The Bucs came out flat against Indy, but still managed a 38-31 victory over the Colts. Two turnovers, dropped passes and miscommunication again allowed an inferior opponent to hang around. The Bucs righted the ship in the second half thanks to big turnovers by the defense and an awakening on offense. Tampa wound up getting a big win on the road, where they have struggled mightily all season.
Tom Brady was anything but sharp in the early part of the game throwing an interception and another near pick and leading an ineffective offense. He’d finish the game 25-34 for 226 yards and one touchdown. Rob Gronkowski was the team’s leading receiver with seven receptions for 123 yards. Leonard Fournette had four touchdowns on the day and his 100 yards rushing led all backs. The defense made some big plays as well, causing three fumbles, two interceptions and sacking Carson Wentz three times.
Injuries continue to hit the team hard. Already without Ali Marpet, backup Aaron Stinnie injured his knee. That thrust Nick Leverett into a starting role. Devin White and Jamel Dean also left the game with injuries. Dean was ruled out with a shoulder injury, and White injured his hip. Jaelon Darden was also looked at for a concussion. White returned in the second half.
Sluggish Start For Bucs
Another slow start for the Bucs led to an early lead for the Colts. A bad punt set the Colts up with good field position and they were able to knock in a field goal to put them ahead. The Bucs second possession didn’t fare much better, ending in a Chris Godwin fumble knocked out by Darius Leonard. Tampa’s defense came up big though, forcing an Indy punt. The Colts defense matched that, forcing one of their own.
After yet another punt, the Bucs defense came up with a huge turnover. Mike Edwards punched the ball out, Lavonte David scooped it up and set Tampa up with great field position at Indy’s 34. Brady made quick work with the short field and Leonard Fournette ran it in for the go-ahead score. It wouldn’t take long for the Colts to answer back with a 62-yard touchdown pass to take back the lead.
In an attempt to get off a deep pass of his own, Brady and Scotty Miller couldn’t connect, resulting in a turnover. Indy capitalized on the interception, marching 90 yards down the field to increase their lead to 10. A heavy dose of Gronkowski and Fournette on the Bucs next drive led to a score. Brady found Fournette in the flat to bring the game to a 17-14 score before the half. With just under two minutes remaining in the half, the Colts shredded Tampa’s defense. Electing to go for it on fourth-and-one, Indy completed the pass for the score and a 10-point halftime lead.
Second Half Resurgence
With Indy driving, Shaq Barrett came up big when the Bucs needed it most. The Colts were at the Tampa 20-yard line when Barrett got to Wentz for the strip sack. Not out of it yet, Brady led a drive down the field resulting in another Fournette rushing touchdown, his third on the day, bringing the Colts lead to just three. On Indy’s ensuing possession, Antoine Winfield Jr. picked off Wentz to stall a productive Colts drive.
Big catches by Gronkowski set up a Ronald Jones touchdown and the Bucs second lead of the game. The breaks kept rolling Tampa’s way when a punt was muffed by the Colts and Scotty Miller was there for the recovery at the 19-yard line. The Bucs failed to get into the end zone, but put three on the board to make it a seven-point lead.
But the Bucs couldn’t get a stop when they needed to. Jonathan Taylor ran over Tampa’s defense until he scored. With the game tied and three-and-a-half minutes left, Brady and the offense had the opportunity to win the game. That’s all the Tampa offense needed. Fournette had some big runs on the final drive, capping it off with 28-yard run to ice the game and give the Bucs a 38-31 road win.