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Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Arizona Cardinals recap: A happy homecoming

The Bucs returned to Raymond James Stadium for the first time since Sept. 22 and came away victorious, beating the Cardinals 30-27.

Arizona Cardinals v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

After a five-game, six-week stretch away from Raymond James Stadium, the Buccaneers returned home for a matchup with Bruce Arians’ former team, the Arizona Cardinals.

At 2-6, Tampa Bay came in looking to snap a four-game losing streak with its first home win of the year. The 3-5-1 Cardinals, behind 2019 No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray, were looking to spoil the Bucs’ long-awaited homecoming.

It was a back-and-forth affair that eventually featured the offense that we expected to see. A late turnover forced by the Buccaneer defense led to a go-ahead touchdown with under two minutes to go, and after one more defensive stop, Tampa Bay came away with a 30-27 win in its return to the Bay.

The Cardinals won the coin toss and deferred, giving the Bucs a chance to go up early. But the gamble — if you want to call it that — worked out for Arizona, as Jameis Winston threw an interception to Byron Murphy Jr. on third down. The turnover set up Murray and the Cardinal offense at the Tampa Bay 37-yard line.

Arizona picked up a couple of first downs behind Kenyan Drake, but eventually stalled at the 19. Zane Gonzalez made sure the turnover didn’t go to waste, though, connecting on a 37-yard field goal to give his team an early 3-0 lead.

The ensuing kickoff went out of bounds, giving the Bucs good field position until a hands-to-the-face penalty on Donovan Smith backed them up. They still overcame the infraction, getting across midfield thanks in large part to a 17-yard screen pass from Winston to Ronald Jones II. After a sack, a defensive holding and another sack, the Bucs went with another screen to Jones. That one went for another 17 and a first down to the 27.

The offense got inside the 10 a few plays later on a nice leaping grab by Mike Evans, then Jones bounced off a couple of defenders for a seven-yard touchdown run two plays later. Matt Gay’s extra point capped off an 11-play, 60-yard scoring drive that made it 7-3 Tampa Bay.

Arizona got moving on its second drive, driving to the Tampa Bay 31 before the first quarter came to an end with the home team leading 7-3.

Coming out of the break, the Cardinals committed back-to-back false starts and came up short on the resulting 3rd & 20. But Gonzalez drilled a 54-yard field goal to cut the Tampa Bay lead to 7-6 with 14:14 left in the second quarter.

Tampa Bay put together another solid drive in response to the Arizona field goal, getting in plus-territory after a third-down scramble by Winston and another 14-yard screen to Jones. Peyton Barber then got in on the action, running for 17 yards to the Cardinals’ 32. A personal foul helped the Bucs from there, getting them to the 13. An intentional grounding call briefly backed the offense up, but it got those yards back on a screen to Breshad Perriman. But on 3rd & 9 from the 12, a tipped ball at the line of scrimmage forced a fourth down.

A 30-yard field goal by Gay extended Tampa Bay’s lead back to four, 10-6, after a 12-play, 63-yard drive that lasted 5:21.

The Buccaneer defense of the first two weeks of the 2019 season showed up on the next drive. Jordan Whitehead came up with a six-yard tackle for loss on first down, Vita Vea got pressure on Murray to force an incompletion on second down, then Shaquil Barrett dropped Murray to force the first punt of the day. The sack put Barrett’s season total at 11.5, which is the most-ever by a Buc through nine games. It also put him five shy of the franchise record of 16.5 (set by Warren Sapp in 2000).

The Bucs didn’t do anything with their next possession, leading to a 49-yard punt by Bradley Pinion that pinned the Cardinals at their 7-yard line. The Tampa Bay defense then forced another quick three-and-out to get the ball back to Winston and the offense with 5:13 to go before halftime.

Two incompletions and a Scotty Miller catch short of the sticks later, Pinion was back out to punt. He delivered another beauty, and a holding penalty backed the Cardinals up to their 4-yard line. The defense failed to take advantage, allowing Murray to get loose for a 32-yard run on first down. By the two-minute warning, the ball was in Tampa Bay territory with a 3rd & 2 coming up.

Ndamukong Suh picked up a sack on third down, but the Cardinals went for on 4th & 5 and picked up the first with an excellent catch by Larry Fitzgerald near the sideline at the Tampa Bay 33.

From there, the Cardinals struck. Christian Kirk burnt Sean Murphy-Bunting for a 33-yard touchdown catch from Murray, putting Tampa Bay down 13-10 with just over one minute left in the half.

Because the Cardinals were set to receive the opening kickoff in the second half, the Bucs needed some points before heading to the locker room. With very little time to work with, the offense came through in the clutch. Winston found Mike Evans and Chris Godwin to start the drive, then O.J. Howard came alive. He caught a pass near the sideline, before later coming up with a huge catch in traffic at the 10-yard line. On the next play, he caught his first touchdown of the year. With Gay’s PAT, the Bucs led 17-13 after 30 minutes.

The Cardinals quickly made their way into Buccaneer territory to start the second half, with Andy Isabella catching a short pass and taking it 55 yards to the 32-yard line. A few plays later, Arizona looked to have an easy fourth down conversion — and a touchdown — but Maxx Williams dropped the easy score. He might’ve lost it in the sun, or maybe he just dropped it. Either way, it was a break for the Bucs.

Tampa Bay took advantage of the break, driving 49 yards in nine plays to set up Gay for a 45-yard field goal. He connected to give the Bucs a 20-13 lead early in the second half.

The lead didn’t last much longer. On the second play of the next Arizona drive, Kirk blew by Ryan Smith for a 69-yard touchdown from Murray. Their second big connection of the day tied the game at 20-20.

After that, the two teams traded punts. The Bucs took over at their own 11 with 3:18 left in the third quarter. Backed up to third and long, Winston tried to force a throw to Godwin, only for it to be tipped into the air by Budda Baker and intercepted by Jordan Hicks.

Arizona started its next possession at the Tampa Bay 20, but it was the Buccaneer defense’s turn to make a big play. On a catch by David Johnson, Lavonte David knocked the ball loose and recovered it to get the ball back to his offense. It was the 19th forced fumble of his career, which tied him with Simeon Rice for the second-most in franchise history.

Tampa Bay’s offense was still backed up, but it got some breathing room thanks to a 26-yard run by Winston on 3rd & 12. That ended the third quarter, and we entered the final 15 minutes with the game tied 20-20.

A few plays into the fourth quarter, Winston hit rookie Scotty Miller for a 28-yard gain into Arizona territory. Winston then found Godwin for 10 more yards near the sideline, but a false start and Arizona’s fourth sack of the day forced the Bucs into a 2nd & 23 from the 43. An eight-yard pass to Dare Ogunbowale made it 3rd & 16, but Winston had to leave the pocket again and came up short of the first down by eight yards.

Gay came on for a 46-yard field goal attempt and missed, but an offsides call on Arizona gave him another shot. He drilled the 41-yarder, giving Tampa Bay a 23-20 lead with 9:44 left in the game.

A Jamel Dean pass breakup on third down looked to be a big win for the Buccaneer defense, but Arizona had other ideas. A fake punt resulted in a 26-yard pass from PUNTER Andy Lee to Pharoh Cooper. From there, M.J. Stewart was flagged for pass interference in coverage on Fitzgerald. A couple of plays later, Kirk caught his third touchdown of the day despite the ball being tipped by Devin White. With the point after, Arizona led 27-23 with just over seven minutes to go.

The Bucs very quickly shot themselves in the foot after that, with Jones catching a screen pass and then fumbling the ball away. It was recovered by Arizona at their 44. The Buccaneer defense, needing a quick stop with time winding down, allowed the Cardinals to kill clock. But with the ball at the 15, the young defense came up with a big play. Rookie Jamel Dean, who struggled badly in Seattle last week, intercepted Murray to give Tampa Bay another shot.

Winston and the offense took over at their own 8, but quickly got moving. The fifth-year quarterback connected with Godwin for a 49-yard gain to start the drive, then Evans drew a pass interference call to put the Bucs at the Arizona 27. One 14-yard run by Barber later, Tampa Bay was in the red zone with two minutes left.

It took an official review, but Evans got another pass interference call, with this one happening in the end zone. The Bucs failed on their first two tries from the 1-yard line, but Barber found the end zone on third down. After the PAT, the Bucs held a 30-27 lead.

Arizona took over from its own 25 with 1:43 left and ran the ball on first down... with one timeout left. Vernon Hargreaves III broke up a pass on second down and White came up with a stop on third, but Arizona stayed alive with a pass interference call on Hargreaves. The Cardinals still had a ways to go with under 30 seconds to go, and a holding call backed them up to their 38 with 18 seconds to go. A couple of incompletions later, the game was over.

The Bucs held on for a 30-27 win over the Cardinals in their return to Raymond James Stadium, improving to 3-6 on the year while snapping a four-game losing streak in the process.

Quick Stats

  • The Bucs outgained the Cardinals 457-417 while also holding a massive advantage in time of possession — 36:03 to 23:57.
  • Jameis Winston finished the day 30-of-48 for 358 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He also added 40 yards on the ground.
  • Winston became the first Buccaneer quarterback to throw for 300-plus yards in four straight games.
  • Ronald Jones had a huge day right up until his fourth-quarter fumble. He had one rushing touchdown, but he did most of his damage in the passing game. The second-year back caught eight passes (on eight targets) for 77 yards.
  • Mike Evans finished as Tampa Bay’s leading receiver, catching four passes (on six targets) for 82 yards. He averaged 20.5 yards per catch.
  • Chris Godwin added six catches (on 12 targets) for 74 yards. His biggest play of the day came on the game-winning drive, as he broke free for a 49-yard gain.
  • O.J. Howard totaled four catches (on seven targets) for 47 yards and his first score of the year.
  • Lavonte David and M.J. Stewart finished with eight tackles (six solo) each.
  • David had one tackle for loss, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. The forced fumble was the 19th of his career, which tied him with Simeon Rice for second-most in Bucs history.
  • Shaquil Barrett’s sack brought his total to 11.5 on the year, which is the most ever by a Buc through nine games of a season.
  • Ndamukong Suh picked up a sack, bringing his 2019 total to 1.5.
  • Jamel Dean came up with four more passes defended this week and also notched his first career interception.
  • Matt Gay made all three of his field goal attempts and all three of his extra point attempts.
  • Bradley Pinion punted just three times, but averaged 47.3 yards per punt and had two of the downed inside the 10-yard line.

The Buccaneers (3-6) return to the field next Sunday (Nov. 17), hosting the New Orleans Saints (7-2) at Raymond James Stadium. Kickoff is set for 1:00 p.m.