Bucs WR Vincent Jackson - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Another wasted Sunday suddenly turned into a thrilling comeback in Pittsburgh.
Tampa Bay and quarterback Mike Glennon stunned the Steelers at Heinz Field, picking up the Buccaneers’ first win of the season after completely squandering an early 10-0 advantage.
Glennon, getting his first start of the season in place of injured Josh McCown, hit a diving Vincent Jackson in the left side of the end zone from five yards out for the game-winner.
“Those guys had been really physical down there all game,” said Jackson, who finished with three catches for 32 yards. “I just ran a flat and knew Mike would give me a chance to get the ball on the outside, and I was able to come down with the ball.”
The second-year quarterback needed just five snaps to lead the offense 46 yards. It was a drive that included a huge hookup with recently resigned receiver Louis Murphy deep over the middle for 41 yards that took Tampa Bay down to the Pittsburgh 5.
“I have to give him credit,” Glennon said of Murphy. “He wasn’t even with us five days ago and he’s out on the field making plays and setting us up to win the game. I’m proud of him. He was like that all throughout camp. For him to go out there and do that was great.”
Equally important to the winning sequence was the Buccaneers’ defensive stand leading up to Tampa Bay starting with excellent field position at the Pittsburgh 46. The Steelers were trying to run as much time off the clock as well as eat up all of Tampa Bay’s remaining time outs, but the Bucs succeeded at making sure the drive ended after three plays.
Sunday’s upset victory improved Tampa Bay to 1-3 on the year and provided head coach Lovie Smith with his first leading the Buccaneers.
“It’s been a long time coming, guys have worked so hard,” Smith said afterward. “When you get embarrassed like we did last week, you want to see how guys deal with adversity. There’s no pinpointing. They just went to work and got better and put themselves in position.”
While Bucs fans can finally breathe a sigh of relief no longer having to worry about being one of the NFL’s remaining winless franchises, it took enduring all 60 minutes of an uneven performance to get there.
Tampa Bay took advantage of an early Pittsburgh fumble and good field position to race out to a 10-0 lead within the game’s first five minutes, then spent the rest of the first half watching the Steelers erase their deficit and take a 17-10 lead before the break.
Judging by the offense’s first-half production, the Bucs were fortunate to be going into the locker room with any points at all. Pittsburgh outgained Tampa Bay 253-64 in total yardage and held possession for over 20 of the first 30 minutes. The Bucs nearly had been docked more penalty yardage, 40 on seven flags, than their offense produced and it appeared to be a rough first game with Glennon at the helm and quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo officially designated as offensive coordinator.
The team’s first two scores didn’t include sustained drives. Tampa Bay first took over at the Pittsburgh 9 when defensive end Michael Johnson got a strip sack of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Glennon hit receiver Mike Evans on a 7-yard back-corner fade. The lead increased to 10-0 when kicker Patrick Murray managed to bury a 50-yarder inside the left upright despite the ball being tipped. The Bucs moved only 23 yards in five plays to set up that long attempt and 15 of those yards came courtesy of a Pittsburgh personal foul.
The 10-0 lead seemed like little more than an aberration when factoring in Tampa Bay’s defense surrendering 17 unanswered points on three consecutive Pittsburgh drives. But as the Bucs defense began tightening itself up, so did Glennon and the offense.
“This is a great feeling,” said Glennon, who is now 5-9 as a Bucs starter. “For an offense, our defense did a great job of getting us good field position at first. We struggled for a little, but we came back and never gave up. Our offense, defense, everyone just made big plays. It’s a great feeling to get our first win.”
Relying mostly on the pass to key the comeback, Glennon finished his night 21 of 42 for 302 yards, two touchdowns and one interception that wasn’t on him. The latter stat was worsened by an injury to Evans, the pass’s intended receiver. The promising rookie had hauled in four passes for 65 yards but pulled up lame with a groin injury when trying to get under a deep ball down the right sideline. Pittsburgh cornerback Cortez Allen just needed to make the catch for an easy interception.
Evans’ injury was one of two the Bucs suffered Sunday, adding to the already large list of dinged up starters. Free safety Dashon Goldson left in the first half and did not return.
Backups at wide receiver and in the secondary stepped up as the game progressed. Murphy led the team in receptions (6), targets (11) and yards (99), and even Russell Shepard got in on the action. Shepard caught the first two passes of his two-year career for 30 yards, including a 22-yarder on third-and-5 in the fourth quarter. Safety Major Wright took advantage of his first start as a Buccaneer by trailing only linebacker Lavonte David for the team lead in tackles, with nine. David paced all defenders with 12 takedowns, which included three behind the line.
Tampa Bay ended up allowing Pittsburgh to amass 390 total yards with 331 coming through the air, but its embattled defensive front turned in its best overall performance of the season. The Buccaneers got to Roethlisberger five times for minus-26 yards and made eight total tackles for loss. Johnson did what Bucs fans have been waiting for by getting in the backfield for two of the sacks, and DL Da’Quan Bowers, DT Gerald McCoy and DE Scott Solomon notched the other three.
“We wanted to get the game into the fourth quarter,” Johnson said of the defense’s mentality Sunday. “We felt like we could have an opportunity to win. We just wanted to fight to the end and give ourselves the opportunity.”
When the Bucs finally got to the fourth quarter they found themselves still trailing 24-17, but in a winnable position. Prospects for a win started to fade when Tampa Bay settled for a 27-yard Murray field goal early in the fourth after two Glennon shots from 10 yards out misfired into the end zone.
Aided by a few open misses for big gains, the Tampa Bay defense continued to keep Roethlisberger and the Steelers out of scoring range to give Glennon and the offense a shot. Despite coming up empty-handed in the red zone once again – this time within the two-minute warning – the Bucs finally hit the end zone on the last of its final three possessions to effectively seal the win.
Sunday’s announced paid attendance at Heinz Field was 62,910. Skies in Pittsburgh were partly cloudy and the temperature at kickoff was 74 degrees.
Buccaneers reported defensive starters: LE William Gholston, DT Gerald McCoy, DT Clinton McDonald, RE Michael Johnson, SLB Danny Lansanah, MLB Dane Fletcher, WLB Lavonte David, CB Alterraun Verner, CB Major Wright, FS Dashon Goldson and SS Mark Barron.
Buccaneers reported offensive starters: WR Vincent Jackson, LT Anthony Collins, LG Logan Mankins, C Evan Dietrich-Smith, RG Patrick Omameh, RT Demar Dotson, TE Brandon Myers, WR Mike Evans, QB Mike Glennon, RB Doug Martin and TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
The only active Buccaneer that didn’t enter Sunday’s game was backup quarterback Mike Kafka.
Tampa Bay’s inactives were WR Robert Herron, T Kemin Pamphile, G Kadeem Edwards, QB Josh McCown, RB Mike James, DE Larry English and LB Mason Foster.
YEEAAAHHH! Where you at Tampa! What a great win. The O-line did a fantastic job in pass protection and a pretty good job in run blocking. Collins has to corral those penalties though. That helped Glennon to play well. The D-line looked the best they have all season. Oh, and how about L. Murphy? He’s my hero! He may just change my mind about Gator skill position players. I hope Evans is okay because we have a lot to look forward to with him.
Awesome win. The future is now with Glennon. Go Bucs!!
AGREE! Please Lovie, let’s ride the ship with Glennon. No looking back. Great win and confidence booster. I am really glad I was wrong about them losing and hope this starts a long winning streak…GO BUCS!!!
Everybody join me in song! Oh, happy day…..!
If Glennon had started the season we would be 3-1, but that’s the past now. Let’s remember this was one game, but you can see a team being built and that’s exciting. Have patience as Coach Smith builds this team to be more than just an average team. It will take some time. I hope we get a real back up QB in case Mike is injured. No team respects McCown’s arm. I am very happy the players got to feel how it feels to get a win; time to move on and get the next one. Go Bucs!
Chiming in to tell the author he did a nice job on this article. Good structuring, excellent integration of quotes and top clarity.
Can you believe the Bucs are only one game out if first in the division? Yes, one game…seriously!
Give Coach Smith time as he builds a solid foundation; it doesn’t happen as fast as some are hoping. Progress was made today. Evans will be be missed. I;m glad to see Johnson and mcCoy back as we had a push from the DLine in the Steelers game. Need a back up QB. Jackson, Murphy have to make those catches. Glennon has some inaccuracies, but he still is a threat and other teams know it. He reminds me of Williams, but with no run threat. Give it time as it comes together. Go Bucs!
Great day in Tampa. It has been awhile and everything next week will have a little better feel. Congratulation to Lovie, the coaches, the players and the fans. Have a great week.
So nice not to hear from my Steeler fan nephews, nieces and cousins. I wont call them either. I’ll be more subtle and let it slip into the next conversation. I thought the Bucs would keep it close and play with a lot more spirit and fight than the Falcons game. But I also know it’s tough to win in that venue and wasn’t sure our offense was up to the task. After the dismal first half in which the offense did very little and struggled even getting off the play; I thought we’d have to rely on the defense and special teams to have any hope of victory. Unlike the Falcons game, the pewter pirates never conceded. Afterwards, my wife and I enjoyed Shorty’s (Washington, Pa.)hot dogs (I keep the chile sauce in the freezer) to celebrate.
And for macabee; Oh happy day……in Tampa Bay! But not so happy, in Pittsburgh P. A.
Oh happy day!!! Go Bucs.
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