TAMPA BAY-- Leading Tampa Bay to 13 second half points & a game-winning final drive, quarterback Ryan Griffin & the Buccaneers beat the Cleveland Browns 13-12 on Friday night.
Tampa Bay won the opening coin toss & elected to receive. Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones brought the opening kick out of the end zone & returned it 24 yards to their own 21 yard line. After a short run & an incomplete pass, quarterback Jameis Winston converted a third & seven play with seven yard completion to wide receiver Breshad Perriman. But that first down served as the only one on the Buccaneers' first drive as the offense lost yards on three consecutive plays. First a run by Peyton Barber lost 2 yards, then Winston was sacked on back to back plays, first by Browns defensive end Olivier Vernon then by defensive end Chris Smith.
After a punt by Buccaneers Bradley Pinion, Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, who completed 10 of his 26 passes in the game, threw three straight passes, the first one incomplete then he completed two straight passes for five yards apiece. The second completion came after he was able to avoid a sack by defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh & he hit wide receiver Derrick Willies with a pass to the right to get the Browns a new set of downs.
Cleveland began the next set of downs with a hand-off to running back Kareem Hunt for no gain. And after failing on a third down & two play, the Browns decided to try a long field goal. From 54 yards away, kicker Austin Seibert put his kick well into the middle of the net to give the Browns a 3-0 lead.
With his team trailing by three points, Winston completed a first down pass for 20 yards to wide receiver Chris Godwin. And after another 15 yard reception by Godwin, the Buccaneers were in Browns' territory for the first time in the game. Two more completions by Winston & three runs by Jones got the Buccaneers inside the redzone. However Winston was sacked on a third & six play, forcing a field goal attempt. But unlike Seibert who drilled his long distance attempt, Buccaneers kicker Matt Gay hit the right upright on his 37 yard field goal attempt.
Both teams went three & out on each of their next possessions. But with the Browns winning field position, after another Pinion punt, Mayfield started a drive inside Buccaneers' territory. And after an 11 yard completion to Willies plus a seven yard run by Hunt, the Browns were in position to score again.
A third down pass attempt by Mayfield was batted down by Buccaneers' cornerback Carlton Davis III, that brought Seibert out again & he drilled another field goal, this one from 36 yards away.
Another three & out, this one ending with another sack on Winston by Vernon gave the Browns the ball back & another drive starting in Buccaneers' territory. After two straight incomplete passes by Mayfield, it looked like the Buccaneers defense was able to get a stop on third down. But a scramble by Mayfield, that looked like it ended with a short three yard completion, proved to be costly when Suh was called for an unnecessary roughness penalty when he pushed Mayfield to the ground right in front of the Tampa Bay sideline.
Following the first down, Mayfield threw two straight incompletions. But another Buccaneers penalty helped set up a short fourth & two yard play from inside the redzone, where Mayfield hit wide receiver Rashard Higgins for six yards.
Another pass from Mayfield, this time to tight end Pharaoh Brown got the Browns inside the five yard line. But a sack by defensve lineman Rakeem Nunez-Roches pushed the Browns outside the 10 yard line again. And after a third down pass fell incomplete, Seibert came out to hit his third field goal of the game, a 30 yard kick making the score 9-0.
Because they won the battle for field position throughout the first half, the Browns last scoring drive was 13 plays but only covered 37 yards. And with only one first down between the two teams in the last two minutes of the half, after the first 30 minutes, the score was 9-0.
Cleveland ended the first half with five first downs, one less than Tampa Bay & also converted just once on third down on 9 attempts. Meanwhile the Buccaneers were two of 9 on third down & netted 78 total yards. But they allowed five sacks on Winston, who finished the game 9 for 19 totaling 88 yards in the first two quarters.
The Browns received the second half kickoff. But with second string quarterback Drew Stanton now in the game & after a bad shotgun snap put them in a third & 26 yards, the Browns punted.
Following the Browns punt, the Buccaneers got their first possession of the second half & put together a 13 play drive. Backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert started the second half & completed three straight passes to get the offense into Browns territory. And an 11 yard run by running back Andre Ellington gave the Buccaneers another first down. But on their next third down attempt, Gabbert was injured on an eight yard scramble. And although Gabbert was successful in getting the first down, he was removed from the game, reportedly injuring his right shoulder.
Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Griffin completed his first pass & after a Browns penalty for illegal use of hands, the Buccaneers were inside the 10 yard line, with a first & goal situation. But on a third & five, Griffin threw an incomplete pass, forcing the Buccaneers to settle for a 23 yard field goal attempt by kicker Cairo Santos, who successfully made the kick, putting the Buccaneers on the scoreboard.
With their lead down to six, Cleveland was unable to get a first down on their next possession. And after a 13 play 63 yard drive led to their first points of the game, the Buccaneers, with Griffin leading the way, were able to get the first touchdown of the game.
Helped by two Browns penalty, one for pass interference, another for offsides, the Buccaneers moved the football into Browns' territory. And faced with a long down attempt, Griffin hooked up with tight end Tanner Hudson, who seems to be his favorite target this preseason, for a sixteen yard play.
After that third down conversion, back to back runs by running back Dare Ogunbowale moved the ball to the 20 yard line. And on a third down, Griffin found tight end Jordan Leggett, who grabbed the pass at around the 10 yard line & ran into the endzone untouched for the touchdown.
Both teams were forced to punt on their next possession but now trailing 10-9, the Browns were able to take the lead back after Seibert made his third fourth field goal of the game.
Facing another fourth quarter deficit but with a lot more time than their win last week over Miami, Tampa Bay got the ball back with over seven minutes left in the game & trailing by two points.
On his first third down conversion of the drive, Griffin threw a 15 yard completion over the middle to wide receiver Justin Watson. And on his second third down conversion of the drive, after a 10 yard completion to wide receiver Scotty Miller, Griffin hit Watson again for six yards. Griffin, who completed 11 of his 17 passes for 121 yards, threw for 57 yards on the final drive that was 16 plays 72 yards & ended with a short 21 yard field goal by Gay, who for the second straight game, hit a game-winning field goal.
Tampa Bay (2-1) plays their fourth & final preseason game on Thursday night 8pm at Dallas.