DE Jimmy Wilkerson's first-half sack helped the Bucs hold Jacksonville to 10 first-half points despite the three turnovers lost on offense
After losing a fumble and watching two of QB Jeff Garcia's passes end up in the hands of Jacksonville Jaguars S Reggie Nelson, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fought their way back in the first half of Saturday night's game at Raymond James Stadium. With two quarters to play, the Bucs trail only by three, 10-7.
The home team got off to a very slow start, ending their first two possessions with turnovers. The Bucs' zero-turnover streak was snapped just moments into the game. On only the third play from scrimmage, RB Earnest Graham was stripped by DE Paul Spicer and the Jaguars recovered the loose ball. The Bucs' defense held firm, however, only allowing three points after the Jags took over deep in Tampa territory.
Things went from bad to worse on the Bucs' next possession, as QB Jeff Garcia, making his first start of the preseason, was intercepted on the first play of the drive by S Reggie Nelson. The Bucs had the Jags in a third-and-goal situation but were unable to keep WR Dennis Northcutt out of the end zone, as QB David Garrard's eight-yard pass gave the Jags a 10-0 lead.
Garcia couldn't keep Nelson from getting his hands on another pass later in the half, as the young safety used the full extent of his reach to bring down a pass in the end zone as the Bucs threatened to claw back into the game.
Veteran CB Ronde Barber got the Bucs a turnover of their own on the ensuing Jacksonville drive. Barber stepped in front of Garrard's pass after Garrard was pressured by a corner blitz from rookie CB Aqib Talib. The Bucs were able to cash in on WR Michael Clayton's 10-yard touchdown grab, cutting the Jags' lead to 10-7 with 4:42 to go in the half.
The Bucs actually had a chance to tie the game up as time expired in the half, but K Matt Bryant's 23-yard field goal was no good.
The Tampa Bay defense was the key in preventing the Jags from opening up a wider lead, as the unit held Jacksonville to only five first downs and 75 net yards in the half. If not for the excellent field position they enjoyed after the Bucs turnovers, the Jags could easily have zero points to their credit.
On offense, the Bucs racked up 11 first downs and 145 yards of their own.
- The Bucs won the toss and elected to receive. WR Dexter Jackson was unable to find any room on the return and was stuffed at the 14-yard line. QB Jeff Garcia took the field to a roar from the crowd and completed his first pass to WR Maurice Stovall for seven yards. RB Warrick Dunn picked up two yards up the middle on second down, but RB Earnest Graham was stripped by DE Paul Spicer after picking up first-down yardage and the Jags recovered at the Bucs' 23-yard line. * RB Fred Taylor picked up four yards on first down, then showed some shifty moves on second down as he eluded a handful of Bucs on his way to a nine-yard gain. On first-and-goal at the 10, Taylor picked up another two yards, but was stuffed by DE Gaines Adams for a loss of four on a pitch to the left on second down. On third-and-goal from the 12, a quick slant pass from QB David Garrard to WR Reggie Williams picked up only seven yards, bringing K Josh Scobee onto the field. His 23-yard field goal was good, giving the Jags the early 3-0 lead. * Jackson fielded the ensuing kickoff a few yards deep in the end zone and elected to take a knee, bringing the Bucs out to the 20. The Bucs' promptly turned the ball over again, as Garcia's floating pass to the sideline was picked off by S Reggie Nelson. After a penalty on the return, the Jags took over deep in Bucs territory once again, this time at the 27-yard line. * Garrard completed a pass on first down to WR Matt Jones for seven yards, and Taylor moved the chains with a four-yard gain. Garrard's next pass, this time intended for Williams in the corner of the end zone, was overthrown and incomplete. On second down at the 16, Garrard found Jones again on a leaping grab, this time for 10 yards and a first down. Taylor burrowed ahead for three yards on first down, but a false start on second down backed the Jags up to the Bucs' eight yard line. Garrard's pass on second down was again overthrown and incomplete, setting up third-and-goal. The Bucs came on a blitz but were unable to get to Garrard in time, who found WR Dennis Northcutt for a touchdown. Scobee's extra point was good, giving the Jags a 10-0 lead. * Jackson was again unable to get much of return on the next kickoff, taking a big hit after only getting out to the 16. Dunn managed only one yard on first down. Garcia barely eluded the rush on second down before shuffling the ball ahead to Graham for three yards. Stovall moved the sticks with a six-yard gain, then found TE John Gilmore for another six yards. On second-and-four, the Jags jumped offside, giving the Bucs five free yards and another first down. Garcia tried the shuffle pass again after rolling out, but the pass slipped through TE Alex Smith's hands and fell incomplete. Dunn was stuffed for no gain on second down, setting up third-and-ten at the Bucs' 38-yard line. Garcia then threw low to WR Michael Clayton, who couldn't secure the pass, bringing P Josh Bidwell onto the field. S Sabby Piscitelli swallowed up Northcutt on the return for a one-yard loss and the Jags took over at their own 21. * Garrard's completion on first down was nullified by a holding penalty, moving the Jags back to the 11. Garrard then found WR Mike Walker for 13 yards, but his second-down pass was broken up by CB Ronde Barber, who had tight coverage on the intended receiver. On third down, DE Jimmy Wilkerson burst up the middle and brought Garrard down for a sack. Jackson fielded P Adam Podlesh's punt and returned it 13 yards to the Jags' 46. * Garcia completed a pass to Graham for four yards on first down. Smith caught a pass from Garcia a yard or two short of the first down marker, but gave a good effort to stretch out as he was being tackled to pick up the necessary yardage. That play brought the first quarter to a close. Dunn was upended on a short gain up the middle, and the Jags then jumped offside again on second down. On second-and-five at the Jags' 30, Stovall made an excellent move to break a tackle after catching Garcia's pass, picking up nine yards and another first down. Graham plowed ahead for four yards, and then made a nifty cutback on second down for five more yards. Facing third-and-one at the 12, Clayton took a pitch from Garcia on an end around and got just enough yardage to move the sticks. Garcia's first-down pass was a little high and sailed through Smith's hands, nearly being picked off. Garcia's next pass was not quite high enough to clear Nelson's outstretched hands in the back of the end zone, and the safety came down with his second pick of the game. * Following the Bucs' red-zone turnover, the Jags took over at their own 20. Taylor danced ahead for eight yards on first down, but was stuffed in the backfield by DE Gaines Adams for a four-yard loss on second down. On third-and-six, Garrard rolled right and found Northcutt for 10 yards and a first down. Rookie CB Aqib Talib came on a corner blitz and applied some pressure on Garrard, allowing Barber to step in front of the pass and get the Bucs a turnover of their own. Following Barber's interception, the Bucs took over at the Jags' 43. * WR Ike Hilliard couldn't corral Garcia's first down pass, and Dunn carried the ball right for five yards on second down. On third-and-five at the 38, Clayton made a nice grab over the middle on a pass that was a bit behind him, gaining 12 yards and a first down. The Bucs then burned their first timeout of the half with 7:16 to go. Graham picked up seven yards on a catch over the middle, but was stuffed on his second-down carry for a two-yard loss. Hilliard then made up for his earlier drop by making a leaping grab over the middle for eight yards and a first down. Dunn made a shifty cut to his left and picked up six yards, but Garcia's pass on second down was incomplete. On third-and-six at the 10, Clayton continued his solid drive, catching a quick throw from Garcia for a score on a slant route. K Matt Bryant's extra point cut the Jags' lead to 10-7. * Talib made a great play on the ensuing kickoff, wrapping WR Troy Williamson up at the Jags' 10. DT Chris Hovan burst up the gut on first down and brought FB Greg Jones down for a two-yard loss. Garrard then hit TE Marcedes Lewis over the middle for 10 yards, setting up third-and-two. Excellent coverage by the Bucs' defensive backs left Garrard with nowhere to throw, and he was wrapped up from behind by Hovan for a loss of two to bring up fourth down. A false start in punt formation backed the Jags up five more yards, and Podlesh's punt bounced out of bounds at the Bucs 44. A penalty for an illegal man downfield gave the Bucs five more yards, setting them up at their own 49. * QB Brian Griese entered the game and handed off to RB Michael Bennett, who darted ahead for a 12-yard gain as the clock wound down to the two-minute warning. Griese's first pass of the evening was on target to Hilliard for nine yards, but a deep pass down the sideline on second down was just inches out of Stovall's reach for an incompletion. On third-and-one at the 30, Bennett fell forward for three yards and a first down, and the Bucs stopped the clock with their second timeout and 1:07 to go. Stovall then found a ton of open field over the middle and picked up 17 yards on the grab. Griese looked for him again on first-and-goal at the 10, but the pass was overthrown and incomplete. Griese then scrambled around on second down before lofting a pass into the end zone that luckily fell incomplete. On third-and-goal, Griese found WR Brian Clark over the middle but he was brought down shy of the goal line. After the Bucs' final timeout, Bryant came on for a 23-yard field goal attempt, but as the clock struck zeros in the first half, the kick was no good.