It wasn't pretty, but they got it done. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Indianapolis Colts 24-17 in a tight and very sloppy contest. 20 penalties were called throughout the game, 14 of them on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for 106 yards. But despite that, the Bucs pulled out a win with dominant play in the fourth quarter.
That may be a little unfair to the Buccaneers, even. The Bucs were dominant throughout the game, except on two plays: a second-quarter 87-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon, where Aqib Talib missed a key tackle as he seemed to be playing safety. The other play was a 59-yard touchdown pass, again to Pierre Garcon. This time it was a screen pass, and while no Buccaneer was ever really in position to tackle the receiver due to some great blocking on the side of the Colts, the referees also missed several blocks in the back on that play.
Those two plays as well as a first-quarter field goal drive gave the Colts 17 points, and guaranteed them a tie or the lead through the third quarter. But the Buccaneers were never outplayed, and always looked like the better team, albeit a sloppy team. Outside of those two plays to Pierre Garcon, the Colts were held to just 172 net offensive yards. They were held to just 62 rushing yards on 18 plays. The Bucs defensive line managed four sacks: two by Michael Bennett, one by Gerald McCoy and one by Adrian Clayborn. If the Bucs hadn't dropped three interceptions this would have been a lot uglier.
On offense it seemed like the same old story early on in the game: slow starts and Freeman being just a little off. But after a quick three-and-out Josh Freeman got it together and played sharp the rest of the way. In fact, his final stats of 25/39 for 287 yards and a touchdown pass don't do justice to his performance. Freeman also added a touchdown and two first downs on a quarterback sneak as well as two crucial first downs with his feet late in the game.
But besides all that, his receivers weren't helping him out. Mike Williams dropped the ball twice, Luke Stocker seemed to drop the ball on a slightly underthrown ball. And when Arrelious Benn seemed to help out Freeman by catching a short pass on a scramble and turning it into an 62-yard touchdown by breaking a dozen tackles, that play got called back because Benn had touched the sideline ever so slightly before catching the ball.
That Illegal Touching penalty was just one of many that nullified some great plays by the Bucs. Perhaps the most egregious: a twelve-men on the field penalty on a first-half ending field goal, that nullified the game-tying three points. The only receiver who seemed to really step up was Preston Parker, who caught five passes for 70 yards and a touchdown. Parker is fast turning into a real threat as a slot receiver.
In the end the Bucs got it done. Josh Freeman led scoring drives in the second, third and fourth quarter to give the Bucs 24 points. The defense stifled the Colts in the fourth quarter to give the offense a chance to win the game. And Legarrette Blount pounded a worn-down Indianapolis front-seven as he ran for 127 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries in the game. And for the second game in the week the Bucs closed out a game by converting a fourth down in their four-minute drill.
The Bucs are 3-1 and have a share of the division lead. Next week they travel to San Francisco to keep that lead.