In an effort to match the weather, the Bucs played a cold, sloppy game in Baltimore and it cost them a win at the end of the day.
Even though the Bucs were (+8) underdogs, this was a matchup that they could have taken advantage of. But instead, they were taken advantage of - similar to the majority of the season.
Peyton Barber opened the game with a hard, physical 15-yard run, but Chris Godwin dropped a wide-open throw on the next play that led to a Buccaneer punt.
Tampa Bay’s defense continued their strong momentum from the past couple weeks and immediately forced the Ravens into a three-and-out on their first possession of the game.
The drops continued for the Bucs. Mike Evans dropped a sure first-down reception on Tampa Bay’s next offensive possession and then Lavonte David dropped a guaranteed interception right at midfield on the ensuing defensive possession.
Both teams traded possessions before the Ravens were able to move the ball late in the first quarter. Lamar Jackson was effective using his legs, but he fumbled a handoff on a first-and-ten run and the Bucs’ David was able to come up with this turnover.
Tampa Bay started at their own 49 and Evans finally got on the board, converting a 3rd-and-4 with a 23-yard grab that put the Bucs right outside of the red zone. Barber continued to run hard and all of a sudden Tampa Bay was facing a 3rd-and-goal from the Ravens’ 6.
The conversion fell through, but a defensive holding call on Ravens’ defensive back Marlon Humphrey gave the Bucs a new set of downs at the 3-yard line. Barber punched it in on the next play and the Bucs led, 6-0.
Peyton punches it in!— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) December 16, 2018
Bucs +6 pic.twitter.com/2hoWuQUNVz
But last week’s special teams mishaps bled over into this week as the snap bounced off Bryan Anger’s hands and the Ravens were able to chase down the recovery.
The Ravens came out and ran the ball on seven of their first eight plays. The Bucs were able to get them in a 3rd-and-15, but were called for 12 men on the field and Jackson was able to find Willie Snead IV wide-open over the middle for a 13-yard reception and first down.
Now in the red zone, Baltimore continued to run the ball, but Tampa Bay was able to hold strong and force the Ravens into a 4th-and-1 from the seven-yard line.
The Ravens converted and Chris Moore scored off a reverse just two plays later. Unlike Tampa Bay, Baltimore hit their extra point and now led, 7-6.
The next drive seemed destined for failure. Godwin finally got over his case of the drops and reeled in a 16-yard catch to move the chains, but an offensive holding call on Ryan Jensen put the Bucs in 2nd-and-20.
But Winston was able to move around in the pocket and deliver an absolute strike in stride to Evans. The pass would’ve stood as a 64 yard gain, but a facemask on Jimmy Smith moved the ball all the way down to the Baltimore 11.
It was easily one of the best throws of Winston’s career.
Jameis keeps the play alive and HEAVES it to Evans! pic.twitter.com/iUsCa0ko29— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) December 16, 2018
Tampa Bay couldn’t convert a 3rd-and-3 from inside the five-yard line and settled for the field goal. Cairo Santos’ 31-yard attempt was good and Tampa Bay regained the lead, 9-7.
Mark Duffner decided to sit back and play zone for the Raven’s final first-half possession and it almost came back to bite him. Within four plays, Baltimore was right back inside of the Bucs’ five-yard line thanks to a 28-yard reception from Snead IV.
But the defense held strong. Justin Tucker hit his 24-yard attempt and the Ravens were back out in front, 10-9.
The second half didn’t start out so well for the Bucs’ defense. Jackson was able to find rhythm both running and throwing the ball. The end result was a 10-play, 78-yard touchdown drive that took 4:57 off the clock as Gus Edwards rumbled into the end zone from ten yards out and extended the Ravens lead to 17-9.
The Bucs couldn’t get anything done outside of an Evans 20-yard grab on the next drive, but they were bailed out after Cyrus Jones muffed the punt. Josh Shaw was able to recover and Tampa Bay had the ball at the Baltimore 14-yard line.
An offensive pass interference call on Evans put Tampa Bay in a bad spot and they had to settle for another field goal after coming up short on 3rd-and-5 from the Baltimore 9. Santos hit the attempt and cut the lead to 17-12.
A great kickoff return by Moore set the Ravens up with great field position at their own 45. Tampa Bay’s defense managed to set them up with a 3rd-and-7, but Jackson was able to get the first down off an incredible scramble.
An after-the-fact personal foul on Kenneth Dixon negated the run, but nevertheless the Ravens had officially moved into Tampa Bay territory. If the Bucs wanted to win this game, the defense would have to step up.
It took a little while, but the defense finally held as Baltimore marched closer and closer toward the end zone. Tucker attempted a 35-yard kick and watched it sail through the uprights. The Ravens led 20-12 with just over 13:00 to play in the game.
Could Winston come through with a crucial touchdown on the next drive?
The answer was no. He underthrew Evans and was subsequently picked off by Marlon Humphrey. It was Winston’s first meaningful turnover since he regained the starting job.
The defense came away with a big three-and-out. What’s even more important was that Jackson committed intentional grounding while avoiding a sack. The call moved the ball all the way back to the Ravens’ 26-yard line. Humphries was able to find some space for a decent return and the Bucs took over at their own 38.
Tampa Bay was able to move the ball, but failed to convert a 3rd-and-1 after Jensen was blown up by nose tackle Brandon Williams. The Ravens stuffed Barber in the backfield for a three-yard loss and the Bucs were faced with a 4th-and-4.
Winston had plenty of time, but ultimately couldn’t find Godwin for the conversion and the Ravens took over at their own 33. A touchdown on their next drive would all but seal the win for Baltimore.
They rode the Gus Bus all the way to the end of the game. The Bucs couldn’t get a stop and left M&T Bank Stadium with a 20-12 loss.
Tampa Bay is now (5-9) on the season. They travel to Dallas next week just in time to ruin everyone’s Christmas holiday. Kickoff is scheduled for 1PM EST.