It was a tale of two halves for the Buccaneers at Lucas Oil Stadium. After trailing the Colts 24-14 at halftime, the Bucs found a way to come back - on the back of some takeaways and running back Leonard Fournette - and win 38-31.
It was a really quiet day for some big name players - Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Jonathan Taylor until the final drive. All that said, the Buccaneers remain in the mix for the top seed in the NFC after moving to 8-3.
Let’s pick six.
Six Topics Suitable For Conversation
1.) Lucas Oil Lenny. Leonard Fournette had himself a day, finding the end zone four times - three on the ground and one in the air. It was Fournette’s 28-yard touchdown breakaway that proved to be the game winner with just twenty seconds remaining in the game. Fournette continues to assert himself as the guy that deserves the bulk of the carries, but the fresh legs of Ronald Jones were more than valuable throughout the game and showed that RoJo’s lack of usage early as well as his spike in usage over the past few games will prove to be beneficial to the Bucs’ offense down the stretch. Essentially, it’s the reverse of last season where RoJo got the bulk before Fournette took over late in the year. This running attack is gaining some traction at just the right time.
2.) Injuries. With Ali Marpet already out for the game, his replacement Aaron Stinnie left in the first quarter and would not return. Devin White missed most of the first half but was able to return and become a big factor in the second half. Jamel Dean went out with a shoulder injury after tackling Jack Doyle and would not return to the game. You hope that Marpet, Stinnie, and Dean can all return next week against the Falcons but it’s something to monitor moving forward.
3.) Defense was ready. Things looked bleak in the first half for the Bucs. After going up 7-3 early in the second quarter, the Colts rattled off 21 points on three straight possessions to take a ten point lead into halftime. After that, the defense stepped up and started making plays. Of the Colts’ five second half possessions, three ended in turnovers, one a punt, and one a touchdown by Jonathan Taylor to tie things up with 3:30 remaining. For a Colts team that had been one of the best in the league at protecting the ball and their quarterback, they gave the ball away five times and allowed Wentz to be sacked three times. That’s the kind of defense you need if you’re going to make another run at a championship.
4.) Penalties weren’t great, but they were better. The Buccaneers not only won the turnover battle but they won the penalty battle. The Bucs were penalized four times - a season low for the Bucs during a road game - for 44 yards while the Colts were penalized six times for 66 yards. Of the Colts penalties, four of them resulted in first downs for the Bucs and three of the penalties were pass interference calls and two occurred in the end zone. All in all, the Buccaneers played a cleaner game than they normally do and goaded the Colts into some costly mistakes.
5.) Not a banner game for the receivers. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin were extremely quiet, combining for 40 yards on seven catches. On top of that, Godwin had an early fumble that killed what appeared to be a promising drive. Instead, it was the steady dose of Fournette and Rob Gronkowski. The Colts were 31st in the NFL against tight ends coming into the game and Gronk exposed that very weakness. He finished with seven receptions for 123 yards (team high) while Fournette also hauled in seven receptions for 31 yards and a touchdown. Cameron Brate also contributed with three catches for 23 yards. This was the quintessential “give what the defense gives you” kind of game for the Bucs as it was all tight ends in the passing game and a heavy rushing attack, seeing the two backs combine for all five touchdowns.
6.) Keep your eye on the prize. Moving to 8-3 and officially being back on a winning streak is great, but this is just the first of three tough games over a four game stretch. Now, Tampa Bay has to make sure they don’t fall into the trap. The week thirteen matchup against the Atlanta Falcons has trap game written all over it given that it’s sandwiched between the Colts and Bills, with the Saints coming up after Buffalo. The Bucs need to focus on taking care of business in Atlanta before thinking about another tough AFC opponent coming to their house.
Six Numbers To Consider
0 - Losses by the Buccaneers when scoring over 28 points since signing Tom Brady
1 - Lost tooth by Vita Vea
4 - Godwin’s place on the Bucs’ all-time receiving leader list, having passed Vincent Jackson on Sunday
146 - Career starts by Lavonte David, moving him up to fourth on the franchise’s all time list
1 - Career four touchdown game from Leonard Fournette
3 - Wins in their last four games against the Colts
Six Best Tweets
Six Best Quotes
1.) “I don’t care. He’s got thirty others” - Bruce Arians on Vita Vea losing a tooth
2.) “Nobody runs on us. I don’t care who the hell they are” - Bruce Arians on Jonathan Taylor
3.) “Four-tuddiiieeessssss” - Rob Gronkowski on Leonard Fournette’s new nickname
4.) “Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Not a lot of love lost there, I think. So it’s good to win.” - Tom Brady on beating the Colts
5.) “We were flat in the first half. Coach called us out at halftime. Energy wasn’t there. Second half we went out there and played together as a team, offensively and defensively. To have a win on the road like that? That’s a playoff caliber win.” - Rob Gronkowski on coming from 10 points down at halftime
6.) “I was not expecting that at all. I was expecting them to force feed him.” - Shaquil Barrett on Jonathan Taylor’s lack of usage in the second half.
Six Super Bowl Bets
1.) Green Bay Packers - They just. Keep. Winning.
2.) Arizona Cardinals - Kyler and Nuke are coming back and the Cards still hold the top seed in the NFC
3.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - A win like that, on the road, can be a turning point in a season
4.) Buffalo Bills - Back to their winning ways on Turkey Day
5.) Tennessee Titans - Throttled by New England, but they’ll get their starters back sooner than later and be right back on track
6.) New England Patriots - Where did this even come from?