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Bills Hold Off Late Rally, Send "Fighting" Bucs to Third Straight Loss

The Bucs rallied twice in Buffalo on Thursday night and had a chance to win the game at the end, but a failed Hail Mary attempt as time expired sent them to a 24-18 defeat and a 3-4 overall record


It wasn't over until Baker Mayfield's "Hail Mary" pass attempt hit the end zone grass with time expiring at Highmark Stadium on Thursday night, but in the end it was the same result as the past two weeks.

Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills rolled up 427 yards of offense in a 24-18 decision to send the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to their third straight defeat. At 3-4, Tampa Bay is now tied with the New Orleans Saints and one game behind the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South standings.

"We fought our tails off," said Head Coach Todd Bowles. "I thought everybody fought their tails off tonight. The effort wasn't the problem. We hung together, we were tough, we clawed, we scratched, we fought our way back in there. Buffalo did a good job – you've got to give them credit."

Down 10-0 early, the Buccaneers rallied on the strength of a 57-yard field goal by Chase McLaughlin and a Will Gholston interception that led to a Chris Godwin touchdown catch to tie the game midway through the second quarter. Unfortunately, Allen led a pair of 75-yard touchdown drives before and after halftime to put the home team up by 14. Tampa Bay rallied again in the game's final minutes, first with a 17-play 92-yard drive that ended in Baker Mayfield's 24-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans on fourth down. The Bucs then got into position for one final crack at the end zone, but the ball was just out of the reach of a spinning Chris Godwin.

"We had a lot of subs in there [on the final touchdown drive], guys with fresh legs who had to come in and make some plays," said Mayfield. "We had a lot of fight tonight, and that's what that drive was, the continued belief that we had a chance, that we believe in where we're headed."

Allen ran in one score on a 13-yard scramble in the second quarter and threw touchdown passes to Dalton Kincaid and Gabe Davis as part of a 324-yard passing day. Davis, with nine catches for 87 yards, was one of four Bills pass-catchers with at least 65 yards on the night.

Tampa Bay's red zone defense, which had a league-best 22.2% touchdown percentage allowed coming into the game, kept the game close early. A sharp third-down tackle by rookie S Christian Izien forced Buffalo to settle for a field goal on their first possession, and CB Jamel Dean broke up a fourth-and-goal pass in the second quarter.

After 20-6 and 16-13 losses to Detroit and Atlanta, respectively, the Bucs continued to have trouble finding in the end zone, scoring just their second and third touchdown in the past three weeks. Mayfield finished the game with 237 yards and two touchdowns on 25-of-42 passing and the Bucs' offense did not commit a turnover, but penalties were an issue once again. Tampa Bay drew 11 flags for 74 yards, including four false starts.

"We shot ourselves in the foot early on with some penalties at some misopportune times," said Mayfield. "That continues to be a problem so we need to get that fixed. But the good thing about tonight was the fight, the resilience to be able to come back and the determination that we're never out of the fight. We can work with that. We can get these things fixed and move forward."

Overall, Tampa Bay's offense got to 302 yards with its late surge and the rushing attack gained 78 yards on just 17 carries for an average of 4.6 per tote, marking the first time this season it has exceeded four yards a carry. RB Rachaad White finished the game with 109 yards from scrimmage, including seven catches for 70 yards, which Bowles said was the result of the Bills' defense frequently putting extra coverage on Evans and Godwin.

"Again, we've got the penalty problem," said Bowles. "I thought we moved the ball when we didn't have the penalties. We got going late in the game getting some flow going, but the penalties held us back. We had 11 penalties, seven or eight on offense, which kind of killed the momentum that we had."

Buffalo's pass-catchers routinely added significant yards after the catch on short targets. In addition, Allen was able to keep drives alive with his seven carries for 41 yards. Third downs were once again a problem for Tampa Bay's defense, which came into the game ranked last with a conversion rate allowed of 50.0%. Buffalo converted on seven of their 13 tries. Lavonte David led the Bucs' defense with 15 tackles and a pass defensed. Anthony Nelson and Yaya Diaby recorded sacks and Antoine Winfield put a hit on Allen that led to a William Gholston interception in the second quarter. Mayfield threw a three-yard touchdown pass to Chris Godwin two plays later.

"They went over the top one big time in the first half that kind of hurt us," said Bowles. "He had a lot of time to throw the ball. We've got to get pressure right there. The biggest thing for us was the quarterback hurt us with his legs. He had seven carries for 41 yards and they were critical."

The Buccaneers will now enjoy a "mini-bye" over the long weekend before returning to action in Houston in Week Nine. Despite dropping out of first in the division with four losses in their last five outings, the Buccaneers believe they can get back on the winning track.

"We've got to be better," said Bowles. "Just concentration. We've got to be better. The effort was there; I'm proud of the effort. They fought their tails off tonight against a very good football team. We've got to stop the penalties, shooting ourselves in the foot, and we'll be able to win some football games."

The Buccaneers got the ball to start the game after Deven Thompkins' 25-yard kickoff return put the ball at the 27. White got six yards on a carry up the middle to start the game but Mayfield's second-down pass was deflected at the line. On third-and-four, Mayfield zipped a pass through coverage to WR Trey Palmer for a 15-yard gain to the 48. An incompletion and a false start put the Bucs into a second-and-15 and a quick pass to Palmer failed to gain a yard. A pass over the middle to TE Cade Otton was broken up by S Jordan Poyer and the Bucs had to punt from their 43. Jake Camarda's kick came down near the goal line but bounced back to the four, where it was downed.

Buffalo got away from its end zone with a quick-hitter to WR Khalil Shakir for 13 yards, then rushed up to the line and called a keeper for Allen that was good for eight more. Shakir caught another one on the left sideline and slipped through a tackle to dash for 21 yards to the Buffalo 46. Still operating in a hurry-up, Allen lobbed one over CB Jamel Dean to Davis for 16 yards, then hit Davis again for nine more to make it second-and-one at the Bucs' 29. After a five-yard Latavius Murray run, pressure from Shaq Barrett forced Allen into his first incompletion. Two plays later, on third-and-six, S Christian Izien dropped Diggs for a gain of just one on a short pass and the Bills sent out Tyler Bass for a 37-yard field goal to open the scoring.

Tampa Bay's second drive started at its 20 and got a quick first down on an end-around to Godwin on which the receiver slipped pas an early tackle attempt and got 14 yards. However, it was third-and-five moments later and Mayfield went deep down the middle of the field to Otton. It worked, as S Taylor Rapp was flagged for pass interference, putting the ball at Buffalo's 40. Mayfield made an impressive play two snaps later on a snap that went over his hand, managing to get to the ball and get a throwaway. However, it was still third-and-nine and the Bucs used a timeout to talk it over. A slant to WR Mike Evans gained seven and the Bucs sent out McLaughlin for a 50-yard field goal attempt. His kick was tipped at the line by DE Shaq Lawson, turning it into a knuckleball that fell well short of its goal.

The Bills started fast again with a 17-yard pass to Diggs but lost 10 yards on a holding call on a screen to davis. Two short passes got 15 yards to make it third-and-five at the Bucs' 38, and Allen had all day to throw on the next snap, eventually finding Shakir for 30 yards to the eight. Three plays later, on first-and-goal from the one, the Bills tried to run Murray up the middle but the Bucs stopped it for no gain and the Bills elected to go for it on fourth-and-goal. The two teams made the 98-yard trek to switch sides for the start of the second quarter, and Dean then denied the Bills on fourth down by breaking up a pass intended for Kincaid.

With their backs to the goal line, the Bucs got a little breathing room on Chase Edmonds' two-yard rumble up the gut. An incompletion in Edmonds direction made it third-and-eight, and LB Terrel Bernard tipped away an on-target pass in Palmer's direction. Camarda had to punt from the back of the end zone and WR Deonte Harty caught the ball on the run and was able to weave his way all the way back to the Bucs' 23.

View the top photos of Tampa Bay's Week 8 matchup vs. the Buffalo Bills.

Two Cook runs made it third-and-one and Allen took it up the middle himself to make it first-and-goal at the 10. Diaby chased down Allen for a two-yard sack on first down but Allen got it all back with a 12-yard rushing touchdown to make it 10-0 with 11 minutes left in the first half.

Thompkins called a fair catch at the five on the ensuing kickoff, putting the ball at the 25. Two White runs made it third-and-six, and Godwin popped wide open on the rigth side for a 31-yard gain to the Bills' 40-yard line. White then bounced a run around left end that would have gained 26 yards but was brought back on a Trey Palmer hold on the perimeter. That made it first-and-13, and it was first-and-18 after another false start. An incompletion and quick strike to Godwin made it third-and-nine, and Mayfield was hit as he threw, leading to an incompletion. The Bucs sent McLaughlin out again, this time for a 57-yard try, and he blasted it over the crossbar to make it a 10-3 game.

Buffalo's next drive lasted one play. A blitzing Winfield got to Allen and caused his throw to pop up in the air, allowing Gholston to intercept it at the Bills' 23. Two plays later, the Bucs were in the end zone and the game was tied. First, a screen to Whtie worked to perfection, springing him for 20 yards down to the three. On first-and-goal, Mayfield faked a handoff and threw a dart to Godwin, who made an impressive reaching catch for the touchdown to tie the game with seven minutes to go in the half.

The Bills next drive started much better than the previous one, with Cook taking a handoff out of the shotgun and finding the right edge wide open for an 18-yard scamper. That was followed quickly by a 13-yard strike to Davis down the left numbers, and another two-yard gain by Davis on a crossing route. It was third-and-three after another Cook run and the Bills ran right back to the line without a huddle, leading to a 5-yard Cook dash to the left. On first down from the Bucs' 32, Diggs went in motion and ran an out for an easy 12 yards. An incompletion and LB Lavonte David's quick tackle of Cook for a loss of two made it third-and-12, and Allen scrambled right before firing a pass to Kincaid cutting left to right. Kincaid caught it at top speed and easily sprinted into the end zone for the 22-yard go-ahead score.

The Bucs had 2:40 left in the half to work with and got an immediate boost with White's 15-yard run up the middle. A seven-yard swing pass to White put the ball at the Bucs' 47 and brought on the two-minute warning. Two plays later, on third-and-three, Godwin ran an out to the right and hauled ina five yard pass to keep the drive alive. Another completion to White gained six yards to the Bills' 42 and the Bucs used their second timeout of the half at the 47-second mark. A false start penalty pushed the ball back five yards and Mayfield was sacked on the next play to make it third-and-15 back at the Bucs' 47. A pass down the middle to Otton got 12 of those yards and the Bills called a timeout with 19 seconds left. The Bucs sent out McLaughlin for an apparent 59-yard field goal try but it was an attempt to draw an offsides call. That didn't work and Camarda punted the ball into the end zone for a touchback with 11 seconds left. Allen took a knee to end the half.

The Bucs kicked off to start the second half, and the Bills off to another hot start with a play-action slant to Kincaid that went for 18 yards on the first play. After gaining another first down at the Bucs' 43, Allen took off on a scramble to the right and a defensive holding penalty tacked on five more tot the Bus' 31. A tunnel screen to Davis was good for 11 more, and another short pass to Davis two plays later took it down to the three-yard line. Two plays later, Allen hooked up with Davis again, this time for a four-yard touchdown pass in the back left end of the end zone.

Mayfield ducked under a near-sack by Leonard Floyd on the first play of the next drive and took off on an 11-yard scramble. Two White runs made it third-and-five at the Bucs' 41 and Mayfield's next scramble was good for only two yards, leading to a punt at the midway point of the third quarter.

A wobbly kick and an illegal touching penalty on Josh Hayes gave Buffalo possession at their own 23. The Bills went into hurry-up mode again and faced a third-and-four at their 29. Allen scrambled left and threw a sideline pass to Kincaid, who made a dazzling heel-tapping catch to stay inbounds for a gain of 15. Two incompletions in Diggs' direction, with Dean in close coverage, forced Buffalo to punt from their own 49. Bills punter Sam Martin adeptly bounced the ball out of bounds at the three-yard line.

Two Edmonds runs made it third-and-seven and a quick strike to Godwin was not enough to move the sticks, leading to a Bucs punt. A holding call on Camarda's 61-yard boot pushed the ball back to the Buffalo 17, but Allen hit Davis for eight yards and Diggs for 10, leading to a first down at the 38. Two incompletions made it third-and-10 but the Bucs gave five yards back on a neutral zone infraction. That made it easy for Allen to take off on a third-down scramble and get the first down at the Bucs' 48. A Cook run for nine was cancelled out by an 11-yard sack by Nelson, making it third-and-11 as the third quarter came to an end.

After the teams switched sides, David tackled Diggs four yards short of the sticks on a short pass out to the left, making it fourth-and-four. The Bills left their offense on the field, but only in an attempt to draw an offsides flag. The Bucs didn't bite and Martin once again bounced his punt down at the Bucs' four-yard line.

Mayfield barely got an imcompletion off to avoid a safety on first down, then scrambled right for six yards on the next play. A pass to Godwin in traffic over the middle was broken up and the Bucs punted the ball back at the 13-minute mark. Camarda blasted it 63 yards and there was a holding penalty tacked onto the end of an 18-yard return, making it first down at the Bills' 33. A 14-yard completion to Shakir got the ball near midfield. A pass breakup by Dean two plays later made it third-and-nine and Neal's quick tackle of Kincaid on the next play put the Bills in fourth-and-two at the Bucs' 44. Once again, the Bills tried to get the Bucs to jump but had to punt after the clock ran out.

Thompkins muffed the ensuing punt at the eight but was able to fall on the ball to avoid a turnover. A false start moved the ball back to the four and Palmer couldn't hold onto a diving attempt to catch an out to the left. White took a dumpoff over the middle and angled away from a defender to find open space and a gain of 20. On the next snap, a huge 41-yard gain to Evans down the left sideline was erased by a holding penalty. Two outlet passes to Edmonds added up to 16 yards, and another dropoff to White on third-and-four kept the drive alive as the clock hit the seven-minute mark. A toe-dragging catch by rookie WR Rakim Jarrett helped lead to another first down just across midfield, but two plays later Mayfield was sacked by A.J. Epenesa to make it third-and-eight at the Buffalo 45. The pocket collapsed on him quickly again on the next play, leading to a one-yard sack, and the Bucs went for it on fourth-and-nine. An illegal-contact penalty rescued the Bucs on a fourth-down incompletion, but it was quickly third-and-eight again and Mayfield was hit while trying to throw on third down. The Bucs went for it again on fourth down and appeared to lose possession on a sack, but DT Jordan Phillips was flagged for a facemask personal foul. That put the at the Buffalo 24 with three minutes to go. Three incompletions followed, making it fourth down once again. This time, Mayfield completed the pass, throwing a precision lob to Evans over CB Christian Benford for a 24-yard touchdown. The Bucs went for two and Otton was able to grab a deflected to make it a 24-18 game with 2:44 to play.

G Nick Leverett was flagged for unnecessary roughness after the two-point conversion was over, costing the Bucs 15 yards on the ensuing kickoff. Shakir went down on purpose at the Bills' 24 on his return, with 2:41 left and the Bucs possessing all three of their timeouts. The first of those timeouts was burned after a four-yard Cook run. The second came after a three-yard rollout run by Allen, with Barrett chasing him down. The Bucs brought a blitz on third down and Allen threw right over it for a 15-yard completion to Diggs. The visitors still had a shot after Lavonte David stopped Murray on a third-and-two carry near midfield, leading to a punt that went into the end zone.

With 21 seconds to work with, the Bucs got the ball to their own 40 with time for one more snap. Mayfield moved up in the pocket and gained momentum for a deep pass that eventually fell to the turf a few yards into the end zone, just out of Godwin's reach.

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