TAMPA – Tampa Bay had its chances. In the Bucs’ 24-23 loss to the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars, quarterback Jeff Garcia overthrew wide receivers Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard in the second and fourth quarters, respectively. Both plays would have been touchdowns.
The Bucs defense, which had failed to record a takeaway for a second straight week, had the chance to recover a fumble by Gray who had botched a play-action fake in the third quarter. Gray recovered the ball deep in the end zone and was able to lunge out to the 1-yard line to avoid a safety or a touchdown.
Needing only a field goal for victory, Tampa Bay’s potential game-winning drive started back 10 yards farther at the Bucs’ 34 thanks to a holding penalty against linebacker Ryan Nece on Phillip Buchanon’s 7-yard punt return. On the final drive, Earnest Graham dropped a pass on second-and-1 at the Tampa Bay 43.
Two plays later, Galloway dropped a pass near the sidelines at the Jacksonville 35. On second-and-10 from the 45, Hilliard and Garcia weren’t on the same page on an audible and Hilliard didn’t get his head turned around quick enough to catch the ball. Had he seen the pass, Hilliard would have likely picked up the first down.
On third-and-10 from the 45, Garcia tried to hit Hilliard downfield down the right sidelines, but just overthrew him by a yard. The play would have likely gone for a touchdown.
On fourth-and-10 from the Jacksonville 45, Garcia threw a 12-yard strike to Hilliard, but a big hit from Jaguars cornerback Rashean Mathis dislodged the ball from the Bucs receiver and safety Reggie Nelson picked off the pass at the Jacksonville 32 with 19 seconds left in the game. And with that play, Tampa Bay lost its second game in a row and its first at Raymond James Stadium to fall to 4-4 on the season.
After the game, Hilliard was disappointed at the Bucs’ costly missed opportunities, including his own.
“I’m only focusing on one,” Hilliard said. “I could care less right now about the rest of them. I didn’t give my team a chance to possibly win a game, at least to give Matt [Bryant] a chance to swing his leg once.”
In many ways, this game resembled last week’s 23-16 loss at Detroit in that it was a game Tampa Bay gave away – literally. After outgaining the Lions last week, but losing the turnover battle 2-0, the Buccaneers outgained the Jaguars 385-219 yards, but lost the turnover battle once again, 3-0. All three turnovers came from Garcia’s three interceptions.
After going 197 passes without an interception this year as a Buccaneer, Garcia was picked off by Jaguars cornerback Aaron Glenn at the Tampa Bay 28 and the turnover was returned for a touchdown in the second quarter to give Jacksonville a 17-3 lead. That pick also ended a streak of 278 pass attempts for Garcia, who finished the game 14-of-19 for 267 yards with one touchdown and three picks, dating back to the 2006 season with Philadelphia.
Jacksonville played conservative, turnover-free football, running the ball 44 times for 133 yards (3.0 avg.) led by Fred Taylor’s 68 yards on 24 carries. Gray, in his first career start, completed 7-of-16 passes for 100 yards and one touchdown, an 8-yard toss to Matt Jones that gave Jacksonville a 24-23 lead with 11:37 left in the fourth quarter.
Jacksonville opened the game with six straight runs before being forced to punt, but it was Tampa Bay that opened the scoring, capping off an eight-play, 44-yard drive with a 44-yard field goal by Matt Bryant. The drive was highlighted by back-to-back runs by Garcia, who picked up 21 yards on a scramble on third-and-6 at the Tampa Bay 34-yard line. On the next play, Garcia saw another opening on the right side of the line and rushed for 10 yards while drawing a 15-yard personal foul penalty on Nelson, which gave Tampa Bay a first-and-10 from the Jacksonville 20. But Tampa Bay’s drive stalled three plays later and Bryant was called on to kick a field goal that would give the Bucs a 3-0 lead with 7:26 remaining in the first quarter.
Jacksonville would take the lead on its second possession of the game, which started very similarly to their first one. Starting on the 50-yard line due to a bad kickoff by Bryant, the Jaguars called eight straight running plays on this drive, including a 4-yard run by LaBrandon Toefield on fourth-and-1 at the Bucs’ 41, before Gray threw his first pass, a dumpoff to running back Maurice Jones-Drew that went for 15 yards down to the Tampa Bay 1. On the next play, Toefield’s 1-yard touchdown run with 1:31 left in the first quarter gave Jacksonville a 7-3 lead. Taylor picked up 26 yards on five carries on the drive.
Jacksonville would add to its lead when John Carney’s 41-yard field goal split the uprights with 7:25 remaining in the second quarter. The key play was a 30-yard catch by tight end Greg Estandia, which got the ball into Tampa Bay territory at the 27-yard line.
The Jaguars lead swelled to 17-3 with 7:09 left in the second quarter when Glenn picked off Garcia and returned the ball 28 yards for a touchdown.
But it didn’t take Garcia long to overcome that interception. On first-and-10 on the Tampa Bay 48, he unloaded a 52-yard bomb to Galloway for a touchdown down the middle of the field. After a three-play, 81-yard scoring drive, the Bucs trailed 17-10 with 5:45 left in the second quarter.
Tampa Bay continued to cut into Jacksonville’s lead before halftime with a 10-play, 57-yard scoring drive that resulted in a 22-yard field goal by Bryant. Garcia was 4-of-7 for 54 yards on the drive, but his 9-yard scramble on third-and-10 from the Jaguars 4-yard line came up a yard short. With 15 seconds left in the first half, Bryant made the score 17-13.
Garcia threw his second interception as he was being hit by Jaguars defensive tackle John Henderson. Jacksonville safety Sammy Knight picked off the pass at the Jaguars 40. That robbed Tampa Bay of another potential scoring opportunity.
But Ronde Barber snuffed out Jacksonville’s drive a few minutes later on fourth-and-1 at the Tampa Bay 40 when he tackled Toefield in the backfield.
On its next series, Jacksonville had to punt from its own 1-yard after a Greg Spires sack, and Tampa Bay took over on the Jaguars’ 33-yard line. Three plays and 1:24 later, Tampa Bay took the lead following a 19-yard run by Michael Bennett. On the play, Garcia threw the ball backwards to Bennett, who received great downfield blocks by left tackle Donald Penn and tight end Anthony Becht en route to the end zone. The play counted as a 19-yard touchdown run for Bennett, and with 3:19 left in the third quarter, Tampa Bay led 20-17.
The Bucs got the ball back on the Jacksonville 30 after wide receiver Maurice Stovall partially deflected Adam Podlesh’s punt at the goal line, forcing a punt of only 20 yards. But Tampa Bay’s drive stalled after three plays and Bryant came on for a 42-yard field goal to increase the Bucs’ lead to 23-17 with five seconds left in the third quarter.
Jacksonville received great starting field position on its next possession after a 20-yard kick return to the Jaguars 32 that had 15 yards tacked on to the end of the run after a late hit penalty on free safety Tanard Jackson. The Jaguars would start on their 47-yard line and embark on an eight-play, 53-yard touchdown drive to reclaim the lead. The key play on the drive was a 13-yard gain by Ernest Wilford on third-and-6 from the Tampa Bay 22. Two plays later on second-and-goal from the 8, Quinn hit Jones with an 8-yard touchdown pass over Phillip Buchanon in the right corner of the end zone. With 11:37 left in the fourth quarter, Jacksonville led 24-23, which would end up being the final score.
IT WAS OVER WHEN…Tampa Bay wide receiver Ike Hilliard was drilled by Jacksonville cornerback Rashean Mathis after picking up enough yardage for a first down on fourth-and-10 at the Jacksonville 35. Instead of coming down with the catch, the ball squirted free and into the arms of rookie safety Reggie Nelson at the Jaguars’ 32 with 19 seconds left. Had Hilliard caught the ball, Tampa Bay would have been in position to possibly kick a game-winning field goal as Jacksonville had a 24-23 lead.
PEWTERREPORT.COM’S PEWTER PLAYER OF THE GAMEAlthough he didn’t get the chance to kick the game-winner, Buccaneers kicker Matt Bryant was 3-for-3 in field goals against Jacksonville, getting Tampa Bay on the scoreboard first with 44-yard field goal. Bryant also nailed field goals of 22 yards and 42 yards in the game, the last of which came with five seconds left in the third quarter to give Tampa Bay a 23-17 lead. For his efforts, Bryant is this week’s PewterReport.com Pewter Player of the Game. He has now made 12-of-14 field goals (85.7 percent) this season.
RECORDS, MILESTONES AND NOTES• Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks and defensive end Kevin Carter each played in their 200th career game. The two are tied for first among active defensive players with 200 consecutive games played.
• Tampa Bay quarterback Jeff Garcia started his 100th NFL game.
• Bucs running back Michael Bennett started his first game in Tampa Bay and scored his first touchdown since 2005 on a 19-yard lateral. In two years in Kansas City he didn’t score any. In two games in Tampa Bay he already has one.
• Tampa Bay wide receiver Chad Lucas saw his first action in the NFL and returned his first kickoff 18 yards in the second quarter. Rookie fullback Byron Storer also saw action in his first NFL game.
• Bucs defensive tackle Ryan Sims was activated for his first game in Tampa Bay.
• Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Joey Galloway hauled in his 75th career touchdown pass on Sunday. It gives Galloway 27 total touchdowns as a Buccaneer, and ties him for fifth place with receiver Mark Carrier for total touchdowns in team history. Galloway finished the game with six catches for 115 yards and he is now in 10th place in team history with 211 catches as a Buccaneer. Galloway now has 28 100-yard receiving games in his career.
STATS THAT COUNTTampa Bay wide receiver Maurice Stovall partially deflected his first punt. He also had his first kickoff return, a 22-yarder, and a career-high five catches for 47 yards. … Running back Earnest Graham rushed for 62 yards on 14 carries (4.4) to lead the Buccaneers. … Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia rushed for 45 yards on four carries, including a season-long 21-yard run. … Tampa Bay punter Josh Bidwell had four punts inside the 20-yard line and averaged 44.5 yards with a net of 39.5 yards. That included a season-high 58-yarder. … Bucs middle linebacker Barrett Ruud had a game-high 12 tackles, followed by 10 from Derrick Brooks. … Bucs defensive ends Gaines Adams and Greg White split a fourth quarter sack. … Jacksonville converted 4-of-16 third downs (25 percent), while Tampa Bay converted 4-of-14 third downs (29 percent). Jacksonville was 2-of-3 (67 percent) on fourth downs, while Tampa Bay was 0-for-1 on fourth down.
BUCS’ STARTING LINEUPS VS. THE JAGUARSStarting offense: WR Joey GallowayLT Donald PennLG Arron SearsC John WadeRG Davin JosephRT Jeremy TruebloodTE Anthony BechtWR Maurice StovallRB Earnest GrahamRB Michael Bennett
Starting defense: LE Greg Spires UT Jovan HayeNT Chris HovanRE Kevin CarterWLB Derrick BrooksMLB Barrett RuudSLB Cato JuneLCB Phillip BuchanonFS Tanard JacksonSS Jermaine PhillipsRCB Ronde Barber
Starting specialists:K Matt BryantP Josh BidwellLS Andrew Economos
BUCS-JAGUARS INACTIVESBucs Inactives:â€¨ CB Brian Kelly,â€¨RB Michael Pittman,â€¨LB Jeremiah Trotter, TE Alex Smith,â€¨G Dan Buenning,â€¨DE Patrick Chukwurah,â€¨WR Michael Clayton and QB Luke McCown (emergency quarterback). Quarterback Bruce Gradkowski and guard Anthony Davis were active, but did not play.
Jaguars Inactives: â€¨QB David Garrard, K Josh Scobee, WR John Broussard, CB Brian Williams, DT Derek Landri, OT Richard Collier, G Uche Nwaneri, DT Tony McDaniel.
BUCS INJURIESCornerback Brian Kelly (groin), running back Michael Pittman (ankle), tight end Alex Smith and defensive end Patrick Chukwurah (shoulder) were out once again. Cornerback Torrie Cox left the game with 9:36 left in the second with a left knee injury. Defensive end Greg Spires suffered an ankle injury halfway through the fourth quarter and did not return. He was seen leaving the stadium in a walking boot.
KICKOFF CONDITIONSThe announced attendance for the Buccaneers vs. Jaguars game at Raymond James Stadium was 65,133. Conditions at kickoff were 84 degrees with 57 percent humidity.
UP NEXTThe Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-4) will play the Arizona Cardinals (3-4) at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, November 4. Kickoff is set for 1:00 p.m. Tampa Bay has lost two straight and Arizona is coming off a bye week.
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Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
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