Rookie DE Kyle Moore recorded the Bucs' only sack of the first half
The first half Friday night saw the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Houston Texans turn the ball over a combined five times and commit eight total penalties for 77 yards. But rookie QB Josh Freeman put on a dazzling display of arm strength and accuracy on the last play from scrimmage to cap an otherwise ugly first two quarters, rifling a 23-yard pass over the middle into WR Cortez Hankton's chest for a late score that cut the Texans' lead to 17-10 at the break.
After a flurry of turnovers to start the game, the Bucs jumped out to an early 3-0 lead. Houston actually received the opening kickoff, but S Sabby Piscitelli forced a fumble that was recovered by CB Ronde Barber on just the second play of the game. Freeman promptly threw an interception to CB Brice Butler on the Bucs' first play from scrimmage, but Butler gave the ball right back to the Bucs when WR Brian Clark popped the ball free and T Anthony Alabi pounced on the loose ball. With good field possession after the exchange of turnovers, the Bucs were unable to punch it in after making it to the Texans' two-yard line, but took the lead on a 20-yard field goal from K Mike Nugent.
The Bucs ended up forcing another Houston turnover in the first quarter, this time a Torrie Cox interception, but couldn't turn it into points. The Texans, however, were able to get on the board shortly after, as QB Rex Grossman fired a deep bomb down the middle to WR Jacoby Jones for an 87-yard touchdown strike. Jones had managed to get behind S Tanard Jackson, made an over-the-shoulder grab, then outran Jackson and everyone else on his way to the end zone. The extra point made it 7-3 in favor of the Texans with just under 14 minutes left in the first half.
Grossman's second touchdown pass, this one an 11-yard strike to TE James Casey later in the second quarter, extended the Texans' lead to 14-3 with just over six minutes left till half. The touchdown pass capped a 10-play, 56-yard drive that was extended by a number of costly Bucs penalties.
Houston extended its lead to 17-3 shortly after, as Freeman's first pass on the Bucs' ensuing drive was tipped and intercepted, giving the Texans the ball at the Tampa Bay 14. The Bucs' defense held firm despite the short field, however, limiting Houston to a 19-yard Kris Brown field goal that left Houston's lead at 14 points with just over two minutes to go.
The Bucs answered late in the half, however, as Freeman led the offense on a 10-play, 74-yard drive that was capped by a 23-yard touchdown pass to Hankton. On the scoring play, Freeman showed off his strong arm, zipping the ball right into Hankton's numbers over the middle. With the extra point, the Bucs entered the locker room trailing Houston 17-10.
On the half, Houston outgained the Bucs 212 to 139, and recorded 10 first downs to the Bucs' 8. Freeman finished the half seven-of-17 for 85 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions, while also leading the Bucs in rushing with 27 yards on three attempts.
- The Bucs won the toss and deferred, so Houston elected to receive the opening kickoff. WR Jacoby Jones fielded K Matt Bryant's kickoff two yards deep in the end zone and brought it out to the 21. QB Dan Orlovsky dropped back to pass on the first play of the game and found WR David Anderson over the middle for seven yards. Orlovsky rolled right on second down and hit TE Anthony Hill for a decent game, but he was hit by S Sabby Piscitelli and fumbled. The Bucs recovered the loose ball at the Houston 36, where the offense took over. * QB Josh Freeman promptly gave the ball back to Houston, throwing an interception to Brice CB McCain. However, McCain then fumbled and the Bucs recovered, so they retained possession at the Texans' 27. Houston challenged the play, arguing that McCain was down before the ball popped loose, but video evidence showed that it was a fumble and the Bucs kept possession at the Houston 26. On the ensuing first down play, RB Clifton Smith danced ahead up the middle for three yards. Freeman rolled right on second down and hit WR Brian Clark, who put a nice juke move on a defender on his way to an 18-yard gain. On first-and-goal from the five, FB B.J. Askew got the call and plowed ahead for three yards, but was then stopped for no gain on second down. Facing third-and-goal at the two, Freeman was flushed from the pocket and forced to fire the ball away through the back of the end zone, bringing K Mike Nugent on for a short field goal. Nugent's 20-yard try was good, giving the Bucs the early 3-0 lead. * Jones brought Bryant's next kickoff out to the 22. Anderson took an end around on first down for five yards, then RB Ryan Moats picked up five more yards on second down, moving the chains. On first down from the 32, Orlovsky's pass for TE Anthony Hill fell to the turf after a big hit from S Will Allen. Orlovsky's pass on second down went to Moats for three yards, but Orlovsky was dropped for an eight-yard sack on third down by DE Kyle Moore. WR Sammie Stroughter was brought down on the ensuing punt return at the Bucs' 30. * Freeman scrambled up the middle on first down for 11 yards and a first down. Askew was swallowed up on the next play for no gain, but Smith picked up four yards up the middle on second down. On third-and-six from the 45, Freeman found Stroughter over the middle, and the young wideout fought for six yards, enough to move the chains once again. Freeman completed another pass on first down, this time to WR Maurice Stovall on the left sideline for a gain of five, but saw his second down pass to TE Jason Pociask fall to the turf. Freeman threw another incompletion second down into tight coverage to Clark, bringing P Dirk Johnson on to punt. His 28-yard boot was fair caught by Jones at the Houston 17. * On first down, Orlovsky hit Jones deep over the middle for 21 yards, and Moats then picked up three more yards on the following first down play. On second-and-seven from the Houston 41, Moats found a seam on a run to the right, gaining eight. A deflected pass from Orlovsky on the next play somehow managed to land right in the hands of Anderson, who sprinted ahead for 12 yards. Orlovsky wasn't as lucky on the next pass, as this time, the deflection landed in the hands of CB Torrie Cox for an interception. Cox's 11-yard return gave the Bucs the ball at their own 46. * Askew picked up two yards on first down, and Smith followed up on second down with a seven-yard run to the left. On third-and-one, Askew tried to make it around the left corner, but was dragged down for a loss of two, forcing another Tampa Bay punt as the first quarter drew to a close. * Johnson's punt bounced out of bounds at the Houston 10-yard line. RB Arian Foster picked his way up the middle for three yards on first down. QB Rex Grossman then fired a deep bomb to Jones, who had managed to get behind S Tanard Jackson, and Jones outran everyone on his way to an 87-yard touchdown. K Kris Brown's extra point was good, and Houston took a 7-3 lead with 13:57 to go in the second. * Stroughter brought the ensuing kickoff back to the Bucs' 28. Freeman's first-down pass to FB Jameel Cook fell incomplete, and a screen to Smith that went for a nice gain was nullified by a tripping penalty on second down. Now facing second-and-20 at the 18, Smith ran left for four yards, setting up third-and-16. On the play, Freeman was forced out of the pocket to his left and had no choice but to throw it away. An ineligible player downfield penalty on the Bucs was declined, forcing yet another punt. A low punt from Johnson was returned by WR Darnell Jenkins nine yards to the Houston 44. * On first down, Foster darted left for three yards. Foster then made an impressive move sprinting around the left end for a huge run on second down, but a holding penalty brought the play back. Now facing second-and-12 at the Houston 42, Grossman fired over the middle to RB Andre Hall for four yards. On third-and-eight at the 46, Grossman fired high for his intended target, but a pass interference penalty gave the Texans 12 free yards and a first down. Grossman then fired deep into the end zone for Jenkins, but S Steve Cargile made a nice recovery to tip the ball away. On second down, Foster fought his way up the middle for nine yards, and on third-and-one at the Tampa Bay 33, Foster was tripped up after picking up one yard and a first down. Grossman threw high and incomplete to Anderson down the right sideline on first down, and Foster was dragged down after a gain of three on a run to the left on second down. Facing third-and-seven at the Bucs' 29, Grossman threw incomplete, but a roughing the passer penalty extended Houston's drive. With a fresh set of downs at the Bucs' 14, Hall took a pitch left five yards, then danced his way right for three more yards on second down. Houston committed a false start penalty before the next play, setting up third-and-seven from the 11. On the play, Grossman showed nice touch on a nice pass over the middle, hitting TE James Casey for the touchdown. The extra point extended Houston's lead to 14-3. * Stroughter returned the kickoff 21 yards, but a penalty on the Bucs backed the offense up to its own eight-yard line to start the next drive. Things went from bad to worse, however, as Freeman's pass on first down was deflected and intercepted by LB Kevin Bentley at the Bucs' 14. * Taking over with excellent field position, the Texans called Foster's number on first down, and he picked up four yards up the middle. Grossman then hit Casey on a pass to the right for five more yards, setting up third-and-one. Foster plowed up the middle on third down for three yards, setting up first-and-goal at the two, and then picked up another yard on the ensuing play. Houston burned a timeout before the second-and-goal play from the one-yard line, but Foster was stuffed at the goal line following the break. On third down, Grossman faced pressure up the middle and threw incomplete, forcing Houston to attempt a short field goal. Brown's 19-yard kick sailed through the uprights, giving Houston a 17-3 cushion. * Stroughter brought the ensuing kick out to the 22, and Smith took a screen pass to the left for 11 yards on first down as the clock wound down to the two-minute warning. Freeman then scrambled to his right for 14 yards. On first-and-10 at the Houston 49, Freeman just overthrew a diving Stovall down the right sideline incomplete, but then hit Stroughter over the middle for nine yards. On third-and-one at the Houston 41 with the clock running, Smith took a draw and put a nifty move on a defender on his way to a six-yard gain and a first down. The Bucs then burned a timeout to stop the clock with 1:03 left. On first-and-10 at the 34, Freeman was flushed left and threw high to the left sideline incomplete. A holding penalty on the play backed the Bucs up 10 yards, and on second-and-20, Clark made an outstanding grab on a pass that had been tipped before it reached him for a gain of 14. Freeman threw incomplete on the next play into tight coverage, setting up third-and-six at the 30. On the play, Freeman found WR Mario Urrutia on the left sideline, but the low pass fell incomplete. However, a holding penalty on Houston gave the Bucs a first down, and new life, at the Houston 25 with 34 seconds left in the half. Freeman spun away from the rush twice as he scrambled left on first down for two yards, and the Bucs used another timeout with 23 seconds remaining. On second-and-eight at the 23, Freeman threw to the front left corner of the end zone for Urrutia, but the pass was just out of his reach out of bounds. Facing third-and-eight with 15 seconds to go, Freeman zipped a bullet pass over the middle right into WR Cortez Hankton's numbers for a brilliant 23-yard touchdown strike. The extra point cut it to 17-10 in favor of Houston with just eight seconds left in the half. * Houston C Antoine Caldwell fielded the short squib kick and the first half came to a close.