With all of the Bucs starters scheduled to sit out their final preseason game of the season, the big news before kickoff was that projected starting safety Justin Evans was also going to be held out.
Evans has been recovering from ankle and calf injuries throughout the summer, and was just activated from the PUP list earlier this week. We’re sure the team would have liked to get Evans some in-game reps before Week 1, but it appears they want to play it safe and rest him as much as they could before the regular season rolls around next Sunday.
As for the players who were on the field, quarterback Ryan Griffin and running back Dare Ogunbowale started for the Bucs and were the main attraction in the first half. In the Bucs first drive, both of those players looked good before a tipped pass at the line of scrimmage was intercepted and taken back to the house for the Cowboys to take their first lead of the game, 6-0.
After a more well-established drive their second time out, the Bucs were still forced to punt. However, when the Cowboys took over, it only took one play for Bucs pass rusher Shaq Barrett to force a strip sack and recovery for Tampa Bay. Griffin and the Bucs offense capitalized on the short field with a touchdown throw to tight end Tanner Hudson, giving them the 7-6 lead.
After a Dallas punt, the Bucs took over once again. Griffin continued his stoic work of the offense, but as they crossed mid-field, a pass to wide receiver Scotty Miller was a tad behind; off his hands and intercepted by the Cowboys secondary.
It was a back-and-forth battle of punts after that. In the meantime, rookie quarterback Vincent Testaverde Jr. took over for the Buccaneers. After a quick drive where he went three-and-out, Testaverde attempted to hit Hudson up the seam for a big play, but his pass was intercepted. The Cowboys were able to march down the field off the turnover to get them in field goal range to give them the 9-7 lead.
That’s how things went to the half.
On the Bucs first offensive possession, they took the ball 39-yards in eight plays to get them in range of a long, 53-yard field goal off the foot of Matt Gay. That brought the scoreboard to 10-9 in favor of Tampa Bay.
The Bucs held the Cowboys offense to just three plays on their next drive, and in return continued their offensive momentum with a 62-yard, 8-play drive that ended in a Bruce Anderson rushing touchdown. That drive, which gave the Bucs a 17-9 lead, was one of the best drives of the preseason from the backup offensive linemen.
The next two Dallas drives would be long, but yield no points. The first went 60 yards in 11 plays, but a forced fumble gave it right back to Tampa Bay. On the following drive, they went 24 yards in 10 plays, however, that ended in a turnover on downs after a big stop from the Bucs third string defense.
But where there is smoke there is often fire. The Cowboys offense, despite not getting points on their previous two drives, did establish momentum, and in their following drive, went 75 yards in just three plays thanks to a 69-yard touchdown run and catch by Dallas receiver Jalen Guyton — aids by a handful of missed tackles by Tampa.
That brought the score to 17-15. Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett attempted a 2-point conversion to tie the game, but it failed and the score remained in favor of the Buccaneers.
After that, the Bucs were just a few first downs away from victory. Running back Bruce Anderson led them to one first down, but ultimately Dallas held the Bucs to punt with just under a minute to go.
Dallas drove the ball up to mid-field with under 20 seconds to go and no time outs. They completed a short pass to the sideline, but that brought the clock to 13 seconds just across the 50-yard line. The Cowboys attempted another pass, knowing they were still out of field goal range, but it was incomplete and the clock showed just four seconds.
That meant it was Hail Mary time.
It was deep, it was true, and it was intercepted by the Buccaneers for the 17-15 victory.
Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: email@example.com
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