LB Cato June and the Bucs' defense held a high-powered Denver offense to just two field goals in the first half
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers held the Denver Broncos' offense in check for the first half, limiting the NFL's No. 1 offense to just two field goals.
The Bucs offense, however, didn't enjoy much more success, scoring six points of their own as the two clubs headed to the locker rooms at halftime tied.
The Bucs started well on defense, forcing the high-powered Denver offense to punt on its first two possessions. After stalling on its own first drive, the Bucs' offense got things going on the next possession behind a 38-yard run from RB Warrick Dunn. The march stalled at the Denver 21, but K Matt Bryant's 33-yarder gave the Bucs the early 3-0 lead.
The Broncos evened the score on the first play of the second quarter, as K Matt Prater's 55-yard field goal had plenty of leg. The Broncos marched 40 yards in 10 plays to set up Prater's kick.
Prater extended the Broncos lead to 6-3 with 2:21 to go in the half on a 40-yard field goal. The Broncos received possession after a Bucs drive stalled on a sack of Brian Griese in which a defender tugged on his facemask. The referees missed the infraction, however, denying the Bucs a chance to extend their drive and instead forcing a punt.
As he has done numerous times in recent weeks, Griese led an excellent two-minute drill to close out the half that was capped by Bryant's second field goal of the day, this time from 31 yards out.
The Bucs held Denver to 156 total yards of offense in the half and picked up 132 total yards of their own. The dual-pronged rushing attack of RB Earnest Graham and Dunn picked up 94 yards on the ground, and Griese completed 10-of-13 passes for 67 yards.
- The Bucs won the toss and deferred, so the Broncos elected to receive the opening kickoff. RB Andre Hall fielded the kick a few yards deep in the end zone and returned it to the Denver 19. QB Jay Cutler rolled right on a play action pass, but his pass intended for TE Daniel Graham sailed high through his hands and incomplete. RB Selvin Young took a second-down handoff and cut back to the left for an eight-yard gain. On third-and-two, RB Michael Pittman was stuffed by Barrett Ruud and came up inches short of the first down, bringing on the punting unit. P Brett Kern's punt sailed out of bounds at the Tampa Bay 31-yard line. * RB Earnest Graham got the carry on first down and picked up three yards, then ran ahead for another one yard on second down. On third-and-six, QB Brian Griese found Graham on a short pass, but the play picked up only five and the Bucs were forced to punt. P Josh Bidwell's punt was downed at the Broncos' 17. * Young picked up three yards up the middle on first down, then Cutler hit WR Eddie Royal for four yards on second down. Facing third-and-three, Cutler threw a bullet to WR Brandon Marshall for a gain of six and a first down. Young found little room to run on the next play, picking up only two, but then Hall took a screen pass on second down for six yards. On third-and-two, Cutler looked for Marshall to the right, but his pass was too high and fell incomplete. Kern's second punt of the day was fielded by WR Dexter Jackson and returned to the Bucs' 20. * RB Michael Bennett caught a pass on first down and picked up two yards, then Graham found a seam to the right on second down and sprinted ahead for 14 yards and a first down. Griese completed a pass to WR Ike Hilliard on the next play, but the Broncos were lined up offside, so the Bucs took the free five yards. On first-and-five at the 41, RB Warrick Dunn found a huge hole to the right and busted free for 38 yards, all the way down to the Denver 21. Dunn was swallowed up on the next play for no gain. Griese gave a head fake on second down that left TE Jerramy Stevens wide open in the end zone, but the pass sailed just out of Stevens' diving grasp incomplete. On third-and-10, Griese dumped a short pass over the middle to WR Michael Clayton for six yards, bringing K Matt Bryant on to the field. Bryant's 33-yard attempt was good, giving the Bucs an early 3-0 lead. * Hall returned the ensuing kickoff to the Denver 22. LB Cato June made a great play on a pass intended for Graham on first down, batting the pass away. Hall ran to the right on second down but found a wall of Bucs waiting for him, smacking him down for a one-yard loss. On third-and-11, Cutler couldn't find an open man, but scrambled out of the pocket for 12 yards and a first down. Cutler then threw a quick pass to WR Brandon Stokley for 11 yards and another first down. Hall picked up three yards up the middle on a draw, and Cutler hit Royal on second down for a gain of 12, moving the sticks yet again. Now at the Tampa Bay 40, Young took a carry left and picked up six. Cutler's second down pass was intended for Marshall but fell incomplete, bringing up third down and four at the 34. Cutler scrambled once again for a first down on the play, but a holding penalty moved the Broncos back 10 yards. The Bucs then burned their first timeout of the half. Facing third-and-15, Cutler hit Pittman for seven yards as the clock wound down to the end of the first quarter. K Matt Prater came on to attempt a 55-yard field goal, and the kick had plenty of leg as the Broncos tied the score 3-3. * Prater's kickoff sailed through the back of the end zone, and the Bucs took over at their own 20. On first down, Griese rolled right on a play action pass and scrambled for no gain. Dunn ran to the left for three yards, setting up third-and-seven. On the play, Griese found Clayton on a crossing pattern for eight yards, moving the chains. On first down, Griese was sacked by DE Ebenezer Ekuban for a loss of eight. The Bucs then backed up another five yards on a delay of game penalty. On second-and-23, Griese threw a short pass to Graham for four yards. Facing third-and-19 at the 22, Dunn picked up seven yards on a draw, bringing out the punt team. Bidwell's booming 64-yard punt was returned by Royal to the Denver 12. * On first down, Cutler launched a deep ball over the middle intended for Royal, but the pass was just overthrown incomplete. Cutler then hit Young out of the backfield, but June brought him down after a gain of just one. Facing third-and-nine, Cutler was flushed from the pocket and scrambled ahead for eight yards, coming up just shy of the first down marker. Denver challenged the ruling, but the ruling was upheld and Denver was charged with its first timeout for the failed challenge. Jackson returned Kern's punt to the Tampa Bay 41. * Graham plowed ahead on first down for a gain of four, then picked up another four yards on second down. Griese completed a pass to Clayton on third down that would have been a first down, but a holding penalty negated the play. On third-and-12, Griese went down once again as DE Elvis Dumervil recorded a five-yard sack. Royal returned Bidwell's punt to the Denver 36. * Young took the first down handoff and picked up two, then Cutler found Graham over the middle for ten yards and a first down. Hall was stuffed on the next play by DE Gaines Adams for no gain, but Marshall leapt high in the air to reel in a pass for 13 yards and another first down. A screen pass to Hall picked up another chunk of yardage, this time a gain of 11 as the Broncos moved the chains once again. Now at the Bucs' 28, Cutler hit Marshall for a short gain, but a chop block penalty moved the Broncos back 15 yards. On first-and-25, Hall darted ahead for nine yards, but a holding penalty negated a completion to Royal on second down and moved the Broncos back 10 more yards. Now facing second-and-26, Cutler found Royal again, this time for seven yards. On third-and-19, Cutler dumped a screen pass to Pittman, who rumbled ahead for 15 yards and bringing Prater out for another field goal try. His 40-yard try was good, giving the Broncos a 6-3 lead with 2:21 to go in the half. * Prater once again booted the kickoff deep into the end zone, leaving Jackson no choice but to take a knee for the touchback. An encroachment penalty on the Broncos before the first down snap gave the Bucs five free yards. Dunn then took a handoff ahead for a gain of 13 and a first down as the clock hit two minutes. Griese hit Dunn for four yards on first down, then hurried to the line and hit Hilliard for four more yards. On third-and-two at the Bucs' 47, Dunn burrowed through the line for three yards and the Bucs used their second timeout to stop the clock. Griese looked for WR Antonio Bryant on first down, but the pass bounced off his hands and fell incomplete. Griese then hit Graham over the middle for four yards, setting up another third down. This time, Bryant was able to reel in the pass, picking up 17 yards. Griese spiked the ball to stop the clock with 23 seconds left, then connected with Clayton, who was able to get out of bounds and stop the clock again after picking up 12 yards. On first-and-10 at the Denver 17 with 18 seconds left, Dunn took a pitch to the right for three yards. The Bucs used their last timeout with three seconds left as Bryant came on to try a field goal. His 31-yard attempt was good, evening the score at 6 as the teams headed to the locker room for halftime.