The Tampa Bay Buccaneers got the fast start they had been trying to produce all season Sunday in Jacksonville. Unfortunately, they couldn't sustain the momentum as a 14-0 lead dissolved into a 28-14 halftime deficit as a result of four turnovers.
The Buccaneers scored a touchdown on their opening possession for the first time in 2011, a one-yard LeGarrette Blount run, and increased their lead to 14-0 on Josh Freeman's 13-yard scoring run early in the second quarter. After that, however, it was all Jacksonville as the Jaguars forced four turnovers, two of them on special teams, and turned them into 21 of their 28 unanswered points.
WR Preston Parker fumbled twice on punt returns, and the second one was returned for a touchdown by TE Colin Coherty early in the second quarter to cut Tampa Bay's lead to 14-7. A Jones-Drew touchdown tied the game after a 62-yard catch by TE Marcedes Lewis, and it appeared as if the score would be tied heading into halftime.
However, two attempts to forge a two-minute drill backfired on the Buccaneers as Freeman turned the ball over twice. The first came when he was sacked near the goal line and fumbled, with Jacksonville recovering in the end zone for another return touchdown. CB Ashton Youboty then picked off a sideline pass a minute later and rookie QB Blaine Gabbert turned that into a five-yard TD pass to Jones-Drew as the first half came to a close.
Freeman, returning from a right shoulder injury that kept him out of last weekend's game, looked sharp early and eventually completed 11 of 20 passes for 130 yards. Blount was also productive in the early going, rushing 11 times for 44 yards, and the Bucs' offense produced 183 yards overall to Jacksonville's 178. However, Ronde Barber's interception was the Bucs' only takeaway of the half, and that discrepancy in turnovers was clearly the difference in the first-half score.
The Buccaneers won the toss and got the ball first, with Josh Scobee sending the opening kickoff deep into the end zone for a touchback. Starting at the 20, Freeman dropped back to pass on first down but fired a bit off target underneath to TE Luke Stocker. After that incompletion, Freeman started to scramble out of trouble on second down and drew a 15-yard facemask penalty on DE Leger Douzable. Blount got four yards up the middle on his first carry, to the 39, then two more on second down to make it third-and-four. Parker ran a pivot route on third down and made a nice catch to pick up 14 yards and a first down at the Jacksonville 45. LB Russell Allen nearly intercepted Freeman's next pass, intended for WR Mike Williams, and a Lumpkin run on a fake end-around to WR Arrelious Benn got four. A false start on T Donald Penn erased a third-down incompletion. A pass over the middle to Lumpkin got 10 yards and left the Bucs in a fourth-and-one at the Jaguars' 36. The Bucs went for it and Freeman faked a handoff to Blount and rolled right. It appeared as if Freeman could easily run for the first down, but instead he threw down the numbers to Winslow, who hauled in a 28-yard catch down to the Jacksonville eight. After a short pass to Benn got seven yards to the one, Blount ran it up the middle for a one-yard score.
Lumpkin made a great open-field tackle on the kickoff that followed to force the Jaguars to start at their own 11, but Jones-Drew got nine yards on first down and then moved the sticks with a two-yard run. Seven more for Jones-Drew followed on the next run but the Jags gave five yards back with an illegal formation. After an incompletion on Gabbert's first throw, the Jaguars faced a third-and-eight and a Bucs blitz forced a quick pass that was well over Lewis' head. However, on the ensuing punt Parker was hit hard by RB Montell Owens, forcing a fumble that CB Morgan Trent recovered for the Jaguars at the Bucs' 38.
The Buccaneers' defense was equal to the challenge, however, forcing a three-and-out and another punt. Jones-Drew's two runs got six yards on but on third-and-four Clayborn sacked Gabbert back at the original line of scrimmage. Gabbert fumbled on the play but the Jags recovered and were able to punt it down to the Bucs' eight.
A three-yard run by Blount and an incompletion made it third-and-seven and an attempted fade-stop down the left sideline to WR Dezmon Briscoe didn't connect. Michael Koenen's punt covered only 35 yards before rolling out of bounds at the Bucs' 46, giving Jacksonville outstanding field position once again.
Gabbert got his first completion of the game to start the next drive, but WR Mike Thomas was stopped for just two yards by S Tanard Jackson. After LB Mason Foster bottled up Jones-Drew on a run right on second down, Gabbert dropped back on third-and-seven and was chased out of the pocket by Clayborn and LB Dekoda Watson. Clayborn tried to throw back across his body to Lewis but it went directly to Barber for his third interceptions of the season. Barber got the ball back to the Bucs' 48 before being tackled from behind by Lewis. Lewis came away from the tackle with the football but it was ruled that Barber was down before the ball came loose.
That gave it back to Tampa Bay at its own 48, and rookie RB Mossis Madu made several sharp cuts on a six-yard run around left end. After Blount powered right for eight yards and a first down at the Jacksonville 38, Freeman threw a screen to FB Erik Lorig, who followed a great downfield block by T Donald Penn and legged it for 22 yards down to the Jacksonville 16. On the last play of the first quarter, Douzable burst right through the line and dropped Blount in the backfield for a loss of four. After the team's switched sides, Freeman hit Parker on a bubble screen for seven yards and then scrambled up the middle on third-and-seven for a 13-yard touchdown. That increased the Bucs' lead to 14-0 a minute into the second quarter.
Koenen's kickoff that followed actually sailed all the way into the stands for a touchback, and a first-down pass along the right sideline to WR Cecil Shorts was caught out of bounds. Jones-Drew got up the middle for seven yards on second down but DE Michael Bennett knifed through the line on third down to drop the back for a loss of three. That fortunately made it fourth-and-six, because an encroachment penalty cost the Bucs five yards before the punt. The Jaguars still had to punt, and Parker was corralled at the Tampa Bay 33.
With a 14-point lead, the Bucs happily kept the ball on the ground to start the next drive and Blount picked up four and eight yards on two totes for a first down at the 45. Freeman tried to scramble on the next play but was caught short of the line for a two-yard sack by DT Tyson Alualu. A screen pass to Blount worked for six yards, though G Jeremy Zuttah had to fall on Blount's fumble at the end of the play to maintain possession. However, the Bucs had to punt it away moments later when Freeman had the pocket collapse on him as he threw incomplete in Winslow's direction. Koenen's 51-yard punt bounced into the end zone for a touchback.
Jones-Drew nearly broke free on first down but S Sean Jones caught him from behind to limit it to a 13-yard gain. LB Geno Hayes stopped the Jaguar back for no gain on the next play, and Gabbert's attempted pass on third-and-three two plays later was batted into the air by DE Da'Quan Bowers. That forced another Jacksonville punt, but it went badly for the Buccaneers. Parker fielded the ball despite having two Jaguars bearing down on him, and Owens once again forced a fumble. This one flew high into the air and backwards, and it was easily recovered and returned eight yards for a touchdown by Coherty.
After a touchback, the Bucs started again at their own 20 and Blount bashed up the middle for nine yards on first down. His two-yard carry then moved the chains and Freeman fired a 16-yard dart to Williams on play-action on first down. That put the ball at midfield and Blount carried it into Jacksonville territory with a seven-yard tote up the middle. Williams nearly pulled in a one-handed catch on a deep shot on second down but the drive ended when Freeman was flagged for intentional grounding on third down after escaping what appeared to be a sure sack. The Bucs ended up punting from their own 45 and a short kick was fair caught at the Jacksonville 23. Short passes to Kassim Osgood and Jarrett Dillard picked up a first down at the 36 as the first-half clock ticked down to three minutes. On the next play, Gabbert stood in as pressure closed in and found TE Marcedes Lewis deep over the middle for a gain of 62 to the Bucs' two. A 12-men-on-the-field penalty moved it a yard closer and Jones-Drew found a seam to the right to pound it in for the game-tying score.
A touchback and a holding penalty on Parker pushed the Bucs back to their 11 as the two-minute warning arrived. Disaster struck after the break as Freeman was sacked near the goal line by LB Daryl Smith. Before he hit the ground, Freeman had the ball inadvertently knocked from his grasp by Penn, and DT Nate Collins recovered it in the end zone for Jacksonville's third touchdown.
After another touchback, Freeman zipped a ball past a covering linebacker into Winslow's hands for 10 yards, then hit Briscoe for six more. The Bucs called a timeout with 1:13 left and the ball at their own 36. After a scrambling incompletion, Freeman tried another fade-stop in Williams' direction but the pass was intercepted along the sideline by Youboty.
That gave the ball back to Jacksonville at midfield with a minute remaining. Gabbert completed one short pass and was nearly intercepted by CB Elbert Mack on second down. The Bucs blitzed on third down but that made it easy for Gabbert to dump it off to Jones-Drew, who picked up a first down with eight yards to the 34. A holding penalty erased a successful draw play and moved the ball back to the 44. Gabbert quickly got 12 back with a deep out to Osgood and Brock Bolen gained a first down with a 10-yard run. The Jags used their first timeout with 29 seconds left and the ball at the Bucs' 22. After an 11-yard catch by WR Chastin West, an incompletion and a dumpoff to Jones-Drew made it third-and-four at the five and the Jags used another timeout with 11 seconds left. Gabbert threw to Jones-Drew near the goal line and though the Bucs stood him up he was able to twist around and make contact with the pylon for a touchdown.