TAMPA, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were rearing to go after Hurricane Irma delayed their season opener against the Miami Dolphins, and their fans were thirsty for a showdown. After a slow-performing preseason which Head Coach Koetter dismissed since the games don’t count, today was the team’s reality check. The team’s starters included all the fan favorites: Jameis Winston (QB), Mike Evans, Gerald McCoy, Kwon Alexander, Vernon Hargreaves III, William Gholston, Clinton McDonald, Lavonte David, Brent Grimes, and Robert Ayers, Jr.
Tensions were flying from the start. The first penalty came within the first minute of the game: during Winston’s pass to Evans, Cleveland was hit with holding, netting a five-yard penalty and automatic first down. At 9:34 left in the quarter, Winston got sacked on the second down of the first scoring drive by Cleveland’s Willie Young in the red zone, at which point Tampa Bay kicker Nick Folk successfully kicked a 42-yard field goal, getting the Buccaneers on the board first with a score of 3-0.
Kwon Alexander intercepted the pass intended for tight end Dion Sims for a 22-yard gain with 2:32 left in the quarter.
Chicago’s Tarik Cohen fumbled the return kick, Tampa Bay’s Cameron Lynch recovered the ball at the Chicago 13-yard line. Winston then took advantage of a rare opportunity and fired a touchdown pass to Mike Evans for the team’s first touchdown and Folk got the extra point, making the score 10-0 Tampa Bay.
Upon the punt return, with only ten seconds left in the quarter, Cleveland’s #19 was charged with unnecessary roughness.
Despite being in possession of the ball, the Bears’ #12 was charged with holding and lost ten yards as a result.
With 11:26 left in the half, Chicago’s Glennon got sacked by Noah Spence, causing a fumble that led to a loss of 11 yards for Chicago. Lavonte David recovered the ball, giving the Bucs a first down on Chicago’s 38-yard line. At 7:41, Winston was forced to rush three yards and Chicago was flagged for holding again, which gave the Bucs an automatic first down. Tampa Bay netted their second touchdown on the next play with Jacquizz Rogers’s one-yard run, bringing the score to 17-0 Tampa Bay.
Kwon Alexander sustained a hamstring injury in the quarter, and his return was judged doubtful.
With five minutes left in the half, Tampa Bay’s Robert McClain intercepted a pass and returned it 47 yards for Tampa Bay’s third touchdown. After review, the play was confirmed, but Folk’s extra point kick went wide left, bringing Tampa Bay’s lead to 23-0.
With less than 10 seconds left in the half, Winston who went 10 for 18 in completed passes in the first half, passed to Mike Evans for a 17-yard gain, which lined Folk up for a 27-yard field goal. The Bucs were flagged for not being fully lined up and lost five yards, but chose to attempt the 50-yard field goal nonetheless and was successful, making the score 26-0 at the half.
Running back Jacquizz Rodgers was the Bucs’ shot run man and netted 33 rushing yards in the first half.
At 8:15, with the Bucs in the red zone on a first down, Winston completed the pass to Charles Sims, who then fumbled the ball. The Bears’ Leonard Foy recovered it, though their scoring drive yielded no score.
On the Bucs’ next scoring drive, OJ Howard completed a first down pass, and Mike Evans kept it going on the next play with an 11-yard gain. Between Peyton Barber and Cameron Brate with carries and a completed pass respectively, the Bucs quickly made it back to the red zone, a fitting way to end the third quarter.
Nick Folk successfully made a 23-yard field goal at the end of the Buccaneers’ scoring drive, extending Tampa Bay’s lead to 29-0.
At 3rd and 10 on the 14-yard line, the Bears made two field goal attempts but the passes were incomplete in both cases, netting them no score.
With 6:40 left in the game, Lavonte David was down on the field with a leg cramp.
The Bears made it all the way to the 3-yard line on their next drive, and on the fourth down attempted a touchdown pass, but Tampa Bay’s Chris Conte broke up the pass. However, in the final two minutes of the game, the Bears managed to get on the board with a clutch touchdown pass play and extra point, bringing the final score to 29-7.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers next face the Minnesota Vikings Sunday, September 24 at 1 p.m. and return to Raymond James Stadium in October for a two-game homestand against the New York Giants (Sunday, October 1 at 4:05 p.m.) and the New England Patriots (Thursday, October 5 at 8:25 p.m.).
Mellissa Thomas is Editor for Florida National News. | firstname.lastname@example.org