In what was considered a “swing game” for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, their season continued to swing in the wrong direction as they fell on the road for the second week in a row, this time to the Buffalo Bills by a score of 30-27.
The talk throughout the week leading up to this game was how the Buccaneers were going to get the offense going earlier rather than rely on the late-game heroics to either get it done or ultimately come up short. On their first drive against Buffalo, quarterback Jameis Winston led an 11-play, 43-yard drive which ended in a field goal – point are good.
It was a heavy dose of wide receiver Mike Evans and tight ends Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard which got the Buccaneers into field goal range, and new kicker Patrick Murray nailed it from 50 yards out. That first drive was a good sign all around.
Flipping sides, Buffalo engineered an 11-play, 69-yard scoring drive of their own, in response. Early in the game it was the feet of Tyrod Taylor that gave the Bucs fits. At one point in the game he had 50 rushing yards on just four carries. Linebacker Kwon Alexander was back this week for the Buccaneers and he was spying Taylor early, but struggled.
The Bucs defense switched things up this week in their coverage. Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves was moved from the outside cornerback slot where he had been starting to the nickel corner spot. Robert McClain replaced him on the outside. Hargreaves, who has been heavily criticized for how off he plays in coverage, was also playing press coverage from that nickel spot and did not allow a catch against him in the first half, despite four targets his way.
The Bucs responded with a long drive of their own after holding the Bills to just a field goal. With the game now tied 3-3, the Bucs drove down the field all the way to the inside the Bills 10-yard line. After a fumble at the snap (recovered by the Bucs) and a missed throw, a great play by Buffalo’s Jordan Poyer stopped the Bucs from scoring on a pass from Winston to Brate. Another Murray field goal made it 6-3.
The Bills responded on their next drive by getting it into the end zone. It was a methodical 12-play, 78-yard drive that got all the way down to the Bucs 1-yard line. The drive was capped off with a LeSean McCoy rushing touchdown (his first of the year) which gave the Bills a 10-6 lead.
That’s how the lead stayed for the next few series. The Buccaneers fumbled on their next drive. The Bills recovered but missed a field goal, and the first two punt of the game, one by each team, were the consecutive drives after that. After an interception against the Buccaneers and some poor clock management by the Bills, 10-6 is how the game went to the half.
The Bills wasted no time getting on the scoreboard to start the second half by capping off an 8-play, 75-yard drive with a 22-yard touchdown pass from Taylor to tight end Logan Thomas. That touchdown was the first touchdown the Bills had scored from outside the red zone all season.
Rather than let the game get out of hands, as they have done too many times already this season, the Bucs responded with a 7-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that included big plays from Mike Evans, Doug Martin, and then the wide open touchdown by O.J. Howard.
With the score 17-13, Bills, the two teams would exchange punts on the next few drives. On the Bills next drive, however, the got points in the form of a field goal to make it a 20-13 lead.
The Buccaneers offense woke up in a big way after that and drove down the field 75 yards in seven plays, including a big 33-yard touchdown pass to Howard to tie the game up at 20-20. The defense fed off the offense’s new life and forced a fumble on the next Bills drive, which then led to a Buccaneers touchdown as the clock was winding down in the fourth quarter to take a 27-20 lead.
The Bills aren’t known for giving up many points, and after giving up 27, they responded perfectly with a lighting-fast 3-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that ended in a McCoy rushing touchdown. The play that got them into business was a big 44-yard toss to Bills wide receiver Deonte Thompson, who was signed this week and had a big day against Tampa Bay.
That set up what most people thought would be a possible game-winning drive for the Buccaneers, but on the first play of that drive, wide receiver Adam Humphries fumbled the ball, which was recovered by the Bills. Thanks to some missed tackles and poor discipline, the Bills bled the clock down all the way to less than 30 seconds before Buffalo kicked what would be the game-winning field goal.
A final score of 30-27, Bills with the win.
Jameis Winston finished the game 32-for-44 with 382 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Doug Martin led the Bucs and carries, and got 20 carries for the first time this season, but only had 49 yards to show for it. Tight end O.J. Howard led the Bucs in receiving yards with 98 on six catches with two touchdowns. Mike Evans was next with 86 yards on seven catches for a touchdown. DeSean Jackson had 73 yards on five catches and Cameron Brate had 60 yards on six catches.
On the defense, Lavonte David led all Buccaneers with 14 tackles. Kwon Alexander was next with nine, and Robert McClain, who got his first start at outside corner, was next with eight.
Kicker Patrick Murray was 2-for-2 on field goals and 3-for-3 on extra points.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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