TAMPA BAY-- In a game that featured six lead changes, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-6) ended their four game losing streak with a 30-27 win over the Arizona Cardinals. Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston threw for 358 yards one touchdown and two interceptions but it was an interception thrown by Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, who had over 300 passing yards for the fourth time this season, that may have changed the outcome of the game.
Arizona (3-6-1) won the toss & chose to receive the second half kickoff, giving Tampa Bay the ball first to start the game. But their possession lasted just three plays after Winston threw his 13th interception of the season. Winston's pass on a third and seven play intended for wide receiver Chris Godwin was picked off by cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. That turnover led to Arizona moving the ball into the redzone but an incomplete pass by Murray on third down led to a 37 field goal by kicker Zane Gonzalez putting the first points on the scoreboard.
Following the interception on their first possession, the Buccaneers kept the ball for just under eight minutes. Their 11 play drive nearly ended when Winston fumbled while being sacked by defensive end Chandler Jones. But Winston was able to recover his own fumble. And with the help of running back Ronald Jones II, he led the Buccaneers to their first touchdown drive of the game. Jones accounted for 50 of the 75 yards on the drive including finishing off the scoring possession with a seven yard touchdown run.
With Murray throwing for 39 yards on the next possession, the Cardinals were able to get back into Buccaneers territory. But after back to back false start penalties on a third down play, the Cardinals were again forced to send out Gonzalez, who this time hit from 54 yards away, making the score 7-6.
The Buccaneers made it back to back scoring drives, moving the ball into the redzone. But after one third down conversion on a seven yard run by Winston, the Buccaneers were unable to get any closer than the 12 yard line & ended up with a 30 yard field goal from kicker Matt Gay to increase their lead to four.
Both teams had the ball twice before the Cardinals put a drive together that resulted in their first touchdown of the game. The drive started on their own four but quickly moved to the 36 after a 32 yard run by Murray up the left sideline. Two completions later the Cardinals were in Buccaneers territory. And after an impressive one-handed sideline grab by wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald for 11 yards, Murray found wide receiver Christian Kirk behind cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting, who was starting in place of cornerback Carlton Davis III. Kirk was able to snatch Murray's pass around the five yard line & run into the endzone, giving the Cardinals the lead again.
With just over a minute left in the first half, the Buccaneers used seven plays to go 75 yards to get the lead back. Winston completed a 17 yard pass to wide receiver Mike Evans to start the drive but the main target on the drive was tight end O.J. Howard, who missed the last two games with a hamstring injury. Howard had three catches for 41 yards with the final 10 yards coming on a touchdown catch in the right corner of the endzone.
Trailing 17-13 & after being outgained 220-155 in the first half, Arizona took the second half opening kickoff to the Buccaneers 23 yard line & had an opportunity to regain the lead. But on a fourth and two play, with no defender near him, tight end Maxx Williams dropped a pass that would have resulted in a touchdown.
Following Arizona's missed opportunity, Tampa Bay scored on their first possession of the second half. The big play of the drive was a 27 yard completion from Winston to Evans. But the drive stalled & eventually Tampa Bay used Gay for a 45 yard field goal attempt, which the kicker drilled to give the Buccaneers a seven point lead. But that seven point lead lasted less than 30 seconds because on the second play of the Cardinals next drive, Murray threw a deep pass to Kirk, who this time beat cornerback Ryan Smith for a 69 yard touchdown play.
Tampa Bay broke the 20-20 tie on a 12 play 66 yard drive that result in a 41 yard field goal by Gay. But Arizona bounced right back & went 75 yards on eight plays in just over two minutes to take the lead again. And just like in their previous two touchdown drives, Murray hooked up with Kirk, this touchdown play from 15 yards after the wide receiver, who had 138 receiving yards in the game, secured a pass that was tipped by linebacker Devin White.
Down by four the Buccaneers got the ball back & were on the move until Jones fumbled inside their own territory. The Cardinals looked like they were going to turn the turnover into points. But after moving the Cardinals inside the redzone, Murray threw his first interception in 211 attempts, snapping the longest streak ever by any rookie in NFL history, when cornerback Jamel Dean stepped around to grab a pass intended for wide receiver Trent Sherfield. The interception was Dean's first career interception & although the Buccaneers started deep into their own territory, it took their offense less than two minutes to go 92 yards. On the first play of the drive, Winston hooked up with Godwin for 49 yards. And after two pass interference penalties plus a run by Peyton Barber, the Buccaneers were at the one yard line. And with the help defensive tackle Vita Vea, who was used at the goal line as an extra blocker, Barber run up the left side for a one yard touchdown run.
The Cardinals had less than two minutes to either get into field goal range to tie the game or win it with a touchdown. But Murray, whose interception earlier in the fourth quarter was his fifth of the season, was unable to get his offense into Buccaneers territory before zeroes were on the clock.
The win by Tampa Bay also ended their five game home losing streak, giving the team their first home win since week 13 last year against the Carolina Panthers on December 2nd. Tampa Bay will look for their second straight win overall next Sunday at 1pm when they host the division leading New Orleans Saints.