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Jaguars vs. Buccaneers Final Score: Doug Martin bulls Bucs to a win

Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in Lovie Smith's history as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach, the Bucs have a win. They beat the Jacksonville Jaguars in a close and surprisingly high-scoring effort at home, 38-31. The Bucs looked to be imploding after leaving the first half with a win, but two touchdowns at the end of the third and the start of the fourth quarter gave the Bucs an ultimately insurmountable two-score lead, although they made it pretty interesting in the end.

Jameis Winston was solid and controlled behind an inconsistent offensive line, handling pressure well and being more careful with the football than in previous games. That may have prevented a few big plays, though Mike Evans again failed to come down with a few big contested balls. He ended the game completing 13 of 19 passes for 209 yards, one touchdown, no turnovers and two sacks.

The key to Winston's controlled and somewhat limited performance was strong running by both Doug Martin and Charles Sims. Martin racked up 120 yards on 23 carries with two touchdowns, and added another three catches for 35 yards and a third touchdown. Sims was better in the receiving game, putting up four catches for 84 yards, adding a solid 51 yards on 12 carries. And the Bucs did all of that against one of the best run defenses in the NFL.

The one problem for the Bucs was on defense, as the team's secondary was iffy throughout, giving up far too many plays both in man and zone coverage. But a reasonably consistent pass rush helped compensate for that, and two takeaways sealed the deal.

This was a solid game for the Bucs, who get to go into the bye week with some positive feelings and the possibility of salvaging something from their 2-3 start to the season.

First quarter notes

The Bucs got off to a solid start, with as fluid an opening drive as we've seen this year. Jameis Winston, Doug Martin and Charles Sims all made solid contributions. A Winston scramble well inside field goal range came up one yard short, though, and the Bucs decided to settle for a field goal. Connor Barth proved to at least be more reliable than Kyle Brindza, and the Bucs led 3-0.

The defense was just as solid: a tackle for loss and a sack by newly-signed Howard Jones forced the Jaguars to punt on their first play. The Bucs were less successful on their second offensive drives, settling for a punt from midfield, but they were again able to move the ball on Jacksonville's defense -- even Doug Martin managed to consistently gain yardage, despite Jacksonville's usually dominant run defense.

Second-quarter notes

The Jaguars started the second quarter with a quick touchdown to Allen Hurns, having traversed most of the field in the first quarter. Chris Conte seemed to be in position to break that ball up, but he just missed it. Doug Martin then seemed to set the Bucs up with a great opportunity, with subsequent 39- and 20-yard runs getting the Bucs deep into Jacksonville territory -- and then Winston did this:

That was ruled a fumble but overturned, and the Bucs settled for a field goal and a 7-6 deficit. A second Howard Jones sack, who made his NFL debut today, gave the Bucs the ball back and Bobby Rainey returned the punt all the way inside the red zone. Two Doug Martin runs and a Doug Martin catch later, the Bucs were in the endzone with a 13-6 lead. And that was the start of much, much better things, too.

Right after that, Bradley McDougald made a terrific interception in man coverage, and Doug Martin got the honor of running in his second touchdown after two good throws by Jameis Winston. That gave the Bucs a two-score lead, but a good two-minute drill and some weak coverage by the Bucs allowed Blake Bortles and Allen Robinson to reduce that lead. The Bucs then decided to play scared and go into the half without trying to extend their lead, despite three timeouts and 40 seconds to gain 30 yards to get into field goal range.

Third quarter notes

The Jaguars seemed to march down the field, but stalled in the red zone on their first drive of the second half, settling for a field goal but cutting the Bucs' lead to just three points. The Bucs gave the ball back quickly despite continued strong running by Doug Martin, their drive ending with a big Winston sack thanks to an overload blitz.

Right after that, the Bucs gave up a quick touchdown drive to the Jaguars, with Allen Robinson open in the endzone for a far-too-easy touchdown. Jameis WInston managed to give the Bucs a field goal, mostly because of a 56-yard Charles Sims screen pass, but the biggest play of the quarter came on George Johnson and Jacquies Smith: one forced the fumble on a running play, while the other recovered it in the endzone. A two-point conversion to Vincent Jackson later, the Bucs had a 31-24 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Fourth quarter notes

The Bucs continued their sudden series of dominant plays into the fourth quarter, forcing a quick punt by the Jaguars as Lavonte David got a sack on Blake Bortles. Another big Bobby Rainey punt return and some solid plays by Charles Sims later, Doug Martin got to run in his third touchdown of the day to give the Bucs a 38-24 lead.

The Jaguars wouldn't recover from that. An overthrow by Blake Bortles to what looked like an open Allen Robinson ended one drive, allowing the Bucs to run a whole lot of clock. A key third-down pass to Mike Evans for 14 yards kept that drive going, and Charles Sims' solid running helped the Bucs bleed the rest of the clock, with WInston taking care of the football on third downs, taking the easy throws when asked. The Jaguars would get the ball back with just 2:50 remaining and no timeouts, giving them basically no chance to score twice.

That didn't stop the Bucs from giving them the opportunity: despite two sacks giving the Jaguars fourth-and-18, TIm Jennings and Bradley McDougald combined to give the Jaguars a 58-yard play to Allen Hurns and a quick touchdown to Allen Robinson. But the subsequent onside kick was easily fielded by Vincent Jackson, preserving the win.


Chris Conte left the game with an ankle injury and was declared out for the game in the third quarter.