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Takeaways from the Bucs Loss to the Browns | Week 12 

Top notes from Sunday’s 23-17 defeat on the road in overtime against the Browns

Takeaways Week 12, Browns_

The dreary rainy day in Cleveland personified the outcome of Sunday's Week 12 matchup for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. As the Bucs and Browns battled at FirstEnergy Stadium amidst wet conditions, a three-yard touchdown run by Nick Chubb with 19 seconds left in overtime gave the home club a 23-17 victory. David Njoku's sensational one-handed grab in the back of the end zone sent the game into overtime, tied at 17.

Following the painful nail-biter, Head Coach Todd Bowles assessed, "We had so much in all three phases that lost this ballgame, whether it was the return game, their returns on us on punt or a kickoff; defensively, key stops at certain times, penalties to move the ball, letting them run out at certain times, the tackling wasn't great. Offensively, not being able to get third downs was crucial for us and we let them get to the quarterback too much in the second half."

Miscues, missed tackles and the inability to convert on third downs to sustain drives contributed to the Bucs' loss on Sunday afternoon. After both teams traded scores on their opening possessions and a subsequent field goal by Cade York late in the first quarter, Tampa Bay's defense imposed their will, forcing eight-consecutive drives without a score. Under the two-minute warning in regulation, the Bucs were unable to close out the game, as a Myles Garrett sack forced the Bucs to punt after a quick three-and-out.

Offense/Defense Overview

For Tampa Bay's offense, repeated third-down struggles persisted – four conversions on 15 attempts, including two failed tries in overtime – kept the Buccaneers from building momentum in the second half. The Browns forced nine three-and-outs, which put additional strain on the Bucs' defense. The Bucs put together two methodical drives, one on the opening possession and one in the third quarter, however, inconsistency and missed opportunities plagued the unit. Tom Brady completed 29 of 43 passes for 246 yards and two touchdowns. He looked to Chris Godwin often, who compiled a team-high 12 catches for 110 yards and a touchdown. Godwin continues to distance himself from December's ACL/MCL tear and has cemented himself as a viable weapon over the middle of the field, breaking routes off and coming back to the quarterback. Brady and Mike Evans were out of sync in the contest, resulting in several failed attempts to connect downfield. Self-inflicted penalties hurt the Bucs in critical moments. Tampa Bay drew nine flags during the game, which put the team in unfavorable down-and-distance situations offensively and gifted yards to Cleveland, defensively.

"We shot ourselves in the foot on offense with penalties and we gave up field position with defensive penalties," Todd Bowles described.

The Buccaneers' defense held the Browns to 295 yards in regulation and only surrendered 11 yards in the third quarter. Tampa Bay notched a four-sack performance, as Todd Bowles dialed up creative stunts that produced advantageous matchups. However, the Browns were able to achieve success on the ground. The offensive line's production and receiver crack blocks paved the way for Nick Chubb, who gained 116 yards on 26 carries as part of Cleveland's robust rushing attack (189 yards). Chubb showcased his power, eluding tackles and bouncing runs outside when the Bucs outside linebackers crashed in.

Stunning Seven-play, 80-yard Drive

The outcome did not go the Bucs way, however, this drive conjured up images of the Tampa Bay juggernaut fans have grown accustomed to viewing since Tom Brady's arrival. In the third quarter, the Bucs dialed up a perfectly engineered seven-play, 80-yard drive, culminating in a Ko Kieft touchdown. Brady went 5-for-5, with back-to-back tone-setting plays to Evans and Julio Jones. On the first, Jones streaked down the field on a vertical route, drawing additional help over the top. The cornerback adjusted to Jones, leaving Evans wide-open underneath on a comeback route. Brady immediately hit Evans, resulting in a 28-yard gain. The ensuing play, Jones gained 16 yards on a reverse, lowering his shoulder to move the chains. The final scoring play was similar to the game-winner against the Rams in Week Nine. On the aforementioned thriller vs. L.A., Cade Otton chipped a linebacker, giving the illusion of a run, then pivoted and spun around in the flat to haul in a catch for the touchdown. Fast-forward to Week 12 and the Bucs re-created it. Kieft lined up at fullback, deceiving the Browns into thinking "run." Instead, Tampa Bay employed Kieft out of the flat on a quick pass to give the team a 17-10 lead.

Injury Status: Tristan Wirfs, Antoine Winfield Jr.

All-Pro right tackle Tristan Wirfs was carted off the field in overtime on Sunday after suffering an apparent leg injury. The club has avoided the feared worst-case scenario, as Todd Bowles confirmed on Monday that Wirfs has a high-ankle sprain. The staff will monitor his progress week-to-week. The Bucs will likely turn to either Josh Wells or Brandon Walton to replace Wirfs at right tackle. Bowles also noted that Antoine Winfield Jr. (ankle sprain), Mike Edwards (contusion) and Sean Murphy-Bunting (contusion) came out of Sunday's matchup with injuries and will be evaluated "day by day." Winfield's availability for Monday night's game against the Saints is in question.

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