The first series for the Buccaneers indeed saw the starters take the field just as Head Coach Bruce Arians had said this past week. After winning the toss and electing to receive, a holding call on linebacker Kevin Minter backed the Bucs up on the return and had them starting at their own 10 yard line.
Quarterback Tom Brady started with back to back handoffs to running back Leonard Fournette before a short pass to running back Giovani Bernard on third down would help the Bucs convert their first third down. A deep ball attempt to wide receiver Antonio Brown fell incomplete and the series ended on a punt after Brady took a third down sack. Tampa Bay punted from deep in their own territory, surrendering the ball to Cincinnati at their own 43-yard-line.
The Bengals were quickly faced with their first third down of the night before converting on a 15-yard completion to Tyler Boyd from quarterback Brandon Allen. The drive would prove fruitless where two plays later inside linebacker Lavonte David would force and recover a fumble at the Bucs' 20-yard line to give the ball back to the offense.
Quarterback Blaine Gabbert took over, signaling that Brady would be done for the night. Gabbert led a drive all the way down the field, thanks predominantly to running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn and an 18-yard completion to tight end Tanner Hudson, getting Tampa Bay to the two-yard line. Two plays later, it was Vaughn who would finish the drive, muscling his way into the end zone. The Bucs then lined up in a bizarre formation, acting like they were going for a two-point conversion before condensing into a typical point-after formation. Kicker Ryan Succop then kicked the extra point from the two-yard-line and though the ball went through the uprights, the kick was no good as the referee reminded the teams and the crowd that kicking from the two-yard-line is, well, illegal. It made the score 6-0 with 2:06 left in the first quarter.
The next drive for Cincinnati would end almost exactly like the first. After getting a majority of the way down the field, the Bucs' defense came up with yet another takeaway. After completing the catch, defensive back Ross Cockrell forced the fumble from wide receiver Mike Thomas' hands and it was then recovered by rookie inside linebacker K.J. Britt.
The Bucs' offense took over at their own 12-yard line with quarterback Ryan Griffin under center. He would get them as far as the Bengals' 42-yard-line before a failed fourth-down try would give the Bengals the ball back. It wasn't before the Griffin-Hudson connection was re-established, though. Hudson had two catches on the drive, one for 11 yards, another for six, with Vaughn again picking up a lot of the work. The Bengals took over at their own 42-yard line with 6:12 left in the half.
The next drive for the Bengals was actually continued by a Bucs' takeaway. Safety Javon Hagan intercepted Allen on the sideline and then on the return ended up fumbling the ball, which was then recovered by Cincinnati's Mike Thomas. It gave the Bengals a fresh set of downs. Then a pass interference call on cornerback Antonio Hamilton got Cincinnati across midfield. Bengals got another break as rookie outside linebacker Joe Tryon was called for unnecessary roughness on what looked like a clean sack on Allen. It gave Cincinnati a fresh set of downs at the 20-yard line right before the two-minute warning. A defensive pass interference call on cornerback Jamel Dean gave the Bengals their first, first-and-goal of the night at the eight-yard line. Finally, on third-down and one at the one-yard line, it was running back Chris Evans who crossed the plane to give the Bengals their first score of the night. The point after was good and Cincinnati took a 7-6 lead with 13 seconds left in the half.
Cincinnati got the ball back after halftime but went three-and-out, a first for the Bucs' defense on the night. The Bucs would quickly give the ball right back when a pass from Griffin to wide receiver Tyler Johnson was intercepted by Trayvon Henderson. The Bengals took over at the Bucs' 35-yard line.
Cincinnati was faced with third-and-two at the Bucs' 27 when the pass from quarterback Kyle Shurmur was intercepted by Dee Delaney, until a pass interference call negated the takeaway. The Bengals wouldn't get another first down after a facing a third-and-12 thanks to a great play where cornerback Antonio Hamilton ran running back Chris Evans out of bounds for a loss of five. The Bengals settled for a field goal and went up 10-6 with 9:18 left in the third quarter.
Griffin's next series ended the same way. After challenging an incomplete pass ruling on a throw from Griffin to Johnson, the Bucs had third-and-five at their own 35-yard line. The next throw by Griffin was tipped up in the air again by a Bengal defender and it was intercepted by Kavon Frazier and taken back to the 26-yard line. After that, the Bucs were hit with another unnecessary roughness penalty on cornerback Cameron Kinley, giving the Bengals first and five at the five-yard line. A negative play and two incomplete passes had Cincinnati settling for the short field goal, increasing their lead to 13-6 with 7:16 left in the third quarter.
View the best photos from the Bucs first preseason game vs. the Cincinnati Bengals.
Rookie quarterback Kyle Trask checked in for his NFL debut on the next series but went three-and-out after a deep ball goes incomplete, intended for wide receiver Travis Jonsen. The ball went back to the Bengals with 6:13 on the clock.
The first play of the next series saw a long ball from Shurmur to Irwin get negated by a holding penalty that instead backed the Bengals up to first and 20 at their own 29-yard line. They'd move all the way down the field yet again but be stopped inside the red zone and settle for a 31-yard field goal. The kick from Evan McPherson gave Cincinnati a 16-6 lead with three seconds left in the third quarter.
Trask's next series saw a couple first downs on completions to Mickens and Hudson but would eventually stall around midfield. The Bucs punted again, giving the ball back to Cincinnati with just over 12 minutes to go in the game.
The next series for the Bengals would end in fantastic fashion for the Buccaneers as linebacker Joe Jones picked off Shurmur and took it 15 yards to the house. Tampa Bay then went for two and it was tight end Codey McElroy coming up with a monster grab on a ball from Trask in the back corner of the end zone. Cincinnati was called for defensive pass interference on the play but the Bucs declined it as they cut the Bengals' lead to 16-14 with just over 11 minutes to play.
It was outside linebacker Elijah Ponder that would essentially end the next series for the Bengals, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Cincinnati but backed them up to third and 16. The Bengals would not convert and ended up punting the ball with the Bucs taking back over with about half a quarter to play, down two points.
The Bucs would come up empty on their next possession, going three and out. They traded a punt right back to the Bengals, giving the ball back with just over six minutes left in the game.
Cincinnati's next drive would end abruptly as a fumble by Shumur and a seven-yard loss by Evans would back them up to third down and 20. The Bengals would not convert and would give the ball right back to the Bucs with 4:27 left to play. However, the next series wouldn't prove fruitful for Tampa Bay either with Trask taking a third-down sack at the hands of linebacker Darius Hodge and the Bucs punted right back.
The Bengals would get some momentum going on their next drive, making their way down the field on a couple chunk plays both on the ground and through the air. At the two-minute warning, the Bucs found themselves backed up at their own 21-yard line as Cincinnati attempted to put just a few more points on the board against the defending champs. They'd end up with three to increase their lead to 19-14, where the score would stay as time expired.