The Buccaneers slowed Jacksonville's running game in the second half, but the Jaguars got a late touchdown through the air to win it
Jacksonville had a plan, and it worked…with some late revisions.
It was a simple plan the Jaguars brought to Raymond James Stadium on Sunday: Run, run and run some more.
Missing starting QB David Garrard but armed with the type of power running game that occasionally gives the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense fits, the Jaguars handed off again and again. Forty-four carries and 130 rushing yards later, the visiting Jaguars had a 24-23 victory.
However, it took an eight-yard touchdown pass by backup QB Quinn Gray to WR Matt Jones in the fourth quarter to get the win after the Bucs had rallied for a 23-17 lead with 20 unanswered points. Tampa Bay had a chance to set up a final field goal try in the closing seconds, but CB Rashean Mathis broke up a fourth-down pass to WR Ike Hilliard and S Reggie Nelson caught the ensuing deflection for a game-clinching interception.
Gray completed just seven of 16 passes for 100 yards, but he didn't throw an interception and he made a key play in the third quarter when he avoided a safety by picking up a fumble and lunging out of the end zone. The Bucs sacked Gray twice but didn't force him into any mistakes.
"That was the winning edge for them," said Buccaneers Head Coach Jon Gruden. "They came out and ran the ball with success early and that really helped them. Field position was hard to come by in the first half. [Gray] did do some good things. He did, I'm sure, exactly what they wanted him to do."
Buccaneers QB Jeff Garcia had his least impressive statistical day of the season and, according to Gruden, uncharacteristically missed on a few open chances.
"He made some plays," said Gruden. "I'm sure from his perspective he'll agree that there were some plays he normally makes that he didn't make tonight. That's just part of football. It's too bad. We had some opportunities that we let get away from us.
" We just didn't get it done. But our guys are competing their hearts out. I thought we had 10 or 12 big play opportunities to make. I don't think we cashed in on some opportunities we normally do. That's the difference between winning and losing."
The Bucs' earlier rally was necessary after Garcia saw his team-record streak of consecutive passes without an interception end in terrible fashion at 197 throws. Garcia's 198th pass as a Buccaneer ended up in the hands of 14th-year CB Aaron Glenn, who jumped a quick throw down the line to Galloway and returned the interception 28 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. That gave Jacksonville 17-3 lead midway through the second quarter. It was perhaps the key play for the Jaguars, who were outgained in total yardage, 385-219.
Garcia, who would finish with 19 completions in 41 attempts for 267 yards, one touchdown and his first three interceptions, answered the first pick furiously. He immediately marched the Bucs 81 yards on three plays for an answering touchdown. After throwing an 18-yard laser to Galloway on the second play, he found Galloway again on a deep post for a 58-yard score, cutting Jacksonville's lead to 17-10 with 5:45 left in the half.
A 19-yard touchdown run by new Buc RB Michael Bennett in the third quarter and the third of Matt Bryant's three field goals following a deflected punt by WR Maurice Stovall gave the Bucs a six-point lead heading into the final period. That's when Gray, who had completed just three of 10 passes through the first three quarters, rose to the occasion on the game-winning 53-yard field goal drive. He got a big assist from Jones, who made an acrobatic, one-handed reach over CB Phillip Buchanon and just swung his second foot inbounds after the catch.
The Bucs had three more drives after that, but never regained the lead. Twice, Garcia had a receiver open running long down the right sideline – first Galloway, then Hilliard – but both times the pass was a bit too long. The Bucs were also thwarted in their comeback attempt by a 76-yard punt from the Jacksonville 13. The ensuing drive gained 41 yards but fizzled past midfield, just out of field goal range.
Galloway finished the day with a game high 115 yards on six grabs. WR Maurice Stovall, who started in a three-receiver set, caught five passes for 47 yards in place of the injured Michael Clayton. RB Earnest Graham had another effective outing, adding 74 combined rushing and receiving yards and averaging 4.4 yards per carry.
For the second straight game, however, the Bucs failed to secure a single takeaway on defense, losing the turnover battle 2-0. Before the Detroit loss last weekend, the Bucs had a plus-six turnover ratio on the season; they've given away five and taken none in their first back-to-back losses of the campaign.
The Jaguars appeared to get off to a strong start on the opening kickoff, with Scott Starks' return out to the 41-yard line, but a holding call pushed them back to the 17. Jacksonville was clearly determined to run the ball, even handing off on third-and-six on the opening series. Unfortunately for the Bucs, it worked, as RB Maurice Jones-Drew broke a tackle at the line and hit the corner for a 21-yard gain. Gray wasn't called on to throw the ball on the entire drive, as Jones-Drew also got it on third-and-three at midfield and was stopped two yards short by DE Greg Spires. The resulting punt went into the end zone and a holding penalty allowed the Bucs to start at their own 30.
The Bucs got their first big gain on the ground, too, though it was supposed to be a passing play. On third-and-six from the Bucs' 34, Garcia scrambled up and to the right and found a season for a gain of 21. Garcia did the exact same thing on the next play, and his 10-yard scramble gained an extra 15 when Nelson was flagged for unnecessary roughness on Garcia's slide. Garcia was sacked by Rob Meier three plays later and the Bucs had to settle for Bryant's 44-yard field goal try. Bryant made it easily and the Bucs had a 3-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
The Bucs tried a short pop-up on their second kickoff but it backfired when jumbo TE George Wrighster caught it and rambled 29 yards all the way to midfield. The Jaguars still seemed loathe to throw the ball, running on the first three plays again. That led to a fourth-and-inches, which the Jaguars' third back, LaBrandon Toefield, converted by breaking two tackles in the backfield. Garrard didn't throw a pass until the Jaguars' 15th play of the game, and that was merely a dumpoff over the middle to Jones-Drew, who gained 15 yards to the one. Toefield took it in on the next play for a 7-3 Jaguars lead.
The Bucs missed a shot at a big play a few plays later when Bennett ran a "wheel route" on third-and-four and Garcia lobbed a perfect pass over the top of the defense. Unfortunately, Bennett bobbled the ball and couldn't hang on as he was hit. After the punt, the Jaguars finally pulled out the play-action pass and it worked to perfection on Gray's 30-yard strike to TE Greg Estandia. That put the ball at the Bucs' 27 and led to John Carney's 41-yard field goal midway through the second quarter.
Each team scored in the next two minutes, Jacksonville on Glenn's interception and the Bucs on Garcia's deep pass to Galloway. Feeling a surge in momentum, the Bucs' defense forced a quick three-and-out, giving the ball back to Garcia with four minutes to play in the half. Buchanon put the ball in a good spot, too, returning Adam Podlesh's punt 24 yards to the Jacksonville 43. Unfortunately, Meier and DT Marcus Stroud sacked Garcia for a loss of 10 yards on first down and a deep lob to Galloway was broken up at the last instant by Mathis.
The Bucs did get one more crack at it in the first half and this time came away with some points. A 23-yard pass to TE Jerramy Stevens got the Bucs down to Jacksonville's 13, but two incompletions made it third-and-10. Garcia tried to scramble for the first down on the next play but came up less than a yard short. He also suffered a bloody lip on the play after a helmet-to-helmet hit by Nelson. The Bucs settled for Bryant's 22-yard field goal and went into the locker room down by just four points, 17-13.
The Bucs got the ball first to start the second half and promptly marched into Jacksonville territory. Stevens extended for a 22-yard catch on third-and-six, putting the ball at the Jaguars' 37. However, Garcia was hit as he threw on the next play and the errant pass went directly to S Sammy Knight for an easy interception.
Still loathe to go to the air – and unsuccessful when they tried – the Jaguars took the resulting possession into Buccaneer territory by converting a fourth-and-one right at midfield. However, the Jaguars faced another fourth-and-one four plays later and this time CB Ronde Barber fired around the back side of the play and grabbed Toefield from behind for no gain at the Bucs' 40.
The Bucs couldn't do much with the resulting possession but Josh Bidwell pinned the Jaguars at their own four with a 43-yard punt. Tampa Bay's defense rose to the occasion, forcing a three-and-out, though an incredibly heady play by Gray saved the Jaguars from disaster. While executing a play-action fake in the end zone, Gray dropped the ball. Before the Bucs could react, he fell on it, then crawled just out of the end zone to avoid a safety. Still, the resulting punt put the Bucs at Jacksonville's 33 after Galloway's 10-yard return.
The Bucs needed just three plays to take it in from there. After Garcia hit Graham for a 12-yard gain down to the 19, he threw a backward pass down the line to Bennett, who found a seam and raced to the left pylon for the go-ahead touchdown. The Bucs had their first lead, 20-17, with 3:19 left in the third quarter.
Now trailing, and with the Bucs' defense playing much tougher against the run, the Jaguars had to let Gray get involved, and he couldn't move the team…this team. After S Tanard Jackson dropped Toefield at the 11 on the ensuing kickoff, the Bucs' defense allowed no yards on three plays to force a punt. Even better, Stovall got a hand on the kick just as it left Adam Podlesh's foot, and the ball trickled out only to the 30. The Bucs moved the ball only six more yards from there, but that was enough to set up Bryant's third field goal of the day, a 42-yarder that gave the Bucs a six-point lead with five seconds left in the third quarter.
Unfortunately, a good return by Toefield and a late hit by Jackson allowed the Jaguars to start their next drive at midfield. A juggling, toe-tapping catch by WR Ernest Wilford converted a third-and-six from the 22 and put the ball at Tampa Bay's nine; the play withstood a challenge that cost the Buccaneers the first of their three timeouts. Two plays later, Jones made his spinning catch on a fade pass to give the lead back to the Jaguars, 24-23, with 11:37 to play.
The Bucs had a shot on their next drive when Galloway got open down the right sideline, but Garcia put a little too much on the throw and it outdistanced the receiver. Bidwell responded with a 58-yard punt that pushed Jacksonville back to their own 10.
The Bucs' defense rose to the occasion, forcing a three-and-out and a punt from the seven. Unfortunately, Podlesh picked that moment to rip off his 76-yarder, pushing the ball all the way back to the Bucs' 17. The Bucs had eight minutes to work with when the drive started with a 10-yard pass to Galloway. Two plays later, FB B.J. Askew took a swing pass and turned it upfield for a gain of 22 yards to the Jacksonville 47. The Bucs got no further, but Bidwell rolled his next punt down to the three.
The Jaguars got one first down but had to punt after DEs Gaines Adams and Greg White combined on a 10-yard sack. Still, the visitors had bled the clock down to the two-minute warning; it was 1:43 when the Bucs started again at their own 34. They got past midfield but ran into a fourth-and-10 after three incompletions. Garcia found Hilliard over the middle beyond the sticks, but Mathis broke it up at the last second with a hard hit and Nelson dived to catch the rebound for a third interception, ending the game.
The Bucs dropped to 4-4 with the loss and suffered their first home loss of the season. They also remained in second place in the NFC South, a half-game behind the Carolina Panthers, who lost earlier on Sunday to Indianapolis to drop to 4-3. The Bucs stay at home for one more week, taking on the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, November 4.
Game Notes: LB Derrick Brooks and DE Kevin Carter each played in their 200th career NFL game on Sunday. Neither player has missed a single contest since being drafted in the first round in 1995, and they are tied for the most consecutive games played among active players. … DT Ryan Sims played in his first game as a Buccaneer on Sunday. Sims, acquired in an offseason trade from Kansas City, had been deactivated for each of the Bucs' first seven contests. … WR Chad Lucas, recently promoted from the practice squad, also saw his first regular-season action as a Buccaneer. Lucas had previously played in one career game, with the Green Bay Packers in 2005. He finished the game with two kickoff returns for 35 yards. … Rookie FB Byron Storer made his NFL debut, having been signed this past week. Storer played extensively on special teams and had one kick-coverage stop. … Jacksonville leads the all-time series with the Bucs, 3-1, having won the last three … QB Jeff Garcia's team-record streak of 197 passes without an interception covered his first seven games as a Buc and his first eight throws of the eighth game. His own personal streak also included his last 20 passes as a Philadelphia Eagle in 2006, making it a 217-pass streak. … WR Joey Galloway's 58-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter was the 75th TD of his career. … K Matt Bryant's third field of the day, a 42-yarder in the third quarter, was his 50th as a Buccaneer.
Inactives: The Buccaneers declared the following eight players inactive for Sunday's game: CB Brian Kelly, RB Michael Pittman, LB Jeremiah Trotter, DE Patrick Chukwurah, G Dan Buenning, TE Alex Smith, WR Michael Clayton and designated third quarterback Luke McCown. Kelly, Pittman Chukwurah, Clayton and Smith were out due to injuries.
The Jaguars declared the following eight players inactive: QB David Garrard, K Josh Scobee, WR John Broussard, CB Brian Williams, DT Derek Landri, T Richard Collier, G Uche Nwaneri and DT Tony McDaniel. Garrard, Scobee and Williams were out due to injuries.
Injuries: For the Bucs, CB Torrie Cox was helped off the field in the second quarter with a knee injury and did not return. DE Greg Spires sustained an ankle injury in the fourth quarter and did not return.
The Jaguars did not report any injuries during the game.