After a slow start with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, Jameis Winston provided a spark in the second quarter and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers began to pull away.
After starting the game with a three-and-out, the Tampa Bay Buccaneer offense began to pick up steam. An 18-yard run by Peyton Barber, on the second play of the second drive, gave the team momentum for the remainder of the 14-play, 68-yard drive. Cameron Brate made a contested third down catch to put the Buccaneers in field goal range. Catanzaro capped the drive off with a 30-yard field goal.
The Titans responded to the Catanzaro field goal with a 6-play, 75-yard drive which ended with a 47-yard receiving touchdown by Taywan Taylor. Taylor took a screen pass on the right side of the field, used his blockers well, and torched Justin Evans down the sideline. Dion Lewis also played a major role on the drive as he turned his three touches into 27 yards.
Jameis Winston took over on the first Buccaneer drive of the second quarter. On the drive, Winston connected with Mike Evans for a 38-yard reception and DeSean Jackson for 19 yards to move the Buccaneers into the red zone. However, four penalties, one of which negated a Chris Godwin touchdown, forced Catanzaro onto the field again for his second field goal of the evening – this one from 44 yards out.
Tennessee was forced to punt on their next drive, allowing the Tampa Bay offense back onto the field. The Winston to Jackson combination continued as the drive started with a 54-yard connection. A few plays later, Winston capped the drive off on a play where he avoided a near sack and tossed the ball up for grabs in the endzone. Ultimately, Chris Godwin came down with it for his first touchdown reception this preseason.
To close out the first half, Winston again, led the Buccaneers on a 10-play, 72-yard touchdown drive that lasted 1:31. This drive finished with a 21-yard toe-tapping touchdown grab by Justin Watson on the right side of the endzone. The play was reviewed as all scoring plays are, but the catch stood, and the Buccaneers took a 20-7 lead into halftime.
To begin the second half, Blaine Gabbert led the Titans down the field rather easily for an 8-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. Taywan Taylor totaled three catches for 48 yards on the drive. His final reception went for a 3-yard touchdown on a quick slant with Amari Coleman in coverage.
Following a punt return to the Tampa Bay 28-yard line by Shaun Wilson, two separate 15-yard penalties by the Titans helped the Buccaneers reach field goal position on a drive that totaled only 12 earned yards. Catanzaro connected on a 48-yard field goal for his third field goal in three attempts.
With 11:57 remaining in the fourth quarter, Ryan Griffin took the field and led the Buccaneers on a 6-play 76-yard touchdown drive. Griffin made back-to-back throws into a tight window to earn the team a 16-point cushion.
The first throw went for 38 yards to Dare Ogunbowale who lined up on the right sideline and ran a streak down the field. The second throw was a perfect throw over the left shoulder of Sergio Bailey with Trey Caldwell in solid coverage, which resulted in six points.
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On the final defensive drive of the first half, M.J. Stewart chased down a screen pass that went to Devin Ross. Stewart was able to jar the ball out of Ross’ hands and Lavonte David recovered for the first turnover of the day for either team.
Jameis Winston looked as sharp as I have seen him since he was drafted. He totaled 226 yards and two touchdowns on 13/18 passing in the second quarter alone. Winston made several impressive throws while spreading the ball around to eight different receivers. It was also good to see Jameis Winston and DeSean Jackson connecting twice, one of which went for 54 yards. The Buccaneers scored each drive that Winston led. He is trending in the right direction as the season looms.
After Dirk Koetter announced this week that Peyton Barber would begin the season as the starting tailback, Ronald Jones only received three first half touches which resulted in no yards. In the same span, Peyton Barber looked sharp, totaling six carries for 32 yards and a reception which went for three yards. Peyton Barber seems to be distancing himself from the rest of the running backs on this Buccaneer roster.
On the other side of the ball, rookie M.J. Stewart continues to look solid. He held his own in pass coverage, but where he stood out was forcing fumbles. There were two instances in the first half, where Stewart forced the ball out of the ball carrier’s hands.
The first was a play when Stewart fell victim to a Dion Lewis juke move but he never gave up on the play. He not only chased Lewis down, but ripped the ball out in the process. The second forced fumble occurred on a very similar play, where Stewart chased Devin Ross down from behind and forced the ball out.
Stewart is making the most of his opportunities on the field.
Last week, the Buccaneers totaled seven accepted penalties for a total of 74 yards. This week was worse, as the Buccaneers totaled 10 accepted penalties for 100 yards. One penalty by Brad Seaton disallowed a touchdown. The penalties must be reduced before they begin to haunt the Buccaneers game in and game out.
The Buccaneers decided not to sign a kicker this week after Chandler Catanzaro struggled in his debut for the team. Catanzaro rebounded in a major way against the Titans, connecting on all three of his field goal attempts and on all of his extra points. This performance should give Buccaneer fans a reason for optimism moving forward.