Rookie RB Clifton Smith's 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was the longest such play in team history
After falling behind 14-0 and then 21-3 in the first half in Kansas City, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers needed a spark.
That jolt came in the form of diminutive rookie running back Clifton Smith, whose 97-yard kickoff return in the second quarter helped the Bucs' trim Kansas City's lead to 24-13 heading into the halftime break.
The Chiefs jumped out to a quick lead on the opening possession of the game, driving 69 yards in 12 plays on a march capped by WR Dwayne Bowe's seven-yard touchdown grab. On the drive, QB Tyler Thigpen hit TE Tony Gonzalez twice for a total of 27 yards and RB Kolby Smith pitched in with 25 yards on five carries.
An Earnest Graham fumble on the Bucs' very first play from scrimmage was recovered by the Chiefs in Tampa Bay territory. Seven plays and 41 yards later, RB Kolby Smith's leap over the pile from two yards out extended the Chiefs lead, as the extra point made it 14-0 in favor of the Chiefs.
The Bucs got on the board early in the second quarter as a 13-play, 68-yard drive was capped by a 25-yard field goal by K Matt Bryant. The Bucs faced a third-and-two situation deep in Kansas City territory, but a toss to RB Michael Bennett was sniffed out by the Chiefs defense for a two-yard loss, forcing the Bucs to try for three points.
A bit of trickery by the Chiefs extended their lead on the next drive, as a direct snap to RB Jamaal Charles took a direct snap, lateraled to WR Mark Bradley, who nearly fumbled before throwing a deep pass to a wide-open Thigpen for a 37-yard score. After the extra point, the Chiefs led 21-3.
The Chiefs tacked on another three points late in the half on a 39-yard Connor Barth field goal. Thigpen connected on a deep strike to Bradley for 56 yards on the first play of the drive that set the Chiefs up deep in Tampa Bay territory. The Bucs' defense held firm from there, allowing just the three points.
Smith quickly answered, however, returning the ensuing kickoff 97 yards for the franchise's second-ever kickoff return for a touchdown. Smith fielded the kick and headed forward, cut to the left and outran the Chiefs coverage unit down the sideline for the score. Bryant's extra point cut the Chiefs' lead to 24-10 with just 2:01 to go till the half.
The Bucs were able to cut into the lead a bit more as the final seconds of the half ticked off the clock. Garcia led the team on a hurry-up drive that picked up 55 yards in seven plays and culminated in Bryant's 43-yard field goal as time expired in the first half. The teams headed into the break with Kansas City leading 24-13.
In the half, the Chiefs outgained the Bucs 260 to 143 in total yards. Thigpen was nine-of-17 in the half for 125 yards and a score, and also caught a 37-yard touchdown. Smith's return proved to be the Bucs' only touchdown of the half, while Garcia went 10-of-16 for 110 yards and an interception, Graham led the Bucs in rushing with 32 yards on nine carries and Bryant paced the team in receiving with four catches for 50 yards.
- The Bucs won the coin toss and deferred, so the Chiefs elected to receive the opening kickoff. RB Dantrell Savage fielded K Matt Bryant's short kick and returned it to the Chiefs' 30-yard line. On the first play of the game, QB Tyler Thigpen faked a handoff and looked to throw, but was flushed from the pocket and brought down by LB Barrett Ruud for a short loss. On second down, Thigpen found TE Tony Gonzalez for 11 yards, moving the chains. RB Kolby Smith then took a first-down pitch and found a hole for 11 yards and another first down. Smith was stopped on the next play by LB Cato June after a gain of one. On second down, Smith dashed up the middle for eight yards, setting up third-and-one. On the play, Thigpen executed a nice bootleg fake, rushing to the right for a gain of five yards and another Chiefs first down. Now at the Bucs' 33-yard line, Smith danced his way to a gain of four on a run to the right, then picked up another yard on a second down run up the middle. Facing third-and-five at the Bucs' 28, Thigpen hit Gonzalez again, this time for 16 yards as the Chiefs moved into the red zone at the Bucs' 12. RB Jamaal Charles then took a handoff left and picked up five. On second down, Thigpen faked a handoff and was unable to find an open receiver, scrambling left before throwing the ball away. Facing third-and-five at the seven, Thigpen hit WR Dwayne Bowe on a quick slant for a touchdown. K Connor Barth's extra point made it 7-0 in favor of the Chiefs. * RB Clifton Smith fielded the ensuing kickoff and sprinted forward to the Bucs' 35-yard line for a 28-yard return. On the Bucs first play, RB Earnest Graham was stripped of the football by DT Tank Tyler and DE Turk McBride recovered for the Chiefs, setting the Kansas City offense up at the Bucs' 41. * On first down, Thigpen hit TE Brad Cottam on a pass to the right flat that picked up eight yards. DE Gaines Adams jumped offside before the second down play, giving the Chiefs five free yards and a first down. Now at the Bucs' 27, Thigpen connected with Gonzalez over the middle for 15 yards and another first down at the 12-yard line. Smith then darted ahead on a run to the left for a pickup of four, then took a carry on second down up the middle for five more yards. On third-and-one at the Bucs' three-yard line, Thigpen rolled right and looked for Gonzalez, but the pass was behind the tight end and fell incomplete. However, a defensive holding penalty on the Bucs gave the Chiefs a fresh set of downs at the two-yard line. On first-and-goal, Thigpen tried yet another play action pass to Gonzalez over the middle, but the pass was overthrown out the back of the end zone. On second down, Smith leapt over the pile for a score, and the extra point extended the Chiefs lead to 14-0. * Smith returned Barth's kickoff to the 25-yard line, where the Bucs' offense took over. Graham took a pitch on first down and picked up two yards, then ran up the middle on second down for another six yards. Facing third-and-two, Graham took another pitch to the right and picked up three, moving the sticks for a first down. QB Jeff Garcia then dumped a short play action pass to TE John Gilmore that picked up four yards. On second down, Garcia hit Gilmore again, this time for 12 yards and another first down as the Bucs moved into Kansas City territory at the 48. Graham picked up two yards on a first down carry, but was unable to make a tough grab over the middle on a short pass from Garcia on second down. On third-and-eight, Garcia moved to his right before firing a strike to WR Michael Clayton that picked up 12 yards and moved the chains once again. With the ball now at the Chiefs' 34, WR Antonio Bryant made one of the most amazing grabs of the year down the left sideline, snagging a pass with one hand over the head of a Chiefs defender. The play picked up 21 yards and set the Bucs up with first-and-10 at the Chiefs' 13 as the first quarter came to a close. After the break, Graham picked up five yards on a pitch to the left, then plowed up the middle on second down for another three yards. Facing third-and-two at the Chiefs' five-yard line, Garcia tossed to RB Michael Bennett on a run to the left, but the run was stopped for a loss of two. Bryant came on to attempt a 25-yard field goal, and the kick sailed through the uprights to make it 14-3 in favor of the Chiefs. * Savage fielded Bryant's kickoff and returned it to the Chiefs' 28. Charles took a handoff on first down and picked up six yards up the middle. Thigpen then hit WR Mark Bradley on a quick pass to the left that went for a gain of three, setting up third-and-one at the 37. On the play, Charles took a direct snap and burst up the middle for 16 yards and a first down into Tampa Bay territory. Charles then picked up another nice gain up the middle, slicing ahead for 10 more yards and another first down. With the ball now at the Bucs' 37, the Chiefs took their first timeout of the half. The Chiefs must have used the break to cook up their next play, as a direct snap to Charles was lateraled to Bradley, who then threw to a wide-open Thigpen for a 37-yard touchdown. The extra point made it 21-3 Chiefs with just over 10 minutes left in the half. * Smith got a nice return on the ensuing kickoff, picking up 36 yards all the way to the Bucs' 40-yard line. On first down, TE Jerramy Stevens was unable to corral a Garcia pass near the left sideline as the pass was incomplete. Graham took a carry up the middle on second down and picked up three, setting up third-and-seven. On the play, Garcia threaded a nice pass to Bryant, who then ran ahead after catch for a gain of 17 and a first down to the Chiefs' 40. Graham then picked up five on a carry up the gut. On second down, Garcia overthrew his intended target and was easily intercepted by CB Brandon Carr, who returned the pick 35 yards to the Chiefs' 42-yard line. * Smith took a carry on first down and picked up five yards before being walloped by S Will Allen. Smith suffered a knee injury on the play and rode off the field on the back of a cart. After the pause in the action, Charles took another direct snap and picked up two. Facing third-and-three, Thigpen was hit by DE Greg White as he threw but was able to hit Gonzalez for first-down yardage. However, the ball sprung loose from Gonzalez's grasp as he fell to the ground and was recovered by S Tanard Jackson at the Bucs' 46. Kansas City challenged the ruling, however, saying that Gonzalez was down before the ball came free. The video official agreed, overturning the ruling and giving the Chiefs the ball back with a fresh set of downs. On first down at the Bucs' 46, Thigpen was forced from the pocket and scrambled out of bounds to the right for a gain of one. CB Phillip Buchanon very nearly intercepted a Thigpen pass intended for Bowe on second down, setting up third-and-nine at the Bucs' 45. On the play, Thigpen lofted a pass deep down the left sideline, but CB Aqib Talib had excellent position and knocked the pass away incomplete. P Steve Weatherford entered the game for the first time and had his punt bounce through the end zone for a touchback. * Taking over possession with 5:27 to go in the half, Bennett took a carry up the middle for three yards on first down. Garcia then fired a quick pass to Bryant that picked up four, setting up third-and-three at the Bucs' 27. On the play, Garcia looked for Clayton over the middle but had the pass bounce away incomplete, bringing P Josh Bidwell into the game. Bidwell's booming 50-yard punt was fielded by Savage and returned to the Kansas City 32. * On first down, Thigpen lofted a perfect pass deep down the right side of the field and hit Bradley in stride for a gain of 56, all the way to the Bucs' 12. Thigpen then looked to the end zone for Gonzalez, but he was well-covered and the pass sailed incomplete. On second down, Charles bounced a carry to the left for a gain of five, but a holding penalty nullified the gain and backed the Chiefs up 10 yards. On second-and-20 at the 22, Thigpen was flushed from the pocket up the middle and slid down after a gain of one. The Bucs then burned their first timeout of the half with 2:24 to go. On third-and-19, Thigpen scrambled right and looked to the end zone for Gonzalez, but the pass bounced off his hands under tight coverage and fell incomplete. Barth came on to attempt a 39-yard field goal and the kick was good, making it 24-3 Chiefs. * Rookie RB Clifton Smith answered for the Bucs, however, notching the club's second-ever kickoff return for a touchdown. Smith fielded the kick, made one cut to his left and broke one final tackle down the sideline on his way to the 97-yard touchdown return. Bryant's extra point cut the Chiefs' lead to 24-10. * Savage returned a short kickoff from Bryant to the Chiefs' 36 as the clock ticked down to the two-minute warning. Charles took a handoff up the middle on first down for six yards, but a 15-yard facemask penalty on LB Barrett Ruud tacked on some free yardage as the Chiefs moved up to the Bucs' 43-yard line. Thigpen then fired a pass intended for WR Will Franklin to the left that S Sabby Piscitelli broke up and nearly picked off. On second down, Thigpen hit Bradley on a short route to the right that picked up six. The Chiefs went into the hurry-up offense and Thigpen threw a pass for Bowe that hit him right in the hands, but fell incomplete. Weatherford's second punt of the day sailed into the end zone for a touchback with 1:08 left in the half. * On first down, Garcia dumped a screen pass to Graham that was immediately stuffed by DT Glenn Dorsey for a loss of one. A Kansas City player was injured on the play, so the Chiefs were forced to use their second timeout of the half. On second-and-11 at the 19, Garcia misfired a short pass in the left flat for Stevens, setting up third-and-11 with 46 seconds left. On the play, Garcia was forced to check down to Graham in the flat, but his pass fell incomplete. However, a roughing the passer penalty on the Chiefs gave the Bucs 15 yards and kept the drive alive. Garcia then found a wide-open WR Joey Galloway for a gain of 22, and the Bucs burned their second timeout of the half with the ball at the Chiefs' 44 and 33 seconds left in the half. As the Bucs lined up for the ensuing first down play, the Chiefs used their final timeout. After the break, Garcia hit Bryant on a quick slant route that picked up eight, but then fired incomplete to Galloway on second down. Facing third-and-two at the 36, Garcia hit Graham with the rush closing in on a play that picked up 11. The Bucs then used their last timeout of the half with just four seconds left and the ball at the Kansas City 25. Bryant came on for a 43-yard try that was good, making it 24-13 as the teams headed to the locker rooms for halftime.