By: Michelle Sabin
Sports Talk Florida
It was a tale of two halves. The Buccaneers played some of their best football in the first two quarters, only to lose a 21-point lead and face the Bills in overtime.
Head Coach Bruce Arians said, “Obviously really happy with a good team victory. I didn’t like the second half – offense especially. . . . But it showed a lot of our toughness and we had the stop in overtime.”
After center Ryan Jensen fumbled the ball with a botched first snap, the drive went downhill and the Buccaneers went three and out. However, on their second possession, Tampa Bay’s offense moved downfield with short receptions by Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, and a 3-yard rush for Leonard Fournette.
A defensive holding penalty on Buffalo gave Tampa Bay another first down and positioning on the Buffalo 47-yard line. Fournette broke through the Bills line with defenders on his tail as he ran in a 47-yard touchdown.
By their third possession, Brady decided to keep the ball and run it a few times himself, including a 12-yard rush up the middle before sliding to the ground. The drive ended with a 23-yard field goal by kicker Ryan Succop. The Bills responded with a 21-yard field goal and the score became 10-3.
Throughout the first half, Tampa Bay’s defense was swarming with pressure holding the Bills to just 3 points. Linebackers Devin White and Shaquil Barrett both recorded sacks on Bills quarterback Josh Allen, while veteran cornerback Richard Sherman contributed with an interception towards the end of the half. Sherman was activated to play in Sunday’s game after two months on the injured list.
Playing complementary football, as soon as the defense pushed the Bills off the field, Tampa Bay’s offense went to work adding points on the board. Mike Evans made a leaping catch for a 13-yard touchdown pass in the back corner of the end zone.
Later in the second quarter, Evans also went up for a historic 20-yard pass on 3rd and 3. Not only did the play give Tampa Bay a critical 1st down, but it was Brady’s 7,143 completion making him the NFL’s all-time completions leader. Drew Brees previously held the record with 7,142. Brady capped off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run and expanded the lead 24-3.
The tides quickly changed, however, in the second half. After several drives fraught with issues, including incomplete passes, short gains, and a sack, Tampa Bay struggled to put anything together offensively. Succop’s 24-yard field goal in the fourth quarter was the best they could do.
Meanwhile, Buffalo gained both speed and momentum. In the third quarter, their 81-yard touchdown drive included running back Devin Singletary’s 29-yard rush, as well as Allen’s own 18-yard touchdown run.
Although Tampa Bay still held the lead in the fourth quarter, Buffalo completed back to back touchdown drives and brought the score to 27-24. With 3:05 on the clock, the Bills got the ball back for one final drive of regulation.
On a crucial 4th and 4, Allen completed a short pass to Davis who was pushed out of bounds by Sean Murphy-Bunting. The play was enough for a first down and to keep the drive alive. Eventually held to 4th and 2 on the Tampa Bay 7-yard line, Buffalo took the 25-yard field goal to tie the game.
In overtime, the Bills went 3 and out under pressure from the Buccaneers defense. On Tampa Bay’s possession, Brady lined up in shotgun formation on 2nd and 17. He completed a short pass to receiver Breshad Perriman, who took off down the sideline. After a quick stiff arm to the defender, Perriman ran the ball 58 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
Perriman, who recently returned to the Buccaneers, explained, “It was basically a mesh route. It was crazy how it worked. I was supposed to be picking for Mike [Evans], but I went underneath and Mike went over the top and basically picked for me. Tom threw an amazing ball and the rest was history.”
Fournette added, “To be honest, I didn’t know what happened because they brought a crazy ass blitz, so I was on the ground blocking someone. I looked up and [Perriman] was gone – that’s all I know.”
The game-winning play also happened to be Brady’s 700th career touchdown. “It’s just amazing to have so many people share all those great accomplishments – obviously to me I feel like they are team awards anyway,” Brady said, “Anyone who ever caught a touchdown pass they are a part of something pretty cool in NFL history and anyone who I had a completion to for that matter.”
Arians added, “I can’t keep up with him. I don’t think there will be any records left when [Brady’s] done.”
Next up on the Buccaneers schedule is a divisional game against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, December 19.
The videos used in this story were provided by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Youtube Channel.