The Indianapolis Colts outlasted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 12 at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Bucs 27-20 loss to the Colts on the road became their sixth in the last seven games, dropping the club to a 4-7 record in the NFC South. Missed opportunities, penalties, drops and turnovers became the hindrance for Tampa Bay. Self-inflicted wounds in critical moments sealed the Bucs' fate in Indianapolis.
"We're together as a unit but we've got to stop making silly mistakes," said Head Coach Todd Bowles. "We work as hard as anybody in the league, if not more. We've seen things a thousand times at this point. The young guys can't make the mistakes they made, and we've got to make plays. We still understand where we are. We're trying to get a win. We're not worried about anything else; we're trying to get a win. As crazy as it might sound, we're one game out of first place, but the way we're playing it's got to be turned around. It feels like we're 10 games out but we're one game out and we've got to play better."
Baker Mayfield threw a couple of touchdowns to Mike Evans during the battle in Indy. Mayfield concluded the ballgame completing 20 of 30 passes for 199 yards, an interception and a fumble to go with the aforementioned two touchdowns. Evans, the engine that ignited the offense, finished with 70 yards and two scores on six catches, becoming just the 15th player in NFL history to reach 90 career touchdown receptions. The Bucs got the ball with just over two minutes left in regulation, but Samson Ebukam's strip sack secured the victory for the Colts. Throughout the game, Mayfield faced relentless pressure. He was sacked six times and hit nine times by the Colts' front. Tampa Bay was able to have success in the ground game, getting push up the interior with several nine-yard runs through the tackles by Rachaad White. He was physical and got downhill, spearheading the ground game. The club's featured back tallied 100 yards on 15 carries as the team accumulated an average of 6.6 yards per tote – the best mark of the season. The Bucs have supplemented the run game in recent weeks by getting White in space through screens and from empty packages while the team built mid-zone and duo concepts. Against the Colts, the work paid dividends.
The Week 12 matchup starting off in stellar fashion for the Buccaneers, as they took the opening possession to the Colts' one-yard line. Cade Otton spurred the drive with a 24-yard gain. The Bucs faked the play-action, Otton chipped, then ran across the formation in the opposite direction. Mayfield hit him in stride to move the chains. However, Mayfield tweaked his ankle on a failed quarterback sneak at first-and-goal. An ensuing penalty moved the Bucs back and with Kyle Trask at the helm, they were not able to get the ball in the end zone. Trask had great ball placement on the throw on third down but an incompletion resulted in a Chase McLaughlin 21-yard field goal. After the Colts put up 17 unanswered points, Tampa Bay was able to cash in off a Carlton Davis III interception. Three plays later and the Bucs were in the end zone. Payne Durham made an unbelievable catch in traffic and took the ball away from the Colts' defensive back, bring Tampa Bay to the one-yard line. Miscommunication by the Colts resulted in a wide-open Evans in the end zone. In the fourth quarter, Mayfield found Evans again to make it a three-point game. The Bucs isolated the safety, Mayfield rolled out of the pocket and delivered a dart to Evans.
Colts' Gardner Minshew threw for 251 yards and ran for a touchdown. The club's workhorse and former 2021 triple threat, Jonathan Taylor, scored twice and ran for 91 yards. Taylor consistently burst through holes and utilized maneuvers to gain additional yards, getting skinny in holes, making it difficult for defenders to take successful angles. Without starters Lavonte David and Jamel Dean in the lineup, the Bucs surrendered 394 yards, including 155 on the ground. Throughout the game, the Colts took advantage of the underneath/intermediate area of the field, exploiting soft zones. Both cornerback Carlton Davis III and safety Antoine Winfield Jr. led the team with 10 tackles and Davis nabbed an interception in the second quarter on third down. Minshew thought the intended receiver was going to make an out cut and instead, he sat on the route. Davis took advantage, posting the club's only takeaway of the game. Michael Pittman Jr. became Minshew's favorite target in the RPO-game and out of the flat, picking up yards after catch. He finished with 10 receptions for 107 yards and averaged 10.7 yards per catch.
Both Calijah Kancey and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka tallied sacks in the game, building momentum for the defense. Tryon-Shoyinka's came in the first quarter, as Todd Bowles dialed up an effective pressure package. Initially, JTS lined up on the inside then post-snap, he looped around. Minshew tried to evade pressure from the opposite side and ran into Tryon-Shoyinka. Then in the fourth quarter, Calijah Kancey made an impactful play. He pushed Will Fries back on a bull rush, dislodging the blocker and quickly got to Minshew. He dropped the Colts' quarterback, which set up third-and-23. Minshew tried to climb the pocket, but Kancey was waiting for him in the hole.
Despite the outcome, both Kancey and Davis made a significant impact. Davis routinely came down in run support, showcasing his physicality. He finished with 10 combined tackles, two passes defensed and an interception. Whether reading the receiver's eyes to disrupt the catch window and make a play on the ball, or maintaining inside leverage for prime positioning, Davis set the tone. Kancey, the Bucs' talented rookie, is playing to his first-round draft status and then some. He compiled three combined tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss, a quarterback hit and a pass defensed. Kancey showcased his first-step quickness and contact balance, getting behind the line of scrimmage to stuff Taylor and consistently collapsed the pocket around Minshew. His twitchy feet set the tone and he became a nightmare for the Colts on Sunday afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium.