TAMPA BAY-- The Houston Texans (10-5) scored 17 first half points, all after turnovers by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, leading to their 23-20 win on Saturday. With the win, the Texans clinched the AFC South division while the loss ends the Buccaneers (7-8) four game winning streak.
Houston won the toss, chose to defer & receive the ball at the start of the second half. But just like in five previous games this year, quarterback Jameis Winston threw an interception during the team's opening possession. The interception was by cornerback Bradley Roby, who jumped in front of a pass intended for wide receiver Justin Watson & returned the interception twenty seven yards for a pick six. The interception returned for a touchdown was also the sixth thrown by Winston this season.
After the interception by Roby, the Buccaneers got the ball back but just three plays into the drive, Winston threw his second interception. This time it appeared Winston did not see Texans safety Justin Reid, who picked off the pass in the middle of field & returned it to the endzone. But an illegal blindside block nullified the Texans second pick six interception, leaving the Texans just outside the twenty yard line. From there, the Texans moved the ball into the redzone but had to settle for a thirty two yard field goal by kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn.
The Buccaneers next drive started with a 49 yard run by running back Ronald Jones. That run put the Buccaneers in Texans' territory but they were unable to pick up another first down. which meant they had to send out kicker Matt Gay to try a 54 yard field goal. That kick was blocked by defensive lineman Angelo Blackson, keeping the Buccaneers off the scoreboard.
After the Texans were unable to move the football on their next drive, the Buccaneers got on the scoredboard with a 50 yard field goal by Gay. But they missed the opportunity for seven points on back to back plays, first when Watson lost his footing & was unable to secure a pass from Winston. Then Winston overthrow wide receiver Breshad Perriman, who got behind the Texans secondary.
Each of the next possessions for both teams ended in a turnover. First, Texans running back Duke Johnson was stripped by Buccaneers Lavonte David. The fumble was recovered by Buccaneers linebacker Devin White. But the Buccaneers offense gave the ball right back. On the next play from scrimmage, Winston threw his third interception of the first half, this time cornerback Justin Joseph went to the ground to pick off the pass by Winston.
The Buccaneers forced a three & out on the Texans next drive but then committed their fourth turnover of the first half. During a seven yard run, Buccaneers running back Peyton Barber had the ball pop out of his hands. The fumble was recovered by Reid & seven lays later the Texans got their first offensive touchdown of the game. The touchdown by running back Carlos Hyde was one play after a pass to tight end Darren Fells, which was initially ruled a touchdown, but was then ruled down at the one yard following replay.
With the score 17-3, the two teams traded punts. But the Buccaneers had their best drive of the half, going 81 yards on 9 plays. The big play on the drive was a 30 yard completion from Winston to tight end Codey McElroy. The catch by McElroy was his first in the NFL, as the tight end was added to the active roster before the game. After that catch, Jones ran up the middle from four yards away for his sixth rushing touchdown of the season.
The Texans got the ball back & got one first down. But a second down long pass attempted by Texans quarterack DeShaun Watson to wide receiver Kenny Stills was intercepted by cornerback Jamel Dean. Dean returned the ball thirty one yards, giving the Buccaneers the ball inside Texans territory.
Trailing by seven with under a minute left in the half, the Buccaneers got another big play from an unknown offensive player. This time Winston hit wide receiver Ishmael Hyman for thirty one yards, putting the ball inside the Texans 10 yard line. And on a third & goal from the eight yard line, Winston scrambled, then completed a pass to Watson in between two defenders at the front of the end zone to tie the score at 17.
Despite their four turnovers, Tampa Bay outgained Houston 281-83 in the first half. But neither team recorded a touchdown drive in the third quarter. After being outgained in the first half, the Texans outgained the Buccaneers in the third quarter by 13 yards. But each team could only add a field goal to their scoring total in the third quarter, leaving the score tied at 20 to start the fourth quarter.
After the Buccaneers first possession of the fourth quarter ended in a punt, the Texans moved the ball 69 yards, just inside the Buccaneers redzone. But their drive stalled & Fairbairn kicked his third field goal of the game, this one from 37 yards away, giving the Texans a three point lead.
That field goal proved to be the deciding points after Winston threw his fourth interception of the game with just over ninety seconds left in the game. The pass by Winston, thrown on a third & one play, was to the left & intercepted by safety Jahleel Addae, giving the Buccaneers five turnovers for the game.
Tampa Bay will end their 2019 season when they host the Atlanta Falcons a week from Sunday at Raymond James Stadium at 1pm.