TAMPA BAY-- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7) overcame three double digit deficits & scored the final 17 points of the game to beat the Indianapolis Colts 38-35. The win gives the Buccaneers a three game-winning streak, their first since 2016.
Tampa Bay won the opening toss & received the ball to start the game. But that possession lasted just two plays, because like in a previous game this year, quarterback Jameis Winston had his first pass of the game intercepted, as linebacker Darius Leonard reached up & grabbed a pass intended for wide receiver Mike Evans. And after starting their first drive inside Buccaneers territory, it took the Colts just three plays to turn that takeaway into points after quarterback Jacoby Brissett hit wide receiver Marcus Johnson for a 46 yard touchdown play.
The Buccaneers second possession lasted six plays, included a first down but ended with another turnover when running back Dare Ogunbowale fumbled the football after making a short reception. The fumble was recovered by cornerback Rock Ya-Sin & led to the Colts grabbing a 10-0 lead when kicker Chase McLaughlin, who was replacing injured kicker Adam Vinatieri, was good from 50 yards away.
Down 10 points, the Buccaneers went 75 yards on their next drive & scored their first points of the game. The drive that lasted over six minutes included a key completion from Winston to wide receiver Breshad Perriman for 31 yards. On the play, Winston scrambled to his right & tossed the pass to Perriman just before crossing the line of scrimmage. One play after that pass, Winston hit tight end Cam Brate for 13 yards then from the one yard line was able to get into the endzone on a quarterback sneak.
On their next possession, the Colts were forced into a three & out. And on the first play from scrimmage after getting the ball back, the Buccaneers took their first lead of the game when Winston found Evans behind the secondary & hit him in stride, down the right sideline for a 61 yard touchdown play. Unfortunately, Evans suffered a right hamstring injury & did not return to the game.
With the score 14-10, both teams had possessions that ended in punts, until the Colts took the lead again. After a 19 yard punt return by Nyheim Hines gave the Colts the ball inside Buccaneers territory, Brissett led a drive that featured his running ability. The quarterback & running back Marlon Mack combined for 38 rushing yards on the drive that ended with Mack scoring from two yards away.
The Buccaneers got the ball back & drove the ball into Colts territory. But as they approached the redzone, Winston had a third down pass intended for Godwin intercepted by Leonard. And this time the linebacker, who dropped into coverage after faking a blitz, snatched the pass & ran up the left sideline for an 80 yard interception return for touchdown. The pick six was the fifth interception return for touchdown thrown by Winston this year.
Trailing 24-14, the Buccaneers got within three points after Winston led another touchdown drive, this one that started right before the two minute warning & included the quarterback passing for all 75 yards on the drive. Winston last pass was a three yard touchdown completion to Brate.
With just over 30 seconds left in the half, the Colts got the ball back & on the first play from scrimmage, Brissett completed another long gain to Johnson, this one for 50 yards. The Colts got the ball inside the five but after Brissett was stopped at the one yard line, McLaughlin came on to hit a short 18 yard field goal to end the half.
The first half included Winston throwing for 277 yards, the Buccaneers gaining 317 yards, & nearly doubling the Colts in first downs registered but trailed 27-21 because three of their turnovers accounted for 17 of the Colts points.
Neither team scored on their first possession of the second half. But the Colts took a two touchdown lead after scoring on a 76 yard drive. The key play on this drive was a 37 yard pass from Brissett to wide receiver Zach Pascal & ended when the same two hooked up on a 12 yard touchdown play. The Colts decided to go for two after the touchdown & Brissett found Pascal for the conversion making the score 35-21.
Winston, who missed the team's opening drive in the third quarter because of a right thumb injury suffered in the first half, came back out on the next drive to get the Buccaneers within seven again. On the drive, Winston. who threw for a career-high 456 yards in the game, connected with tight end O.J. Howard for a 33 yard pass play, then Godwin for 11 yards & ended the drive with a 17 yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Justin Watson, who was receiving extensive playing time because of the injury to Evans. The touchdown catch by Watson was the first of his career.
As the game entered the final quarter, the Buccaneers got within four points after a drive led to a 44 yard field goal by kicker Matt Gay.
The Colts got a first down on their first possession of the fourth quarter but committed their first turnover of the game when a fumble by Himes was recovered by rookie safety Mike Edwards. The Buccaneers were unable to take advantage of that turnover because a pass thrown behind Perriman by Winston was deflected & intercepted by safety Malik Hooker.
The Colts turned that takeaway to an opportunity to add to their lead but McLaughlin hit the upright on a 47 yard field goal attempt. That gave the Buccaneers the ball on their own 37 yard line. And Winston led the offense on a 63 yard drive that included a fourth down conversion from the quarterback to Ogubowale for four yards to keep the drive alive. And on the next play of the drive, Winston hooked up with Perriman, who beat the defender to the left corner of the endzone & corralled Winston's pass. The pass was Winston's fourth touchdown pass of the game.
With less than four minutes left in the game & trailing 38-35, the Colts had one last chance to tie the score but had their final drive end on turnover on downs at the 50 yard line.
Tampa Bay will seek their fourth straight win in Detroit against the Lions next Sunday at 1PM.