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DEFENSIVE LINE Buffalo jumped out to a 17-0 lead over Tampa Bay in the first quarter thanks to a 76-yard interception return for a touchdown and 10 additional points that came off a total of nine offensive plays by the Bills. Buffalo took a 20-14 lead in to halftime and had 217 yards of offense in the first half alone.
While Buffalo quarterback Trent Edwards connected on two deep touchdown throws to wide receivers Lee Evans and Terrell Owens, Tampa Bay's biggest difficulty came in containing Buffalo running back Fred Jackson, who had a productive game.
Jackson, who started in place of suspended Bills RB Marshawn Lynch, broke more tackles than one could count en route to rushing for a career-high 163 yards on 28 carries (5.8 avg.). The Bills had 132 yards rushing in the first half alone, and finished the game with 218 yards on 35 attempts (6.2 avg.).
Jackson's biggest run of the game was one of his last. It came late in the fourth quarter when he broke a handful of tackles vs. Tampa Bay's eight-man defensive front for a 43-yard gain down to the Bucs' 11-yard line. It led to a short field goal, which put the Bills up 33-20.
After being shut out in the sack column vs. Dallas last week, Tampa Bay's defensive line produced two sacks vs. Buffalo. The first came courtesy of Bucs defensive end Jimmy Wilkerson, who beat Bills backup right tackle Jonathan Scott to sack Edwards for an 8-yard loss on a third-and-12 play. Wilkerson finished the game with five tackles and one sack.
The second quarterback takedown came from Bucs rookie defensive tackle Roy Miller, who was worked in to the rotation behind starters Ryan Sims and Chris Hovan. Miller notched his first career sack on Edwards on a second-and-14 scramble attempt on the first drive of the third quarter. Miller recorded three tackles and one sack vs. the Bills.
In the second quarter, Hovan did a nice job of beating rookie guard Andy Levitre inside the trenches to get a great pass rush on Edwards, who was forced to throw the ball away early on a third-and-8 play. The Bills had to settle for a 43-yard field goal. Hovan had two tackles and one QB hurry, and Sims had two tackles.
But Tampa Bay's pass rush overall wasn't good enough vs. a young and inexperienced Buffalo offensive line that surrendered four sacks to New England last week. Edwards attempted 31 passes, and only five QB hurries came from the Bucs' D-line.
One of those QB hurries came from Bucs situational pass rusher Stylez G. White. On Buffalo's second offensive series of the game, White, who was rushing from the right end spot, drew a holding penalty on Edwards' pass attempt to Owens in the end zone, which fell incomplete. The Bills had to settle for a 31-yard field goal. White finished the game with two tackles and one QB hurry.
But the Bucs had their own penalties along the D-line. On a fourth-and-inches play from Buffalo's 37-yard line, Edwards kept the ball and picked up the first down on a QB sneak. However, Bucs DE Gaines Adams ripped off Edwards' helmet on the play, which drew a 15-yard personal foul penalty and put the Bills offense at the Bucs' 47-yard line. Buffalo eventually settled for a 43-yard field goal. That nine-play, 48-yard drive put the Bills up 20-7.
Two drives later, Adams whiffed on a tackle attempt on Jackson on a third-and-2 run off the left side, which led to a 13-yard gain to the Bucs' 48-yard line. Late in the second quarter, Adams was called for another penalty – offsides. The penalty was declined after Edwards' 20-yard scramble to the Bucs' 14-yard line. Adams finished the game with four tackles and no sacks against a left tackle that originally entered the NFL in 2008 as a seventh-round draft pick, and had just one career start heading into Sunday's contest.
With second-year DT Dre Moore and rookie DE Kyle Moore inactive, Bucs DE Tim Crowder, who was signed earlier in the week, saw action vs. the Bills. He notched two tackles and one QB hurry. However, Crowder had a bad miss on a tackle attempt on Bills WR Roscoe Parrish on an end-around, which produced a 9-yard gain in the third quarter.
LINEBACKERS Tampa Bay did a fairly good job of limiting Jackson's production in the passing game, where he is at his best on swing and screen passes. Jackson finished the game with six receptions for 25 yards (4.2 avg.).
However, Jackson proved to be elusive in space on a third-and-2 play in the second quarter when he caught a swing pass from Edwards in the flat and made Bucs middle linebacker Barrett Ruud miss. The play picked up 10 yards when it should have gone for half that. Buffalo wound up going for it on fourth-and-inches and converted a first down. Late in the third quarter, Edwards threw a deep ball across the middle to Evans, but overthrew him. That errant pass allowed safety Sabby Piscitelli to pick off the ball and lateral it to Ruud from Tampa Bay's own 5-yard line. Ruud returned the ball to the Bucs' 31-yard line. Ruud had a busy outing, notching a team-high 14 tackles vs. the Bills.
Ruud was one of many members of Tampa Bay's defense to be victimized by Thomas in terms of him breaking tackles and simply making defenders miss. Late in the second quarter with Buffalo at Tampa Bay's 48-yard line, Bucs outside linebacker Geno Hayes failed to tackle Jackson, which led to an 11-yard gain to the Bucs' 27-yard line. On the first play of the third quarter, Hayes was called for a 15-yard facemask penalty on a second-and-4 run play that he stuffed Thomas on for a 2-yard loss. That penalty gave the Bills a first down, and it was the Bucs' fourth facemask penalty of the game. Just as he did last week, Bucs defensive coordinator Jim Bates used Hayes as a blitzer in attempt to pressure the quarterback. Hayes had two quarterback hurries, one of which came one second late off the left side on a dump off pass to Jackson that picked up a first down near midfield. Hayes had to leave the game in the fourth quarter with an unknown injury, but he still notched 10 tackles, one tackle for a loss and two QB hurries.
Tampa Bay's third starting linebacker, Quincy Black, had a quiet game, but recorded seven tackles vs. Buffalo.
Bills tight end Derek Schouman had six catches for 62 yards, including a 27-yarder vs. the Bucs.
SECONDARY Everyone knew the Bills would attempt to test Tampa Bay's secondary after watching Dallas QB Tony Romo complete four passes for 40-plus yards, including three that went for touchdowns last week.
Edwards did indeed test Tampa Bay's secondary, but not necessarily across the middle of the field, which is where Dallas had the majority of its success vs. the Bucs. Tampa Bay played more Cover 2 vs. Buffalo than it did vs. Dallas. So instead, Edwards attempted to test Tampa Bay's man-to-man skills vs. Buffalo wide receivers Lee Evans and Terrell Owens. He found success early and too often.
On Buffalo's first offensive drive of the game, Edwards fired a pass down the right sideline to Evans, who was covered by Bucs CB Ronde Barber. Evans caught the 32-yard pass and scored with Barber trailing a bit and safety Jermaine Phillips coming over way late on the play. That play capped off a four-play, 54-yard drive that put the Bills up 7-0.
Barber helped make up for that mistake later in the game. In the third quarter with the Bills facing a second-and-10 play from Tampa Bay's 14-yard line, Barber tackled Jackson on a run towards the right side of the field. In the process of tackling Jackson, Barber also forced a fumble, which allowed S Sabby Piscitelli to recover the ball and return it to Buffalo's 8-yard line. It took Tampa Bay's offense just one play to turn that turnover into seven points. On the final play of the third quarter, Barber blitzed and tackled Jackson for no gain. In the fourth quarter, Barber attempted to blitz again, but this time he was penalized for being offsides. Barber finished the game with nine tackles and one QB hurry.
Piscitelli didn't have a perfect game, evidenced by his whiff on a tackle attempt on Jackson near the line of scrimmage late in the second quarter, which led to a 24-yard gain for the running back. However, he was much better in pass coverage Sunday. In addition to his 76-yard fumble return off Barber's forced fumble, Piscitelli also intercepted Edwards' deep pass attempt down the seam to Evans. Piscitelli picked off the ball at Tampa Bay's own 5-yard line, and alertly lateraled the ball to Ruud, who returned it to the Bucs' 31-yard line. Piscitelli finished the game with nine tackles, one pick and one fumble recovery.
Phillips also had a missed tackle near the line of scrimmage. On the first play of the game, Phillips missed a tackle attempt on Owens' end-around, which picked up 13 yards to Tampa Bay's 41-yard line. He appeared to get injured late in the third quarter, and had five tackles vs. the Bills.
Bucs CB Aqib Talib had a rough outing vs. the Bills. He was called for a 15-yard facemask penalty on Owens' 5-yard reception near midfield in the second quarter. That infraction put the Bills on the Bucs' 27-yard line. Buffalo settled for a 43-yard field goal on that nine-play, 48-yard drive, and 30 of those 48 yards came on facemask penalties. On the next drive, Talib caught a huge break when Owens beat him down right sideline in one-on-one coverage, but dropped a perfectly thrown ball from Edwards. On the first drive of the third quarter, Talib left the game injured and was replaced by CB Torrie Cox. Talib later returned to the game, and Buffalo didn't wait long to test him again. In the fourth quarter, Edwards went back to Owens down the right sideline, this time hitting him for a 43-yard TD strike vs. Talib, which put the Bills up 30-14. Talib finished the game with six tackles.
Cox had two tackles vs. the Bills, but he slipped in coverage on one particular play in the fourth quarter, which allowed WR Josh Reed to haul in a pass for a first down. The Bills eventually settled for a field goal on that drive.
Barber and Talib weren't the only ones Edwards attempted to test deep Sunday. Early in the second quarter with the Bills facing a second-and-8 play deep in Tampa Bay territory, Edwards threw a deep pass down the right sideline and into the end zone for Evans, but Bucs CB Elbert Mack defended the pass to force an incompletion. Buffalo settled for a 43-yard field goal to go up 20-7. With less than one minute remaining in the first half, Mack took a hard hit from Edwards on the quarterback's 20-yard scramble. That was his only tackle of the game.
Owens and Evans combined for four catches for 84 yards and two touchdowns vs. the Bucs. Buffalo converted 4-of-12 (33 percent) of its third down attempts.
SPECIAL TEAMS This unit was improved from its outing vs. Dallas last week, but it didn't make any game-changing plays that worked in Tampa Bay's favor.
Bucs kicker Mike Nugent did not attempt a field goal, but was perfect on his two extra point attempts vs. the Bills. Buffalo averaged just 17.8 yards per kickoff return on Sunday.
Tampa Bay punter Dirk Johnson averaged 43.8 yards per attempt on six tries, including a career-high 63-yarder in the third quarter. He pinned three of those six attempts inside the 20-yard line, including one on Buffalo's 6-yard line in the third quarter. The Bucs held dangerous Bills PR Roscoe Parrish to just five yards per attempt on three tries.
Bucs return specialist Clifton Smith averaged just five yards per punt return, but fared better as a kickoff returner, averaging 27.8 yards per attempt on four tries.
Like Tampa Bay's offense and defense, this unit had its own bout with penalties. Bucs wide receiver Maurice Stovall was called for illegal touching on a punt late in the third quarter. Defensive tackle Chris Hovan was flagged for being offsides on Buffalo's 22-yard field goal attempt late in the fourth quarter. The Bills successfully made a 17-yard field goal after that infraction, which put Buffalo up 33-20 over Tampa Bay.
COACHING With the Bucs trailing the Bills 20-14 late in the third quarter of Sunday's game and facing a fourth-and-1 situation from Buffalo's 44-yard line, head coach Raheem Morris elected to go for it as opposed to punting the football. Bucs offensive coordinator Greg Olson dialed up a running play, which was stuffed for no gain, which allowed the Bills to take over on downs. Remember – the Bucs had trailed the Bills 17-0 in the first quarter. That non-conversion on fourth-and-1 proved to be a turning point in Buffalo's 33-20 win over the Bucs.
All three phases (offense, defense and special teams) contributed to Tampa Bay's 13 penalties vs. Buffalo, including four 15-yarders for personal foul facemask infractions.
The Bucs produced 353 yards of offense vs. the Bills, but Olson's unit fell flat in the third quarter when the team had several opportunities to take their first lead of the game. Olson got tight ends Kellen Winslow and Jerramy Stevens involved in the passing attack. They combined for 10 receptions and two touchdowns. However, one could argue that Olson didn't call on the tight ends enough to attack the seams vs. Buffalo's defense on Sunday. The Bucs also rushed for just 57 yards vs. the Bills. Clearly, Tampa Bay's offense missed starting center Jeff Faine and wide receiver Antonio Bryant today.
Buffalo's offense managed to produced 438 yards of offense vs. Tampa Bay's defense on Sunday. Bucs defensive coordinator Jim Bates' unit allowed the Cowboys to work the middle of the field on a few deep plays last Sunday. In this game, Bills QB Trent Edwards worked the sidelines, completing passes of 32 and 43 yards to receivers Lee Evans and Terrell Owens, respectively. Both plays went for touchdowns and came against Bucs cornerbacks Ronde Barber and Aqib Talib. That wasn't Tampa Bay's only issue defensively. The Bucs also have some work to do in terms of defending the run. Tampa Bay allowed Buffalo backup RB Fred Jackson, who was playing in place of suspended RB Marshawn Lynch, to rush for a career-high 163 yards (5.8 avg.).