After winning the coin toss, the Cardinals elected to defer to the second half, which meant the Bucs offense would have the field first. Unfortunately their time with the ball did not last long. After a short pass for a minimal gain, Winston was sacked on the second play. And to make matters worse, on third down he threw an interception. The Bucs defense was able to play damage control going up against the short field and held the Cardinals to just a field goal to open the scoring at 3-0.
The Bucs faired much better on their following drive, thanks to the running and catching of their starting running back Ronald Jones. On the series, Jones caught three passes for 41 yards, and also rushed for a score to cap off an 11-play, 60 yard drive. This gave Tampa their first lead of the game at 7-3.
The Cardinals offense settled down on their next series with an 11-play drive of their own. They were able to dink-and-dunk their way up the field 39 yards to get into field goal range and make it a one-point contest at 7-6. On the Bucs’ next drive, they, too, took their time with a 12-play, 63-yard drive that ended in three points, as well. This brought the score to 10-6.
The game took a big halt in production following the early back-and-forth scoring. Over the course of the next four drives, the Bucs and Cardinals would each go three-and-out with punting results twice.
When the Cardinals took over as time was winding down in the first half, they did so at their own 4-yard line. However, a 32-yard run by Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray got them some breathing room and some much needed momentum. They took that momentum all the way to the end zone capping off a 96-yard drive with a touchdown and a 13-10 lead. But when the Buccaneers got the ball back in response, their 1-minute drill proved to be effective in the best way, as two O.J. Howard catches got them first into the red zone and then into the end zone for the 17-13 lead at halftime.
The Cardinals couldn’t get much going on their first drive of the second half, but the Bucs had a different result on their first possession. In a 9-play drive that traveled 49 yards in distance, the Bucs were able to get into field goal range, and kicker Matt Gay was once again able to deliver with a short strike to extend Tampa’s lead at 20-13.
The Cardinals wasted no time getting things going after that, as a 69-yard pass to wide receiver Christian Kirk two plays later quickly gave the Cardinals seven points and a tie ball game on the scoreboard at 20-20.
After back-to-back punts, one by the Buccaneers and one by the Cardinals, the Buccaneers found themselves on their own 11-yard line. After a short pass to running back Peyton Barber, Winston tried to convert on a pass over the middle, but it was tipped and intercepted. This spelled danger for Tampa Bay, as the Cardinals took over deep into Bucs territory. But as he has done so many times before, linebacker Lavonte David came to Tampa’s rescue with a huge forced fumble that got the ball back.
On the Bucs next drive, they traveled 66 yards in 12 plays to get within field goal range. As Matt Gay’s attempt went up, it went wide left, but the Cardinals jumped offsides and it gave Gay another crack at it. He didn’t disappoint, and the Bucs took the lead once again at 23-20.
On the Cardinals next drive, they made it to the Bucs 36-yard line, but the defense held them there for what we thought would be a punt. But a fake punt pass got them a first down in Buccaneer territory. One play later the Bucs were called for pass interference that put the ball at the Tampa 13-yard line. Then Christian Kirk was able to score his third touchdown of the day to bring the score to 27-23 in favor of the Cardinals.
On their next drive, the Bucs brought the ball to midfield thanks to a nice 19-yard pass to Mike Evans. Following the big play, Winston was able to hit Ronald Jones on a short pass with open space in front of him, but a fumble recovered by the Cardinals ended that drive right then and there.
As the Cardinals drove the ball down the field, a big catch from Larry Fitzgerald put them within field goal range, but two plays later rookie cornerback Jamel Dean came up big with a clutch interception on Kyler Murray. The Bucs offense went on the all-out attack after that thanks to a 49-yard catch by Chris Godwin. After that, a pass interference call in the end zone put the ball at the 1-yard line, and Peyton Barber was able to punch it in for the 30-27 lead with 1:43 remaining.
When the Cardinals got the ball back, they were faced with a crucial third-and-7, but pass interference on Tampa gave them the first down and kept the drive alive. But a few plays later, the Bucs defense held their hands up in victory, 30-27.
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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