The Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Cleveland Browns, 26-23, on Sunday on Chandler Catanzaro's 59-yard field goal eight minutes into overtime. It's a testament to how bizarre the game was that Catanzaro's kick – the second-longest in franchise history and the longest ever in overtime – was only just barely the wildest thing that happened Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.
"Absolutely crazy," said Buccaneers Head Coach Dirk Koetter in the aftermath of a game that featured five possessions and two turnovers in overtime alone. "To have two possessions from your minus-one…having a safety, having a missed extra point, being minus-three in turnovers…a lot of weird stuff."
It's not every day, for instance, that a kicker will miss a 40-yarder at the end of regulation that could have won it and then have a chance from nearly 20 yards farther out and drill it in a do-or-die situation. That's what happened, though, as Catanzaro just pushed his 40-yard try right of the upright as time expired in the fourth quarter. He then won the game with a kick that has been exceeded in franchise history only by Matt Bryant's 62-yard game-winner against Philadelphia in 2006.
Catanzaro said he told himself to just "trust it" before the final kick.
"The team had been putting me in a great position all day long," he said. "I was so upset, because I just wanted to end it right there. The guys deserved to win it right there. That's a 40-yarder, I should make that every time. But it's weird how kicking works sometimes. Sometimes it doesn't go between the two poles. I just wanted to bounce back and make the next one, so I'm glad I did."
The Buccaneers bounced back from a three-game losing skid and evened their 2018 record at 3-3, including a 2-1 mark at home. It was their first overtime win since a 23-20 victory at Atlanta on Nov. 1, 2015. The Carolina Panthers notched a comeback win over Philadelphia on Sunday to improve to 4-2 while the Saints were playing a late-afternoon game at Baltimore, attempting to move to 5-1.
Catanzaro's 59-yard was necessary after the Buccaneers got a first down at the Cleveland 36 with three minutes left only to have QB Jameis Winston take sacks on consecutive plays, pushing the ball back across midfield. Winston then connected with DeSean Jackson on a precise 14-yard out that got Catanzaro close enough to win it. After Jackson went out of bounds at the Browns' 41, Koetter didn't hesitate to send his field goal unit out instead of the punting crew. A punt likely would have led to a tie; a field goal miss would have given Cleveland great field position for a game-winner of their own. Koetter played for the win anyway, emboldened by seeing Catanzaro hit a 61-yarder in practice earlier in the week.
"Chandler had a rough day earlier," said Koetter. "With the timing, going into the 10-minute overtime, that's the first time we've played in it since then, and we weren't going to get the ball back. So if we didn't make that one, we weren't getting it back. You can go for the win or hope you tie. The way that game was going, we were going for the win. But I knew he could make it if he hit it."
The Buccaneers got one last shot to set up a winning kick thanks to another special teams play. TE Antony Auclair forced a fumble by Browns return man Jabrill Peppers and S Isaiah Johnson recovered at midfield. Remarkably, that was Tampa Bay's first takeaway since the first quarter of their Week Three game against Pittsburgh. In between, their opponents had forced 13 straight giveaways, including four on Sunday, capped by a Jamie Collins interception in overtime that appeared to be a back-breaker.
"We put our defense in a lot of bad spots," said Koetter. "If you're only going to get one turnover all day, that was a good one to get."
In contrast, the Bucs' defense consistently put the team in good position to win, and that was a significant change from the first five games of the season. The Buccaneers came into the game ranked 31st in yards allowed and 32nd in points allowed per game but held Cleveland to 126 net yards through the first three quarters. The Browns didn't have a drive longer than 26 yards until the fourth period, in which rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield suddenly engineered two lengthy drives to lead to the tie. After that fourth-quarter lull, the Bucs' defense stormed back in overtime to force two three-and-outs, including one in their own territory after the Collins interception.
All of this came with both Curry and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy up front and with LB Kwon Alexander suffering a knee injury late in a first half in which he had been all over the field, making seven tackles and a pass defensed. Even with the two long fourth-quarter drives and a pair of overtime possessions, the Browns only barely cracked 300 yards (305) and had just 186 net passing yards.
"Our defense played their tails off today," said Koetter. "Really, this day is about our defense, the job they did on third down, getting five sacks and overcoming the loss of Kwon at halftime. I'm very proud of the defense. If we can ever put four quarters together on both sides we'll be tough to beat. Today, we got a win that's hard to get when you're minus-three in turnovers."
Tampa Bay's defense recorded a season-high five sacks against Mayfield, including two by DE Carl Nassib, who was starting in place of the injured Vinny Curry. Nassib came to the Buccaneers as a waiver claim after he was cut by Cleveland at the end of the preseason.
"Carl Nassib had a big game," said Koetter. "At one time they tried to sneak the back out and he had to cover him. That's got to be very cool for Carl, having come from Cleveland. He fits in good with our team. It's always cool to see a guy play like that against his former team."
Nassib downplayed the revenge factor a little bit but did want to spread praise around to the entire defense, which had a four-down goal-line stop in the fourth quarter and another fourth-down stop just before halftime that prevented a score when Lavonte David forced a fumble by Mayfield. Most notably, the Buccaneers got off the field on third down consistently, allowing only three conversions in 14 tries by the Browns.
"Every win is different, but this one felt good," said Nassib. "We were just trying to do our best every single play. A lot of people stepped up in a lot of situations. I couldn't be more proud of my team."
Tampa Bay's offense was a bit error prone and hit a lull in the second half but still rang up 456 yards and a team-record 34 first downs. The Buccaneers converted on six of 13 third downs and, notably, scored touchdowns on all three of their red zone incursions, which had been an issue in recent weeks. Winston threw 52 times, netting 32 completions for 365 yards. He didn't threw a touchdown pass but he did run one in from 14 yards out in the second quarter. The Buccaneers also got a rushing touchdown from Jackson on an end-around another one from rookie Ronald Jones in the fourth quarter. Tampa Bay got 114 yards on the ground, though 55 of that was provided by Winston himself, a career high.
"They were playing a lot of two-man today," Koetter explained. "One thing about two-man is that the quarterback is not accounted for. Jameis was also our leading rusher today and he made some big plays with his feet. I don't have any problem with the way Jameis scrambled today. He made some really big plays. He started off extremely fast; Jameis started off on fire."
In addition to Catanzaro's miss at the end of regulation, the Buccaneers had several other miscues and bits of misfortune on special teams, which kept them from pulling away in the first half. Browns punter Britton Colquitt had a masterful game, averaging 51.7 yards on nine punts and getting two of his kicks to roll down inside the Bucs' one-yard line. The first of those led to a safety on the Bucs' opening possession when Barber was dropped in the end zone by DT Trevon Coley. Catanzaro also missed an extra point try for the second week in a row, which figured into the late-game math. Cleveland's game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter was set up by Jabrill Peppers' 33-yard punt return.
The Bucs did some good things on special teams, as well, including a 38-yard Catanzaro field goal to start the game. The Bucs' kicker also hit five of his seven kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks, and Humphries had two 13-yard punt returns, both of which jump-started touchdown drives. Following the early safety, P Bryan Anger ripped off a huge free-kick punt to trap Cleveland inside its own 20. And, of course, Johnson's recovery of Peppers' fumble allowed the Bucs to steal a win at the end.
The Browns got the ball first and got just over midfield on a collection of runs and short passes. However, Carlton Davis defended a shot down the left sideline well and on third-and-eight from the Bucs' 49, Pierre-Paul broke through for a seven-yard sack. It proved to be a successful drive for the Browns, however, because they were able to down Britton Colquitt's punt at the Buccaneers' one-yard line.
View photos of the Week 7 game against the Cleveland Browns.
A Barber run that barely got back over the goal line and a false start made things even tougher for the offense. The Bucs tried Barber again and he was swarmed over for a safety and the game's first points. The Bucs had to free kick after that safety and Bryan Anger got off a booming punt that allowed the Bucs to trap return man Briean Boddy-Calhoun at the Cleveland 19.
The Browns started their second drive with an illegal-shift penalty and never climbed out of that hole. Alexander made the tackle on two of Cleveland's three plays on the drive and broke up a pass on the other one. Another great punt by Colquitt flipped the field position back to the Bucs' 28.
The Bucs embarked on an 11-play scoring drive from there, though they had to settle for three points. Winston hit Humphries for gains of 11 and 12 yards and converted a third down with a 17-yard pass to Evans with the rush closing in. On the next third down, however, the Browns' blitz was even faster and Winston was forced to hurry a throw that fell short of Evans' spot. Catanzaro nailed a 38-yard to put the Bucs up by one with three minutes left in the first quarter.
After another three-and-out forced by the Bucs' defense and a 13-yard punt return by Humphries, the Bucs took over again at their own 45. Winston immediately ran a play-action fake and threw a 15-yard strike over the middle to WR Chris Godwin. Winston's second pass went to Godwin, too, and the second-year passer somehow held on for a 12-yard gain despite a crushing hit. Three plays later, Winston avoided another big blitz and threw on the run to Humphries near the right sideline, converting a third-and-six with a 10-yard gain. That play ended the first quarter; the Bucs started the second period with a first down at the Cleveland 14.
On the first play of the second quarter, the Buccaneers scored the first touchdown of the game on a 14-yard run by Jackson. Winston faked a handoff to Barber and then gave it to Jackson heading left. Alan Cross led the way and took out the last Browns defender with a chance, allowing Jackson to sprint to the pylon for his fourth career rushing touchdown. Catanzaro hit the right upright with his extra point try, leaving the score at 9-2.
Tampa Bay's defense stayed hot, with another three-and-out that included a downfield pass break-up by DE Carl Nassib, a tackle of Chubb four yards in the backfield by DT Beau Allen and a very hard tackle of WR Brett Perriman by Alexander on third down.
The resulting punt went out of bounds at the Bucs' 25 but Winston only needed two plays to get the ball back into Cleveland territory. The first was his own 14-yard scramble, followed by a 14-yard pass to Evans. Two throws down the middle to TE O.J. Howard put the ball just inside the 20. The Bucs fell into a third-and-10 and Winston absorbed a sack on third down, but the drive was revived by an illegal contact on LB Christian Kirksey. Jones ran up the middle for nine yards on the next play but then tried to go right and was trapped for a loss of three. The Bucs were lined up at the eight on third down but the Browns committed a neutral-zone infraction and the half-the-distance penalty was just enough for a new first down at the four. A Barber touchdown run on the next play was erased by a holding call on Evan Smith, but Winston took off on first-and-goal from the 14 and got all the way to the end zone, diving the last three yards to just extend the ball over the line. Catanzaro made the kick and the Bucs had a 16-2 lead midway through the second quarter.
The Browns got a first down on a 14-yard run by Chubb on the ensuing drive but then committed a 15-yard facemask penalty and couldn't make up the difference. Colquitt's punt from the Bucs' 49 went into the end zone for a touchback. The Bucs got across midfield again, with Winston hitting Evans down the right sideline for a gain of 29. However, on the next play he tried to hit Cameron Brate deep over the middle and didn't quite clear Kirksey, who made a leaping interception.
A Browns penalty on the return pushed the ball back to Cleveland's 25 and David trapped Johnson in the backfield for a loss of four as the two-minute warning arrived. Two plays later, on third-and-seven, Nassib got to Mayfield and dropped him for an eight-yard sack, Nassib's first as a Buccaneer.
Things took a turn for the worse from there. First, another booming punt by Colquitt eluded Humphries and rolled down toward the goal line. A block-in-the-back penalty on Ryan Smith pushed it all the way back to the half-yard line. This time the Bucs got out of it with a pass over the middle to Jacquizz Rogers, but two plays later CB T.J. Carrie poked the ball out of Brate's hand and it was recovered by Kirksey at the Bucs' 19.
Two cracks at the end zone were well-but a third-down clear-out pass to WR Damion Ratley made it fourth-and-two at the 11 and the Browns elected to go for it after calling a timeout with 26 seconds left. A crazy play ensued, with Alexander nearly sacking Mayfield in the backfield (and getting hurt in the process) and Mayfield scrambling towards the first-down line. The Browns QB actually made it across the line but David, in fast pursuit, chopped the ball from his grasp and it rolled back to behind the nine and out of bounds. That made it a turnover on downs, ending the scoring threat.
The Buccaneers got the ball first to start the second half but that didn't prove to be an advantage. On the second play, Myles Garrett hit Winston's arm to force a fumble that went forward and was recovered by Genard Avery at the Bucs' 26. Three plays later, Mayfield threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to TE David Njoku in the back left corner of the end zone.
The Bucs got over midfield on the next drive, helped immensely by a third-down defensive holding call and a roughing-the-passer penalty. A 15-yard swing pass to Jones took it down to the 28 but was followed in rapid succession by holding and false-start penalties. Three straight incompletions led to a punt that was fair caught at the Cleveland eight.
Sacks by Taylor and Gholston helped end that drive and Humphries once again got 13 yards on a return to get the ball to the Bucs' 27 with seven minutes left in the third quarter. Winston converted a pair of third downs on the drive, one on a nine-yard stop route by Evans and another on his own nine-yard scramble. In between, the Buccaneers went for it on fourth-and-one from midfield and converted on an outlet pass to TE Alan Cross. After Howard made a leaping grab at the two, Jones ran it in on the next play.
The Browns opened the fourth quarter with their longest drive of the game. Chubb got it going with a 21-yard run and Mayfield converted a third-and-nine with a scrambling 18-yard strike to Jarvis Landry. Carlton Davis was then flagged for pass interference, making it first-and-goal at the one, and Chubb powered in from there to cut the Bucs' lead back to one score.
The Bucs got out to their own 45 on the next possession but had to punt with 9:41 left after a third-down pass went through Howard's hands. Anger's punt just skipped into the end zone for a touchback. The Browns then mounted another long drive, this one rescued by Mayfield's legs. After consecutive penalties put Cleveland into a second-and-26 hole at their own 24, the rookie passer escaped the pocket to the right and found a lot of open grass, eventually darting back to the middle and all the way to the Bucs' 41 for a 35-yard gain. A 23-yard strike to Njoku made it first-and-goal at the six.
That's when the Bucs came up with a big stop. Cleveland tried to get the ball in from the two with a power Chubb run but he was stopped by Devante Bond at the one. With five minutes left in regulation, the Browns went for it on fourth-and-goal and Mayfield tried to run it in but was wrapped up by Taylor.
The Bucs' offense had to get the ball out from their one-yard line for the third time in the game and got a five-yard catch by Auclair and a three-yard run by Rodgers. Winston was sacked on third down to force a punt from the five-yard line with the clock ticking down to three minutes. A short punt and a great 32-yard return by Peppers got Cleveland right back to the Bucs' 16. Mayfield hit a diving Landry over the middle for a touchdown on the next play, with Landry landing at the one and sliding in before he was touched.
The Buccaneers used the last two minutes in regulation to drive 58 yards, with Brate catching a first-down pass at the Cleveland 24 with 40 seconds left. A run up the middle by Jacquizz Rodgers and a kneel-down by Winston set up a 40-yard try by Catanzaro but the kicker pushed it just to the right of the upright to send the game into overtime.
Cleveland won the toss to start overtime and got the ball first, but Tampa Bay's defense got a quick stop, helped out by a first-down holding call on the Browns. Carlton Davis broke up a third-down pass intended for Njoku on the sideline. Colquitt continued his amazing day, booming a punt that backed the Bucs all the way up to their 12.
Winston fumbled the snap on the first play but recovered it himself, then escaped pressure to hit Godwin on a 33-yard strike. An attempted end-around to Jackson failed, resulting in a loss of six, and on the next play Collins intercepted a short pass at the Bucs' 45. Nassib's second half helped prevent that turnover from becoming points, though Tampa Bay's offense couldn't move the ball on the subsequent drive and had to punt it away. Fortunately, Auclair's forced fumble kept Cleveland from getting another scoring chance.