Typically, week three of the NFL preseason is used as the “dress rehearsal” game. With starters playing until at least halftime, coaches get a good evaluation of their teams progress. On Friday night, both the Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers starters played for a full 2 quarters. The result? An old school defensive battle.
Tampa Bay received the opening kickoff and was able to pick up one first down on their opening drive. However, following back to back sacks of Jameis Winston, they were forced to punt. Cleveland was able to get into field goal range on 7 plays to take an early 3-0 lead. Winston then led the Bucs on an 11 play, 59 yard drive only to sputter again as a result of a Browns sack. Tampa Bay kicker Matt Gay then bounced a 37 yard field goal off the upright, ending the drive with no points.
After the teams traded 3 and outs, the Browns were able to convert on another Austin Seibert field goal. Cleveland added a field goal later in the second quarter to take a 9-0 lead. On the final drive of the half, Baker Mayfield was intercepted by Jordan Whitehead with no time remaining in the quarter.
The final tally for the starting offensive units was not pretty. When the first half concluded, Winston was 9/19 for 88 yards. Baker Mayfield, on the other hand, went 10/26 for only 72 yards. Much can be said about the play of the first team defenses for each team. Especially with Tampa Bay playing without 2 key starters in Lavonte David and Vita Vea. The most alarming takeaway from the Bucs’ starters was the play of the offensive line. Jameis Winston faced immense pressure for his entire portion of the game and was sacked 5 times in the first half. This will likely be a point of concern for head coach Bruce Arians as Tampa Bay looks ahead to week 1. Tampa Bay’s concludes preseason play on Thursday night in Dallas against the Cowboys but most starters will not play.
Backups and reserves complete the comeback
Trailing 9-0 to start the third quarter, Blaine Gabbert led the Bucs second team offense onto the field. However, a few plays into his first drive, Gabbert left the game with a shoulder injury and did not return. He was later seen on the sideline with his left arm in a sling. Ryan Griffin entered the game and finished for Tampa Bay. The Bucs would convert on a Cairo Santos field goal to get on the board. Later in the quarter, Tampa Bay took its first lead of the game on a 20 yard touchdown pass from Griffin to tight end Jordan Leggett. The play capped off a 59 yard drive and the Bucs led 10-9 entering the 4th quarter.
With 7:32 to go, Austin Seibert converted his 4th field goal of the game giving the Browns a 12-10 lead. But Ryan Griffin was not finished quite yet. He took the Bucs down field on a 16 play drive that chewed up almost the entire game clock. This would give way for Matt Gay to once again play the part of hero, albeit in preseason action. Gay, as he did one week ago, converted a game winning field goal. This time from 21 yards with only 18 second left. Tampa Bay would hold on to win 13-12, improving to 2-1 in preseason.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers wrap up the preseason on Thursday, 8/29 on the road against the Dallas Cowboys.
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