In a hard-fought, back-and-forth battle, the Bucs defended home field with a win in a 38-35 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston threw for the third-most passing yards in team history with 456, and that helped the Bucs amass 542 yards of total offense in what was a crazy game start to finish.
After winning the the toss, head coach Bruce Arians and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers elected to receive the ball first to open the game. In hindsight, maybe they wished they hadn’t. On the first play from scrimmage, Bucs running back Ronald Jones ran for a 10-yard gain and a first down, but on quarterback Jameis Winston’s first pass of the game, he threw an interception to Colts linebacker Darius Leonard.
On the Colts’ first possession following the turnover, two short run plays made for an anemic start, but a 46-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jacoby Brissett to wide receiver Marcus Johnson on Indy’s first pass play opened the scoring at 7-0.
On the Bucs second drive of the day, they were able to sustain possession for longer than two plays, but the end result of the drive was all the same, as running back Dare Ogunbowale fumbled the ball at midfield reaching for the first down. The Bucs defense was able to clamp down a bit more on their second time out, however, and held the Colts to just three points instead of seven. This brought the score to 10-0.
Already down double digits on the scoreboard, the Bucs offense began to settle in. On a drive that started with a couple of tough runs by running back Peyton Barber, but also included big passing plays to wide receiver Chris Godwin and Breshad Perriman, the Bucs found themselves in the red zone quickly. A 13-yard pass then got the Bucs all the way to the 1-yard line, and a QB sneak on the next play by Winston then earned Tampa Bay its first touchdown of the game. The made extra point made the score 10-7.
The Bucs defense really came to life on their next possession, allowing zero yards in three plays to force the Colts into a quick punt. One play later, Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Evans found himself underneath a beautifully thrown ball by Winston for a 61-yard touchdown. That gave the Bucs their first lead of the game, but it came at a price, as Evans had to leave the game after suffering a hamstring injury on that play. Still, the score read 14-10 with Tampa on top for the first time in the contest.
Following the touchdown by Tampa Bay, both the Colts and the Bucs traded quick punts, one on three plays, the other on four. When the Colts took over after the Bucs punt, they were able to orchestrate a 10-play, 75-yard drive that ended in another touchdown. There wasn’t a single play that drive that went for more than 10 yards for Indianapolis, but the ball continued to move all the way across the goal line to bring the score to 17-14.
On Tampa’s response drive, they were positioning themselves nicely to at least tie the game up with a field goal, but Indy linebacker Leonard’s second interception of the day off Winston stopped that cold. To make matters worse for the home team, Leonard ended up taking that one back for a pick-6. That once again brought the Colts’ lead to double digits at 24-14.
With just over two minutes to go and all three timeouts in hand, the Bucs started their drive from the 25-yard line. Three straight completed passes by Winston got the ball rolling into Colts territory, and a 17-yard throw and catch to Ogunbowale got them within striking distance. That gave way to a 3-yard touchdown grab from tight end Cam Brate, and brought the score to 24-21 with less than 40 seconds to go in the half.
All the Bucs had to do was not give up a big play.
Unfortunately they gave up a big play.
A 50-yard bomb pass from Brissett to Johnson gave way to a late field goal by the Colts to bring the score to 27-21 at half.
The Colts started the second half with possession and though they were able to move the ball 26 yards on their first drive, they were ultimately forced to punt.
When the Bucs offense trotted out onto the field for their first series of the second half, to the surprise of everyone in the stadium, it was Ryan Griffin under center for the Buccaneers and not Jameis Winston. We later learned that Winston had a hand injury and was questionable to return, at the time. Griffin completed his first two passes of the drive (the first regular season action of his career), but the Bucs eventually had to punt it away themselves.
Following the Bucs punt, the Colts offense came to life. With little momentum on their side, Brissett hit wide receiver Zach Pascal for a 37-yard gain to put the Bucs defense on their heels. A few plays later, Brissett his Pascal again for a 12-yard gain, this time in the end zone for six points. Up 12 on the scoreboard, Indianapolis elected to go for two on their extra point attempt and were successful. This brought the score to 35-21.
For their second series, Winston returned to the game was able to get things going. It started with an easy pass to running back Ronald Jones for nine yards. That led to a big 33-yard pass to Howard, followed by an 11-yard pass to Chris Godwin. On the final pass of the drive, Winston hit Justin Watson in the end zone for Watson’s first touchdown on his career to bring the score to 35-28. The Colts were forced into a quick punt on their next series, and when the Bucs took over they were once again able to chip into Indy’s lead with a field goal. That brought the score to 35-31 with one quarter to play.
On the Colts next drive, they needed a spark. So they decided to let it fly on a long pass down the sideline. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, cornerback Jamel Dean committed a costly pass interference penalty which resulted in 45 yards given up. But three plays later, the Bucs defense made a much needed play, as linebacker Devin White forced a fumble that was recovered by safety Mike Edwards for the change of possession.
But the momentum for the home team didn’t last long either, as Winston threw a quick interception to Colts safety Malik Hooker. However, continuing the series of strange events, the Colts offense would be forced into just a field goal attempt, which bounced straight off the upright and the score remained 35-31.
The Bucs were able to move the ball all the way into the red zone on their next drive following the Colts missed field goal. But as they reached the Indy 16-yard line, they were faced with a big 4th-and-three decision with less than five minutes left in the game. Arians and Leftwich opted to go for it, and a 5-yard completion to Ogunbowale moved the sticks. On the very next play, Winston his Perriman in the end zone to re-gain the lead, 38-35.
Down three on the scoreboard with less than four minutes to play, the Colts started their drive with two straight completion to get the ball right around midfield. However, after a few big stops by the Bucs defense, the Colts were faced with a 4th-and-two just as the two-minute warning hit. On a crazy play, that involved a batted pass, a caught pass by the quarterback, a second illegal pass and whole lot more, the Bucs came out on top. Tampa came away with the stop and the ball.
Without all of their timeouts, the Colts had to bank on a single stop. Bucs running back Peyton Barber didn’t let them have it.
As the clock hit 0:00, it was Tampa Bay on top 38-35.