The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost an ugly slugfest against the Houston Texans in the fourth quarter, with the offense struggling to move the ball consistently and the defense giving up just a few too many short plays to ultimately lose the game 19 to 9.
Alfred Blue had a career day with 31 carries for 139 yards and one touchdown, running all over a Tampa Bay defense that couldn't seem to get its run fits right.
The Bucs offense got into scoring position repeatedly, but couldn't finish the job -- and Kyle Brindza missed three relatively easy kicks when the game was within reach, keeping seven points off the board. Meanwhile, the defense collapsed in the fourth quarter, allowing the Texans to repeatedly drive down the field and put the game away, after the Texans led just 10-9 at the end of the third quarter.
Jameis Winston played reasonably well in his third start, repeatedly connecting with Mike Evans and Vincent Jacson down the field. He was better than his statistics suggested (17/36 for 2619 yards, one touchdown, one interception, no sacks), with several drops on tough and easy catches by the Bucs receivers, and he held up impressively when pressured -- although that didn't happen as often as we may have expected prior to the game. He did have one really bad throw, which turned into an interception -- but that was really the only big mistake he made.
In all, the Bucs looked like a bad and undisciplined team in their third week this game, though they still could have pulled out a win at the end. It didn't happen, though, and Tampa Bay is now 1-2.
First quarter notes
The game started the way we expected, with early punts for both the Texans and Buccaneers. Jameis Winston and company were visibly hurt by the crowd noise, as Logan Mankins delivered a false start and Winston allowed the play clock to wind down for a delay of game penalty early on, basically destroying any chance they had of getting anything done on that drive.
After that first drive, the Texans took a page out of the Tennessee Titans' playbook: up-tempo offense with lots of quick throws. That led to an early touchdown to DeAndre Hopkins, who smoked Tim Jennings, and the Bucs struggled to stop Mallett on the third offensive drive as well -- with a Gerald McCoy forced fumble negated by defensive holding on D.J. Swearinger.
Meanwhile, Jameis Winston went repeatedly looking for Mike Evans with some promising plays but the key throw broken up by Jonathan Joseph.
Second quarter notes
That Winston-to-Evans connection started to pay off in the second quarter as Winston repeatedly found him to move the team down the field. He only got that opportunity because Alterraun Verner, who got benched to start the game, broke up what would have been a huge completion to DeAndre Hopkins. The result of those completions to Evans was a 58-yard field goal by Kyle Brindza, getting the Bucs on the scoreboard for the first time.
The defense once again struggled to stop the Texans both on the ground and through the air, but an offensive penalty pushed Houston out of field goal range and got Jameis Winston the ball back -- though Rainey muffed his second punt return of the day, thankfully recovering both. A three-and-out and a beautiful Kwon Alexander interception later, this happened:
Charles Sims with a little homecoming touchdown https://t.co/4fiXJYUBMe
— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) September 27, 2015
Brindza missed the extra point, though, giving the Bucs just a 9-7 lead. The defense couldn't keep the Texans from driving into field goal range, though a drop by DeAndre Hopkins at least stopped them from scoring a touchdown. Keith Bullock missed from 43 yards, so the Bucs still led with Winston getting a chance to extend that lead. He almost did that too -- but Evans dropped the pass to get them into field goal range, and the team had to punt instead.
Third quarter notes
Jameis Winston had been outstanding in the first half, but early in the second half we saw a glimpse of some of the issues he had in college: not seeing underneath defenders. Winston forced a bad throw into a double-covered Mike Evans, giving the Texans the ball at midfield. Thankfully, that only led to a field goal and a 10-9 lead for the Texans thanks to a huge third-down tackle by Sterling Moore.
The Bucs couldn't initially respond, with an overturned Mike Evans catch stopping them from getting into field goal range, but a subsequent three-and-out for the Texans gave Jameis Winston great field position. The Bucs nearly capitalized on it, but Vincent Jackson couldn't get the second foot down on what would have been a touchdown and Kyle Brindza missed the 41-yard field goal.
The defense held up its end and once again forced a three-and-out -- but the offense again couldn't capitalize. The Texans had a chance to get into field goal range at the end of the third quarter, but instead decided to punt on fourth-and-four, giving Winston another chance.
Fourth quarter notes
The Bucs seemed to march down the field pretty easily, with Winston making a couple of big throws to get the team into scoring range -- but Kyle Brindza missed his third kick of the game, this time a 33-yarder. The Texans then marched down the field, Alfred Blue walking into the endzone almost untouched on a 20-yard run -- though the missed extra point kept the game within seven points.
Jameis Winston continued to make big throws down the field, but his receivers weren't helping him out -- though, again, these were not exactly easy passes either and Winston wasn't always pinpoint with his throws.
Those two drives were the only opportunities to win the game Jameis Winston would get: the Bucs allowed the Texans to drive straight down the field, giving up first down after first down, especially on the ground, and turning it into an unwinnable two-score game. Winston got the Bucs into field goal range again with 30 seconds left, but Brindza missed from 57 yards for his fourth missed kick of the game.
Johnthan Banks left the game with a knee injury during the first quarter and did not return. He was replaced by Mike Jenkins and Alterraun Verner.
Gerald McCoy was clearly still bothered by the shoulder injury he sustained last week, but did not leave the game. George Johnson, Tim Jennings and Mike Jenkins left the game with minor injuries at various times, but all returned.
The Bucs welcome the Carolina Panthers in Tampa next week, when they'll have to win to keep pace with two 3-0 teams in the division.