EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - The Bucs fell to the Jets today at MetLife Stadium, 18-17, in a wild finish that saw Tampa Bay take the lead on a 37-yard field goal by Ryan Lindell with :38 remaining, only to have it taken away after Jets kicker Nick Folk nailed the game-winner from 48 yards out with just :15 left on the clock.
Of the Bucs' "Big Three" on offense, only WR Vincent Jackson produced at the level that the team maintained for much of 2012 and expected to see more of on Sunday. Jackson caught seven passes for a team-high 154 yards and repeatedly moved the chains on third down. However, QB Josh Freeman (15/31, 210yds, 1TD and 1INT) and RB Doug Martin (24 carries for 65 yards and 1TD) failed to match their performance from last year as the Bucs struggled on offense throughout the game. Martin did run for a touchdown in the second quarter to give the Bucs an early 14-5 lead, but he and Freeman had a particularly hard time hooking up in the passing game.
Tampa Bay's defense made things equally difficult for rookie QB Geno Smith and the Jets' offense. With LB Mason Foster and LB Lavonte David making key contributions. However, it was David's costly 15-yard personal foul penalty that set up Folk's game-winner. David was flagged for pushing Jets QB Geno Smith after Smith ran out of bounds at the Tampa Bay 45-yard line with :15 left in the game. The penalty gave the Jets the ball at the Bucs 30-yard line and Folk connected from 48-yards out on the next play to hand the Bucs their first defeat of the season.
Tampa Bay's first two offensive possessions didn't go as scripted, despite a sharp 20-yard slant from Freeman to Jackson on the game's first third down. Apparent communication problems with the helmet radio led to consecutive delay-of-game penalties, and a false start contributed to pushing the Bucs almost back to the original line of scrimmage before a punt.
The Jets' first drive got across midfield before ending in a punt, and that indirectly led to the game's first score. The Bucs had to start at their own three after the kick, and three plays later an aborted snap led to a safety for the Jets, with Freeman kicking the ball out of the grasp of a Jets defender to prevent a touchdown and save five points.
Special teams helped set up both of the Buccaneers' first two touchdowns as the visitors surged to a 14-5 lead. Michael Koenen's coffin-corner punt near the end of the first quarter pushed the Jets back inside their own 10 and eventually allowed the Bucs' offense to regain the ball inside New York territory. Freeman then led the Bucs on a five-play, 44-yard drive that ended in his 17-yard strike to Williams in the left side of the end zone. In the second quarter, Koenen dropped another punt down at the Jets' 11 and that was followed in rapid succession by a Geno Smith fumble, forced by blitzing LB Mason Foster, and a five-yard touchdown run by Martin.
Tampa Bay appeared to be on the verge of taking over the game minutes later when Lavonte David intercepted a Smith pass in the right flat. However, Jets S Dawan Landry picked Freeman right back three plays later, and his long return to the Bucs' 31 set up a short touchdown drive that reduced the visitors' lead to two points at halftime. The Bucs appeared to have stopped the drive at the edge of field goal territory after Foster's second sack of the game, but an unnecessary roughness call drawn by S Mark Barron extended the drive and it ended in Kellen Winslow's seven-yard TD catch.
While the Buccaneers may have disagreed with the unnecessary roughness calls drawn by Barron and, just moments earlier, fellow S Dashon Goldson, flags were a persistent problem for the team throughout the afternoon.
A game-opening touchback set the Bucs up at their own 20 to start the season, and Freeman's first pass of the season was a quick-hitter to Williams for seven yards. After Martin's first run of the season left the Bucs in a third-and-one, they elected to throw and Freeman hit Jackson on a quick slant that gained 20 yards to midfield. After an incompletion, the Bucs had trouble getting the next play in and eventually had to burn a timeout before the next snap. Apparently experiencing problems with his helmet radio, Freeman let the clock run out for another delay penalty, and then, after switching helmets, was sacked by LB Antwan Barnes for a loss of 10. A false start penalty moved the Bucs almost all the way back to the drive's original line of scrimmage and the drive ended on a short bubble-screen pass to Martin.
Michael Koenen helped flip field position with a 54-yard punt and the Jets' opening drive started at their own 29. Smith's first professional pass was a good one, a 26-yarder to Kerley to the Bucs' 45. Tampa Bay's defense forced him to scramble up the middle for three on the next play, and a direct-snap run by Powell picked up four to make it third-and-three. The Bucs' defense got the stop it needed by chasing Smith into a hurried incompletion, but the resulting punt trapped the Bucs at their own three. That proved disastrous, because three plays later the ball was snapped before Freeman was ready and it bounced into the end zone. Freeman was able to kick it out of the back of the end zone (drawing an illegal kicking penalty) to avoid a touchdown recovery, but that gave the Jets the game's first two points and the next possession.
After the free kick, the Jets started up again at their own 32. Smith tested Revis on a quick slant on the second play but Revis knocked it away, setting up third-and-nine. Smith got his third-down pass off while being buried by McCoy, but the completion to TE Kellen Winslow came up short and led to another punt. WR Eric Page found a seam to exploit on his return and got back 28 yards to the Bucs' 42.
Unfortunately, the run game still struggled to find any openings, and Freeman was quickly in a third-and-nine hole, which became third-and-14 after a false start. Freeman stepped up in the pocket to buy time but was eventually sacked before he could get off a pass, somehow managing to avoid a fumble despite Wilkerson's blind-side hit. Koenen's punt was fair caught all the way back at the eight.
McCoy stopped Ivory on a run up the middle for just one yard and instant pressure on second down blew up an attempted screen to Holmes. Kerley nearly made a diving grab down the middle but couldn't hold on, and resulting punt plus Page's seven-yard return put the Bucs into Jet territory.
A five-yard run by Martin and a seven-yard out to Jackson moved the chains, and a great come-backer to Jackson got 12 more to the 20-yard line.
The penalty let the Bucs kick off from midfield, which led to an easy touchback. Revis broke up another attempted slant in front of him and a false start before the next play put the Jets into a third-and-11 from their 19. However, on the final play of the third quarter, Holmes threaded his way through the middle on a shallow post and caught a 13-yard pass to move the chains. After switching sides, the Jets soon faced a third-and-seven but FB Tommy Bohanon snuck out into the right flat and was wide open for a gain of 21 to the Bucs' 44. Smith converted the next third down, too, with a 13-yard scramble that had five yards tacked on the end for defensive holding. On first down from the 24, DE Adrian Clayborn buried Ivory for a loss of one and, two plays later, Smith's errant downfield pass was nearly intercepted by Revis. The Jets settled for Nick Folk's 43-yard field goal and a 7-5 deficit.
A five-yard run on second-and-10 put the Bucs in a quick third-and-five hole, but Jackson broke away from coverage on a quick slant and dashed up the middle for 39 yards to the Jets' 36. A holding penalty on the next snap hurt, however, and the offense couldn't recover, eventually punting from the Jets' 45. Koenen's kick bounced sideways and was downed at the 11.
Two plays later, the Buccaneers were back in the end zone. First, Foster blitzed around the back of the pocket and caught Smith for a six-yard sack, knocking the ball out of his hand for Spence to recover at the Jets' five-yard line. Martin's most decisive run of the day to that point followed, a five-yard burst straight up the middle to give the Bucs a 14-5 lead with 6:46 left in the first half.
On the ensuing drive, Smith answered with quick strikes down the middle for 11 yards to Kerley and nine to Powell. Powell's second-down run was stymied by Spence but Ivory was able to pound it over right guard on third-and-one to move the chains. On the next play, Smith threw deep down the middle to TE Jeff Cumberland, who was leveled by S Dashon Goldson. The resulting deflection was nearly intercepted by Mark Barron, but that was moot as Goldson was flagged for unnecessary roughness. Two plays later, however, David picked off a short pass intended for WR Stephen Hill and returned it seven yards to the Bucs' 41.
Three plays later, the Jets' defense took the ball back, as Freeman's pass to Jackson was overthrown and hauled in deep in centerfield by Landry, who returned it to the Bucs' 31. Foster' second sack on a jailbreak blitz up the middle was huge, pushing the Jets back 18 yards to midfield. After the two-minute warning, the Bucs appeared to get a stop but another unnecessary roughness call, this one on Barron, led to a new first down at the Bucs' 19. Clayborn drew a holding call on T Austin Howard, but two plays later Smith bought time with a rollout right and eventually found Winslow at the Bucs' seven. On the next snap, Smith had a long time in the pocket to survey the field and Winslow eventually slid into the open for the seven-yard touchdown.
The Bucs dodged a bullet before halftime when, on the only offensive play they ran before time ran out, Martin followed a nice eight-yard run up the middle with a fumble that C Jeremy Zuttah alertly covered.
New York's offense got off to a sharp start after another Koenen touchback, with a 10-yard catch by Hill and a seven-yard run by Ivory. Another short pass to Hill moved the chains, as did a third-and-one direct snap to Powell three plays later, which moved the ball across midfield to the Bucs' 46. Barron drew a holding call with a blitz off the left edge on the next play but it was declined after Daniel Te'o-Nesheim dropped Smith for a six-yard sack. Smith's pass to Winslow on third down came up five yards short and the Jets punted, with Page fair-catching at the six.
An incompletion and a short Martin run into the teeth of the defense made it third-and-eight in a hurry. Williams got the Bucs out of trouble with a nice run after a short catch over the middle that picked up 13 yards and a new set of downs. Williams was injured on the play, but he returned after missing just one snap. Three plays later, the Bucs faced another long third down and, for the third time in the game, converted it with a slant to Jackson that picked up extra yards. This one went for 17, and a slant on the other side to Williams moments later got 15 more to the Jets' 45. The drive stalled there, however, and the Bucs punted away, with Koenen this time dropping it down at the four.
The Jets faced a third-and-seven moments later after McCoy beat his man off the line and buried Smith on a short incompletion. Unfortunately, great coverage downfield didn't help on third down when Smith saw an opening and ran straight up the middle for 12 yards. The next third down was only a two-yarder, but the Bucs stopped this one when LB Dekoda Watson's perfectly-timed blitz led to an 11-yard sack. Jets punter Robert Malone then blasted an incredible 84-yard punt that went to the end zone for a touchback.
Tampa Bay's offense did nothing with the new possession and was punting it back within a minute. Koenen helped out once again with a 57-yard blast but the Jets had the ball back at their own 25 with 1:22 to play in the third. The Bucs' defense countered with a three-and-out keyed by David's big stop for a loss of one on Jeremy Kerley on third-and-one.
The Bucs fell into their own third-down hole after two plays but Freeman moved the sticks with a scrambling 22-yard completion to Jackson on the right sideline. Two pitches to Martin picked up six yards and made it third-and-four at the Bucs' 43, but Freeman's third-down attempt down the right sideline to Martin was overthrown.
The Jets got a new start at their own 23 and would have been off the field in three plays if not for a defensive holding call on CB Leonard Johnson downfield. Powell fumbled on the next play but the Jets were fortunate again when it was recovered by Hill. On the next play, Smith rolled right and found WR Clyde Gates on the sideline for a gain of 17 to midfield. A 14-yard catch-and-run by Powell got the ball down to the 20 yard line. The Bucs held their but New York took the lead with a 30-yard field goal with 5:05 to play.
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- WR Mike Williams' 17-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter was the 24th receiving score of his Buccaneer career. That ties him with former TE Dave Moore, currently an analyst on the Buccaneers Radio Network, for fifth place in team history.