It’s not too often that you get one-for-one rematches in the NFL in back-to-back years outside of the divisional games. But, that was the case with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Arizona Cardinals.

Last year the Bucs were “embarrassed,” in the words of their own players, by the 40-7 defeat they suffered out in Glendale. But, instead of righting last year’s wrongs, the Bucs fell once again, despite some late-game heroics, to the Cardinals out in the desert 38-33.

The big storyline coming into the game was the Cardinals acquiring running back Adrian Peterson from the New Orleans Saints. This was big because the Cardinals, without David Johnson, were dead last in the NFL in rushing yards per game with 52. On the Cardinals first drive of the game, Peterson eclipsed that average with 54 rushing yards on four carries for the game’s first score.

After a one-catch drive from the Buccaneers, the Cardinals once again got the ball back and made offense look as easy as it did the year before – maybe even easier. In a drive that included a 29-yard catch from Larry Fitzgerald, a 15-yard catch from John Brown and a 17-yard run from Peterson, the Cardinals capped off their attack with a 14-yard pass in the end zone to Troy Niklas.

Down 14-0 early, the Buccaneers offense was desperate for something. After two consecutive first down passes on first-and-10 to the tight ends O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate, the offense stalled again at midfield which resulting in another punt.

On their third drive of the game, the Cardinals completed three more big passes of 30, 26 and 11 yards, the final one ending in six points on the hands of Larry Fitzgerald, who extended his consecutive catch per game streak to 201.

During one of the early drives, Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston went down hard on his throwing shoulder. He returned to the game, but the rhythm was already well off between him and his receivers. After the Cardinals forced a three-and-out and went down the field to extend their lead to 24-0, Winston was subbed out for Ryan Fitzpatrick. This was a result of the score being what it was and not wanting to risk further injury for Winston.

Fitzpatrick came in the game an orchestrated a 15-play, 70-yard drive that got all the way to the Cardinals five yards line, but rather than kick a field goal down 24, the Bucs tried to get a touchdown on fourth down and came up short. So the game went into the half 24-0 for the Cardinals.

Unfortunately for the Buccaneers, instead of trying to start the game on the even part of the momentum pendulum, Fitzpatrick’s first pass of the second half was intercepted. The Cardinals responded with a 4-play, 33-yard short drive which ended in touchdown from Palmer to Brown.

Following that drive, the Buccaneers were able to respond with an eight-play, 75-yard drive that took them into the end zone with a four-yard touchdown catch from Fitzpatrick to DeSean Jackson. The Bucs tried to go for two, but failed, leaving the score 31-6. But, following that, we saw Palmer’s first incompletion of the game go for an interception by Brent Grimes on the very next drive.

After a series of punts from the Bucs and the Cardinals, the Bucs got the ball back and capped off a six-play, 63-yard drive with the first ever Harvard-to-Harvard touchdown pass and catch with Fitzpatrick and Brate. The Bucs again tried to go for two point and missed again. The score was 31-12.

That was when the Bucs started to get life.

The following drive, the Buccaneers got some luck in the form of a turnover. As Fitzgerald went to catch a pass, he was hit by linebacker Lavonte David and the ball was knocked loose. David then picked the ball up and ran it into the end zone. After the turnover and score were upheld, the Bucs went for two for a third time and were successful, resulting in a score of 31-20, then 20 unanswered points by the Buccaneers.

The game turned into a roller coaster ride after that. The Cardinals went on an eight-play, 33-yard drive that included big plays, penalties and miscommunication which ended in a punt. That was the good news for the Buccaneers. The bad new was that the Cardinal then downed the ball at the Bucs one-yard line.

On the very next play, the slim of hope that the Buccaneers had got even slimmer, as a screen pass to Mike Evans was intercepted at the one-yard line, and Peterson ran the ball into the end zone to follow.

With the score now 38-20, it was do or die. In response, Fitzpatrick led the Bucs on a 11-play, 70-yard drive that ended with Doug Martin getting in the end zone. The drive looked simple with a few catches to Adam Humphries and a few to Charles Sims. In a Bucs offense that often looks complicated, simplifying things made the ball move on the Cardinals softer defense (since they had the lead). Following the touchdown, a fail two-point attempt made the score 26-38.

After a failed drive for the Cardinals to run out the clock, the Bucs got the ball back, and in as dramatic fashion as you can script, Ryan Fitzpatrick led the Bucs on a huge 3-play, 65-yard drive which ended in a big 37-yard touchdown bomb to Evans. After the Bucs first extra point of the game, the score was 33-38.

But, unfortunately, that’s how it would end.

Quarterback Jameis Winston finished the game 5-for-10 for 61 yards before leaving with a shoulder injury. In relief, Ryan Fitzpatrick went 22-for-32 with 290 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Doug Martin led the Bucs in carries with 14 and had 53 yards and one touchdown as a result, though his usage was handcuffed because of the deficit the team was in early on.

Mike Evans led the Bucs in yards with 93 on three catches with a touchdown. Cameron Brate was next with five and 70. He also extended his touchdown streak to four consecutive games. DeSean Jackson had 38 yards and a touchdown on three catches, and Adam Humphries had 51 yards on six catches.

On the other side, Carson Palmer finished his game 18-for-22 with 283 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Adrian Peterson finished his debut with 134 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. In the receiving game, Larry Fitzgerald had 10 catches for 138 yards and a touchdown.

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About the Author: Trevor Sikkema

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: trevor@pewterreport.com
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MWD
MWD
3 years ago

This team makes me want to go chew on glass….Better yet, grab a haus of a Cope Mint Dip. So tired of us being the spotlight of a no name QB or come back RB to light up for the weekend. 0 points in the first half? 14 straight completions by Carson Palmer….Might as well go to a Leto football game this Friday. This is going to be a long let down season for us….Just terrible football.

BucsFanInIowa
3 years ago

I’ve always been a big Koetter fan, but I think it’s time for a change in Tampa. Mike Smith needs to be gone for sure, giving these receivers 15 yards off the line of scrimmage is inexcusable. There’s no pass rush and the secondary looked awful today, very similar to our season performance. If Koetter isn’t fired, someone else needs to take over play-calling duties. Dirk is not a talented enough coach to be the head coach and also call plays. Let him focus on keeping this team disciplined (the amount of penalties is pathetic.) After two division teams lose… Read more »

MWD
MWD
Reply to  BucsFanInIowa
3 years ago

Bucsfan……Yes, the penalties are awful……it’s almost expected for a Donovan false start in any key moment of a game.

Horse
Reply to  BucsFanInIowa
3 years ago

BucsFanIn Iowa, Excuse me, but the Defense is the major problem; I do agree with you Koetter does need to take what they give you mentality starting with our first offensive play of the game.

BucsFanInIowa
Reply to  Horse
3 years ago

Horse, I agree the defense is 90% of our problems. But I can’t be the only one who is questioning several play calls, week after week. I get that every team makes questionable decisions but Koetter’s mistakes seem to be repetitive.

Horse
Reply to  BucsFanInIowa
3 years ago

BucFanIn Iowa; Yes, I see it that way too after looking back at the game again.

Jlog
Jlog
Reply to  BucsFanInIowa
3 years ago

Koetter’s play calling and game management has always been suspect for us. Mike Smith had his time but it faded in Atalanta. He’s never met expectations here. We don’t want to be constantly changing coaches but I certainly don’t have any faith in these guys. The best coaching call of this game was keeping Winston out. A poor decision got him hurt to begin with he didn’t deserve to come back to this game even if he was good enough to go. Once a huge Winston fan, didn’t even expect him to improve his accuracy, that just doesn’t very often.… Read more »

cgmaster27
Reply to  Jlog
3 years ago

Jlog, you talk about decision making and then give props to a veteran who threw 2 picks, one on our goal line? At least be consistent in your complaints about QB play. A poor decision got him hurt? He was trying to get the ball to his checkdown to get a first. What would you have him do, throw it out of bounds so you guys and complain about that?

Jlog
Jlog
Reply to  cgmaster27
3 years ago

BS he was throwing the ball away rather than taking a sack. As for complementing Fitz he did step up, considering how poorly he’s played for us in the past. He completed 69% of his passes, threw 3 TD vs Winston’s 50% and 0 TD’s. Fitz’s 103 rating was higher that Winston’s 91 season average and much better than his 69 for that game. So yeah he deserves some praise.

My Jameis hate is based on his results it’s very objective, I’m a fan not a blind fanboy.

RootsCrew
RootsCrew
Reply to  Jlog
3 years ago

Your comment is trash. Go spew your Jameis hate on Joe Bucs Fan or BucsNation. They’ll welcome you with open arms over there.

Dman
3 years ago

I put this one on Koetter. Chased points the whole day, played desperate. Take the 3 points end of half. Kick PAT’s and you’re in the game. Miserable.

Horse
3 years ago

What we just witnessed was “The Replacements” playing in the first half for the Bucs and thus we were done. We were pittiful when it counted for the Defense. Not enough pressure from the DL and no coverage help from the LB’s and Safety’s in the first half. David was very timid the first half and gained more confidence on his ankle the second half. Forget the 2nd half heroics as it was just junk passing yardage and the Cardinals Offense was playing safe. When it actually counted which was the first half, I thought Martin and the OL played… Read more »

Dman
Reply to  Horse
3 years ago

Yep – just like the pass on the first play to Howard a few weeks ago. Is the slow start Jameis or Koetter?

Horse
Reply to  Dman
3 years ago

Dman; I say it’s Koetter because a deep pass like that had to be called by the Coach. I’m still not ready to throw Winston under the bus yet. I do know we need him playing and I hope he’s back in a couple games.

Dman
Reply to  Horse
3 years ago

I agree, Horse.

Randy H.
3 years ago

I’m guilty of leaving Buffalo Wild Wings (live in TX and no DirecTV) at halftime as I had given up on them. Lo and behold, they almost pull it out again for the second straight game. Hard to tell exactly what was going on with no audio, but I’ll believe what you guys are writing here. I guess if there is a good year to be 2-3 after five games, it is this year. Packers will now be down, breaking news in case you didn’t see it scrolling on the bottom of the screen for the four hours after it… Read more »

surferdudes
3 years ago

I feel more like we lost this game 31 to nothing, then the final score of 38, to 33. Our D line needs revamping.

cgmaster27
3 years ago

That first half defense was just abysmal. I’ve never seen guys running more open in my life. Hargreaves is just bad end of story. Can’t cover and can’t tackle, draft a db and put him in the slot. This defensive game plan to start the game was just terrible. The cardinals have a horrible offensive line and Palmer had all day back there. This cards haven’t scored 24 points in a game all year! They’re up 21 -0 in no time. and I wouldn’t say it was a heroic comeback as Arizona took the foot off of the gas after… Read more »

Lawdy
Reply to  cgmaster27
3 years ago

Hargreaves can join Folk, hes done

pinkstob
3 years ago

This team f$&ing sucks. If Peterson didn’t get hurt the game wouldn’t have even been that close. It’s everything…the play calling, the offense, the defense, the coaching, special teams, the GM, the players, the depth, the veterans…none of it is good enough to beat the teams we should be beating.

cgmaster27
Reply to  pinkstob
3 years ago

I wondered why Peterson was on the sideline as I couldn’t hear in the bar. Yes we do suck from top to bottom.

seat26
3 years ago

At the risk of being redundant, I sure wish we had drafted a DE and a Cornerback. And As admirable of a job that Fitzpatrick did, I am really nervous about the prospect of him ever being called upon to be the back up even if it is for only one game. Hmmm, are there any other starting caliber QB’s out there….Any? Just sayin.

SenileSenior
3 years ago

I am seeing some of the kinds of comments I was expecting to see here. It is obvious that we were not ready for the last two games. Koetter has been out foxed by two great coaching minds in the last two weeks. Last week in the defensive game that was thrown at us and this week in the offensive plan. We have the talent now and we have a good coaching staff. The Bucs are “not ready for prime time” yet. The expectations that some had before the season were premature. I could stream a whole series of cliches… Read more »

Mike.Seven
3 years ago

Would all the Jamies Winston fans explain to me why Fitzpatrick in 2 quarters produced more office than the Bucs have seen in years!
Explain to me why he brought the punt team out every time today and Fitzpatrick score 33 points in 2 quarters something this team has never done since I watched them, Please do not call me names just explain why Winston has never had a showing like this one today put on by a 34-year-old backup.

Horse
Reply to  Mike.Seven
3 years ago

Mike.Seven; Wasn’t it 31-0 before we scored and by the way one touchdown was from the Defense. I stand by my statement last night on another Article; Fitzpatrick would have been eatin alive if he had started the game. The Cardinals were ready to play from the get go and we were still in the locker room listening to our music and our rah rah’s. Something has happened in the locker room and it’s staying in the locker room. Time for GM to sit down with Koetter and see what his plans are as to going forward with their offensive… Read more »

Buc on the Move
3 years ago

Fitzpatrick did have that great strip-scoop-score, didn’t he. Almost as good as the pick-6 pretty much that he gave up. This team plays in the second half, fitz or not. He also missed ME going into the half for the fourth down TD. He did great, but so does Winston in the second half. The d was getting stops and momentum changing TOs second half. This game is partially on Winston, but only partially, team game.
Season is far from over.
Gotta learn from it, and burn that first half and move on.
Go Bucs!