Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Missed Opportunities Clip Bucs' Win Streak

After a strong first half in Indianapolis, the Bucs struggled to move the ball after halftime as Indianapolis scored the last 19 points in a 25-12 Colts victory.

Photos from Buccaneers vs. Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers missed a chance to significantly improve their postseason position on Sunday in a hard-fought, 25-12 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. The Buccaneers might have won their third in a row and moved above .500 for the first time if not for a series of smaller lost opportunities.

Tampa Bay drove to the Colts 20-yard line or closer on each of their first three drives of the game but came away with just 12 points and a six-point lead at halftime. The Bucs had a 224-148 edge in total yardage at the intermission and the first possession of the second half, but the Colts' defense took charge after the break. Tampa Bay gained just 120 yards and converted one of six third-down tries in the second half.

"We've just to come out with urgency," said rookie QB Jameis Winston. "The first half went good. We came out kind of flat and that's on me. I've got to get us going."

Winston completed 20 of 36 passes for 245 yards and one touchdown, that one a 20-yard dart to TE Cameron Brate that gave the Bucs a 12-6 lead late in the second quarter. He was intercepted once, though it was on a desperation pass in the game's closing minutes. Winston also ran three times for 27 yards but was sacked a season-high five times.

"They were rushing good but I can't hold the ball for five seconds," said Winston. "I've got to progress through my reads faster and help the offensive line out a little bit."

The Buccaneers were also unable to take advantage of a clear edge in the running game. The Buccaneers gained 132 yards on 21 carries (6.3 avg.) while the Tampa Bay defense held Indianapolis to 27 yards on 26 carries. At halftime, the passing yardage was nearly identical but the visitors had 94 rushing yards to 13 for the home team.  Doug Martin led the way with 97 yards on 14 carries, including a 56-yard dash that set up Brate's score. However, he handled the ball just twice in the second half as the Bucs struggled to sustain any drives.

"Doug is going to do what he does every game," said Winston. "It's up to me to come through and manage through, and today I didn't put us in a situation to get the win."

Tampa Bay's defense got several early stops deep in Buccaneer territory but couldn't take advantage of its strong rush defense with enough third-down stops. Behind 40-year-old quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, playing in place of the injured Andrew Luck, the Colts converted seven of 16 third-down tries. Hasselbeck, who is now 4-0 as a starter this season, completed 26 of 42 passes for 315 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

"We knew he was a good quarterback," said S Chris Conte. "He'd won three games for them and was playing really well. He's been a great quarterback in this league. He knows this defense very well, he's a smart guy and he's going to be smart with the football, and that's what he did."

A couple missed opportunities in the kicking game hurt as well, as Connor Barth missed the extra point after Brate's touchdown and also misfired from 54 yards in the third quarter. That was the first missed PAT of Barth's NFL career.

In addition, Tampa Bay's defense lost its only shot at a takeaway on the day thanks to an ill-timed flag, one of 12 penalties for 95 yards the Bucs absorbed on the day. One, a "leaping" call on Conte on a late field goal attempt, allowed the Colts to tack on their second touchdown of the day with six minutes to play. The lost takeaway was a Jacquies Smith fumble recovery in Indianapolis territory that nearly gave the Bucs a first down in the red zone, down by one score in the fourth quarter. Instead, offsetting penalties kept the Colts' final scoring drive alive.

"We just let them complete some pass plays there and they just were playing better on offense than we were playing on defense," said Conte. "Their defense out-played us and we gave up too many plays in the passing game."

The Bucs saw their two-game winning streak snapped and dropped to 6-5 on the season. The loss evened their road record at 3-3. The Bucs return home next weekend to play the Atlanta Falcons, who also lost on Sunday to fall to 6-5. Tampa Bay players were disappointed in the visitors' locker room but not ready to give up on their postseason hopes.

"The good thing is, we've been here before," said Winston. "We bounced back. We've got a division game in Tampa so that's going to be important for us. We've got to get that win and hopefully get this journey going to the playoffs."

Added Conte: "Just take it as one loss and get over it. We realize that we can attain our goal of getting to the playoffs. We just have to come back and beat Atlanta. We can't let this linger. We just have to treat it as one game and move on and get ready for the next game."

The Colts scored on the game's opening possession, overcoming a pair of tipped passes and a Gerald McCoy sack to drive 52 yards for an Adam Vinatieri 49-yard field goal. Tampa Bay also got a field goal off its first possession, with an impressive 15-yard catch on third down in Indy territory by Vincent Jackson the key play on a 60-yard march. Barth tied the game with a 38-yard field goal with less than three minutes left in the opening quarter.

The Colts followed with another extended drive, this one covering 76 yards on 11 plays and ending in Vinatieri's 27-yard field goal. T.Y. Hilton's 29-yard catch-and-run got the ball into the red zone but Tampa Bay's defense held after the Colts got a first-and-goal at the five. Continuing the trend, the Bucs matched that with a 15-play, 68-yard drive that included several scrambling third-down completions by Winston. The last was an 11-yarder down to the three by TE Cameron Brate, but the Bucs couldn't push it over the goal line after a three-yard Martin score was negated by a holding call. Barth tied the game again with a 30-yard field goal.

Tampa Bay then broke the trend with a five-play 76-yard drive built largely on a 56-yard breakaway by Martin. Winston completed the march with a laser of a seam route to Brate for a 20-yard touchdown just past the two-minute warning.

Indianapolis cut the lead back to three points on their first drive of the second half, a 56-yard journey that ended in Vinatieri's 26-yard field goal. Hilton's 31-yard catch got the ball into Buccaneer territory but a Howard Jones sack on third down from the seven kept the Colts out of the end zone again. Indy found pay dirt on their next drive, however, driving 46 yards for a touchdown and scoring on Hilton's 19-yard catch. That gave the Colts their first lead of the game at the midway point of the third quarter. They improved it to seven points on a Vinatieri 44-yard field goal shortly before the end of the third quarter.

The Colts made it a two-score game with six minutes to play on Hasselbeck's three-yard touchdown pass to Hilton. The drive included a lost fumble, recovered by Bucs DE Jacquies Smith, that was negated by offsetting penalties. Vinatieri lined up for his fifth field goal of the game after the Bucs' initially held at the 12-yard line, but S Chris Conte leaped directly over the line on the kick and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. The Bucs also challenged what they believed was a fumble by Gore on the next play, but it was upheld. Vinatieri missed the extra point but the Colts still had a two-score lead.

**

Additional notes and in-game details:

  • On his fifth carry of the game, RB Doug Martin advanced a spot up the Buccaneers' all-time rushing yardage list, passing Michael Pittman (3,362) and moving into the top five. Martin finished with 97 yards on 14 carries, giving him 3,442 in his four-year career. He has an excellent chance to pass Cadillac Williams (3,677) and move into fourth place before season's end.
  • Later, on his 12th carry, Martin broke free for 56 yards and pushed his 2015 rushing yardage total over 1,000. He has 1,046 yards through the campaign's first 11 games. Martin joins James Wilder, Errict Rhett and Warrick Dunn (all with two) as the only players in team history with multiple 1,000-yard seasons. Martin ran for 1,454 yards as a rookie in 2012.

Game play:

DE William Gholston made a leaping break-up of Hasselbeck's pass on the game's first play, but TE Dwayne Allen got open in the middle of the field for an 11-yard gain on the next snap. A neutral-zone infraction on DE Jacquies Smith helped put the Colts into a short third down and Hasselbeck moved the chains again with a seven-yard strike over the middle to Hilton. After S Bradley McDougald tripped up Gore for a loss of one two plays later, Hasselbeck faced a third-and-seven and converted it again with a nine-yard out to Donte Moncrief on the left sideline. McCoy's sack on the next play cost the Colts four yards but he gave five back with a neutral-zone infraction. On a long third-and-one from the Bucs' 36, the Colts gave it to Gore up the middle and he got five. Hasselbeck's next two passes went through his targets' hands, and on third-and-10 Alterraun Verner pressured the quarterback and David tipped his pass away to force Indy into a field goal attempt. Adam Vinatieri drilled his 49-yarder true for the game's first points.

The Bucs ran Martin right up the middle on their first play and got great push from the front line on a six-yard gain. Another seven-yard carry on the next snap moved the chains, and two plays later Winston completed his first pass over the middle to Evans for a gain of 16 right to the midfield stripe. Three snaps after that, Jackson made a dazzling toe-tapping grab of a 15-yard pass on the sideline to convert a third-and-11. After the Bucs gained another first down at Indy's 24, two Martin runs made it third-and-six. Evans got a step on CB Vontae Davis on an up route but Winston's throw was a little too deep to connect. Barth tied the game with a 38-yard field goal.

LB Josh Keyes stopped Quan Bray at the Colts' 15 on the ensuing kickoff, but a long-developing pass over the middle to Andre Johnson gave the home team breathing room. The Colts also escaped a third-and-nine with a 16-yard pass-interference call on S Bradley McDougald to put the ball at the Bucs' 45, and then got it into the red zone on a 29-yard catch-and-run by Hilton. That brought the first quarter to an end, and a Moncrief slant two plays into the second quarter made it first-and-goal at the five. A great open-field tackle by CB Jude Adjei-Barimah on RB Ahmad Bradshaw and Jacquies Smith's second-down pressure made it third-and-goal at the nine and Hasselbeck's attempted fade to Hilton wasn't close to being complete. Vinatieri's 27-yard field goal gave the lead back to the Colts.

The Bucs quickly faced a third-and-seven on the next drive but Winston kept it alive with an impressive scrambling throw to Jackson for 20 yards. Three plays later, on third-and-four, Winston rolled right by design and threw on the run to Evans for 17 yards to the Colts' 34. After a Bucs timeout, Winston once again bought time with a scramble and hit Jackson on the sideline for a gain of 20 to get back into the red zone. However, a false start helped put the Bucs in a third-and-10 from the 14. TE Cameron Brate made a fabulous catch just past the sticks to make it first-and-goal at the three. A touchdown run by Martin two plays later was erased by a holding call on Kevin Pamphile and it was soon third-and-goal from the 12. Winston was forced to scramble and this time he couldn't quite get his pass to the intended target, Adam Humphries. Barth tied the game back up with a 30-yard field goal.

Tampa Bay's defense forced the game's first punt thanks to LB Kwon Alexander's third-down break-up of a pass intended for Allen. The Bucs got an offensive pass-interference call to start the next drive, backing them up to their own 14, but Martin then broke free for a 56-yard carry down to the Colts' 30. Winston hit Evans on a sharp out three plays later to convert a third-and-four and make it first down at the 20 as the two-minute warning arrived. Indianapolis challenged the ruling but it was upheld. On the very next play, Winston hit Brate on a seam route and the young tight end bounced off two would-be tacklers to walk into the end zone upright. Barth surprisingly missed the extra point, so the Bucs had a 12-6 lead with a little less than two minutes to play in the half.

Hasselbeck got the Colts across the midfield in the closing seconds of the half but a holding call on rookie T Denzell Good and a sack by DT Akeem Spence caused the drive to run out of time at midfield.

The Bucs got the ball first to start the second half but a holding call on Jackson on the first play created a hole from which they couldn't dig out. Jacob Schum's first punt of the game was fair caught at the Colts' 36. Hasselbeck hit Hilton for 31 yards on the next play, getting the ball into Bucs' territory, and a perfect 16-yard wheel-route pass to Moncrief converted a third-and-four from the 27. On third-and-six from the seven, Hasselbeck tried to scramble forward and was dropped at the eight for a one-yard sack by Jones. The Colts reaped another Vinatieri field goal out of it, making it 12-9 five minutes into the second half.

A 10-yard sack by Erik Walden made short work of the Bucs' next drive and they had to punt again from their own 12. Quan Bray got the ball right back into Tampa Bay territory with a 20-yard return. Two plays later, Moncrief got wide open down the sideline and Hasselbeck for a gain of 31 to the Bucs' 19. Hasselbeck's next throw was a 19-yard touchdown pass in the back right of the end zone to Hilton, giving the home team a 16-12 lead.

Two Winston-Evans hookups created a pair of first downs and got the ball to the Bucs' 47. A well-timed spin move helped Winston escape a sack in the backfield two plays later and run for a first down at the Colts' 40. The Bucs faced a third-and-six at the 36 and Evans just missed hauling in a deep pass near the goal line. Barth came on to try a 54-yard field goal and missed it to the left, and an unsportsmanlike conduct flag on Logan Mankins added 15 yards in Indy's favor and put the Colts right back into Tampa Bay territory.

The Colts got just one first down from there but moved the ball down to the Bucs' 26 to set up Vinatieri's 44-yard field goal, pushing the Colts' lead to seven points.

Jackson's 21-yard catch of a pass in traffic got the next drive started in good fashion, but after the teams switched sides for the fourth quarter Winston absorbed consecutive sacks and the Bucs had to punt.

On the ensuing drive, a potential game-changing play was erased when DE Jacquies Smith's fumble recovery was negated by offsetting penalties. Hasselbeck converted a third-and-10 with a 13-yard completion to Moncrief, and another third-and-six in Bucs territory thanks to Moncrief's impressive toe tap on the left sideline. The defense held at the 12-yard line but Chris Conte was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct when he leaped over the snapper on Vinatieri's successful field goal attempt. That gave the Colts a new set of downs at the Bucs' six. Gore got half of that on a first-down carry but the Bucs threw the red flag to review whether or not Gore fumbled. The call was upheld and Hasselbeck threw a shallow out to Hilton for the touchdown on the next play.

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