put Denver up 7-0.First Quarter – Broncos 7, Buccaneers 3
Defensive tackle Justin Bannan was flagged for a 15-yard facemask penalty on a run by Doug Martin. Martin then picked up 26 yards on a screen pass and Josh Freeman hit tight end Luke Stocker for a gain of 11. But the Bucs’ drive stalled in the red zone and the team had to settle for a 31-yard field goal by Connor Barth to cut into Denver’s lead, 7-3.First Quarter – Buccaneers 10, Broncos 7
Freeman hit Mike Williams with a 40-yard strike to move the Bucs into Broncos’ territory. Martin had two runs totaling 12 yards to set up first-and-10 from the Denver 11. On the next play, Freeman used play action to find tight end Dallas Clark in the end zone for a touchdown to put Tampa Bay ahead 10-7 at the end of the first quarter.Third Quarter – Broncos 14, Buccaneers 10
After a 21-yard punt return by Trindon Holiday, the Broncos started at their own 48-yard line. Manning hit Demaryius Thomas with a 13-yard pass before connecting with tight end Jacob Tamme for a gain of 15 yards. Cornerback Leonard Johnson was flagged for a 16-yard pass interference call on Thomas right before Thomas beat Johnson for an 8-yard touchdown catch in the back of the end zone. That put the Broncos up 14-10 midway with 9:21 left in the third quarter.Third Quarter – Broncos 21, Buccaneers 10
Manning remained hot, completing 4-of-4 passes for 38 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown pass to Thomas, who beat linebacker Lavonte David and safety Ahmad Black for the score. Third Quarter – Broncos 28, Buccaneers 10
On second-and-8 from the Tampa Bay 22, Freeman’s pass for Vincent Jackson was intercepted by linebacker Von Miller, who returned the pick 26 yards for a touchdown to put the Broncos up 28-10 in the third quarter.Fourth Quarter – Broncos 28, Buccaneers 13
Rookie linebacker Lavonte David picked off Manning and returned the ball 27 yards to the Denver 48. Freeman hit Vincent Jackson with a 12-yard gain down to the 36 but the drive stalled at the Denver 32 and Barth was called on to make a 50-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter to cut into the Broncos’ lead.Fourth Quarter – Broncos 31, Buccaneers 13
Matt Prater capped off a 13-play drive with a 31-yard field goal to push Denver’s lead to 31-13 and make it a three-possession game. Manning was 5-of-7 for 38 yards on the drive.Fourth Quarter – Broncos 31, Buccaneers 16
Freeman hit Jackson with a 24-yard strike on first down to get the ball to the Denver 39 and then hit Clark for a gain of nine yards down to the Denver 37 to set up Barth with a 55-yard field goal.Fourth Quarter – Broncos 31, Buccaneers 23
After a 15-yard punt return by Roscoe Parrish to the Denver 17, Freeman hit Mike Williams with a 14-yard pass to the Denver 33 before hauling in a 28-yard strike down to the Denver 5. On the next play, Freeman and Williams connected for a third time on the drive and scored a 5-yard touchdown.WHAT WAS NOTABLE ABOUT SUNDAY’S GAME FOR THE BUCS?
Buccaneers rookie running back Doug Martin totaled 98 yards from scrimmage at Denver and that gave him 1,480 total yards, which moves him past Warrick Dunn (1,440 yards in 1997) into first place for the most yards from a Tampa Bay player in his rookie season. Martin also moved up to fifth in the Bucs’ single-season yards from scrimmage list ahead of Dunn’s efforts in 1997. Martin needs 76 total yards next week to move past Ricky Bell (1,511 yards in 1979) and Dunn (1,555 yards in 2000) to move into third place. … Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman threw two touchdown passes on Sunday to have 74 career TD throws. Freeman moves past Doug Williams (73) and is just three scoring tosses behind Vinny Testaverde (77 from 1987-92) in team annals. Freeman has thrown 23 touchdown passes in 2012 and trails Brad Johnson (26 in 2003) for the most TD passes in a single season. … Rookie linebacker Lavonte David recorded his first career interception in the third quarter when he picked off Peyton Manning. David led the Bucs with 10 tackles on Sunday and ranks first on the team with 108 stops.WHO WAS THE PEWTERREPORT.COM BUCS MVP?
Buccaneers kicker Connor Barth was a perfect three-of-three on his field goal attempts in Denver. Barth nailed kicks from 31, 50 and 55 yards, giving him 23 made field goals on the season. With Sunday’s two field goals from 50-plus yards, Barth set a single-season record for most kicks from 50 yards and beyond (six – 50, 50, 51, 52, 55 and 57).
It was also the seventh time in Bucs history that a kicker has connected on two field goals in the same game. Barth has done that three times in Tampa Bay. Barth’s 55-yard field goal was the fourth longest in team history.
The Bucs’ kicker now has 103 points on the season and will surpass his career-high of 105 (2010) with his next field goal. Barth needs 28 points in the final four games to tie Matt Bryant’s team record of 131 points (2008). For his efforts, Barth is Sunday’s PewterReport.com Bucs MVP.WHICH BUCCANEERS WERE INACTIVE?
Bucs' inactives against the Broncos were: OL Derek Hardman, RB Michael Smith, LB Najee Goode, WR David Gilreath, WR David Douglas and DT Matthew Masifilo.
Broncos’ inactives against the Bucs were: WR Brandon Stokley, QB Caleb Hanie, CB Tracy Porter, FB Jacob Hester, OL C.J. Davis, TE Julius Thomas and DE Robert AyersWHICH BUCS GOT HURT?
Bucs reserve cornerback and kick returner LeQuan Lewis suffered an apparent serious knee injury on Roscoe Parrish’s fourth quarter punt return and had to be carted to the locker room. His season appears to be over.WHAT WILL UPSET GREG SCHIANO WHEN HE WATCHES THE FILM?
• There were tons of offensive holding penalties by Denver early in the game, but no calls until midway through the second quarter.
• Right tackle Demar Dotson was flagged for two holding penalties and also gave up a sack to Denver linebacker Von Miller.
• Cornerback Leonard Johnson gave up a touchdown and had two penalties (pass interference and illegal contact) while attempting to cover wide receiver Demaryius Thomas.
• Tampa Bay was a dismal 3-of-12 (25 percent) on third downs offensively.
• The Buccaneers committed 11 penalties for 80 yards against the Broncos.WHAT’S UP NEXT FOR THE BUCS?
Tampa Bay (6-6) travels home to play the Philadelphia Eagles (3-9) on Sunday, December 9 at 1:00 p.m. The game will be televised on Fox if the team sells at least 85 percent of the tickets.
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