Chief Goal Accomplished as Offense Explodes
The Kansas City Chiefs came into Raymond James Stadium on Sunday with a league-worst negative-15 turnover ratio, on a record pace for giveaways. On the other sideline was cornerback Ronde Barber, one of the most opportunistic defenders in NFL history. The combination proved lethal for the visiting team.
Barber’s 77-yard return of a deflected-ball interception in the third quarter propelled the Buccaneers to a 38-10 victory over the Chiefs that snapped a three-game losing streak. Coming out of their bye week with their most dominating performance in years, the Buccaneers improved to 2-3 while Kansas City fell to 1-5.
Barber’s score was the 14th of his remarkable career in regular season play (he has a 15th in postseason play). Amazingly, even if one includes kick returners, that is the fourth-highest total of return touchdowns in league history. The only three players higher on the list are Deion Sanders (19), Devin Hester (18) and Rod Woodson (17).
Barber’s big play came just minutes after the Buccaneers opened the second half with perhaps their most impressive drive of the year, an 80-yard march that ended in Vincent Jackson’s 19-yard touchdown catch. QB Josh Freeman, who recorded his fourth career 300-yard passing game, also completed a 42-yarder to rookie RB Doug Martin on the drive. The big play was in evidence Sunday for the Bucs’ offense, which scored the game’s first points on Mike Williams’ 62-yard reception. WR Tiquan Underwood also caught a 62-yard pass in the fourth quarter to set up a field goal, marking the first time since December 7, 1998 that the Bucs had two 60-plus-yard completions in the same game.
All the big plays led to one of the most impressive offensive outputs in franchise history. The Bucs total of 463 yards was the ninth best in the team’s 37 seasons, and it included both 145 yards on the ground (6.1 per carry) and 318 through the air. Freeman completed 15 of 25 passes for 328 yards and three touchdowns, hitting Williams once and Jackson twice. Williams needed only four catches to rack up 113 yards while Jackson got 66 yards on four grabs. Meanwhile, the Bucs’ rushing tandem of Martin and LeGarrette Blount clicked for the first time, with the two picking up 76 and 58 yards, respectively.
The turnover battle actually ended up as a wash, thanks to a bizarre play that led to Kansas City’s only touchdown. A fourth-quarter punt attempt by Michael Koenen was blocked by Shane Draughn, and in the ensuing melee Koenen was able to pick up the ball and run out of the end zone. He attempted to pass, which was actually ruled a fumble, and the ball was returned 11 yards for a touchdown by Kansas City LB Edgar Jones.
The Bucs’ defense was strong, allowing just three points and 260 yards. The NFL’s second-ranked rushing attack, led by league leading rusher Jamaal Charles, got just 80 yards and 2.7 per carry, with Charles limited to 40 yards on 12 totes. Brady Quinn, starting his first game since 2009 in place of Matt Cassel, completed 22 of 38 passes for just 180 yards and was picked off twice, both on deflected balls. Rookie S Mark Barron corralled his first career interception in the first quarter in the Bucs’ red zone to keep Kansas City from scoring the game’s first points. Barron led the Bucs with eight tackles, adding two tackles for loss and a pass defensed. Tampa Bay didn’t register a sack of Quinn but did have five more tackles for loss.
The game started well for the Buccaneers, who kicked off to open it and then completely shut down the Chiefs’ first drive. DE Daniel Te’o-Nesheim immediately foiled two screen passes and CB Eric Wright knocked away a third-down slant pass intended for Bowe. On the ensuing punt, Barber shot up the middle and, despite being held by LB Brandon Siler, managed to deflect Dustin Colquitt’s kick. It went out of bounds at the Kansas City 41, and the holding penalty moved the ball up to the 31.
Unfortunately, the Bucs couldn’t take advantage of that field position despite some good early signs. A six-yard through underneath to WR Tiquan Underwood converted a third-and-three, but two plays later Houston cut in front of TE Dallas Clark and intercepted Freeman’s pass. Houston got the ball back to the Bucs’ 41 before a hustling Martin caught him from behind, and a blocking penalty moved it back to the Kansas City 36.
The turnover allowed Kansas City to strike first. A sharp pass over the middle to WR Dexter McCluster by Quinn converted a third-and-eight and put the ball across midfield and a 10-yard catch by WR Jon Baldwin took it to the Bucs’ 17. Two plays later, however, LB Mason Foster hit TE Steve Maneri just as a Quinn pass was arriving and Barron hauled in the resulting deflection to give it back to Tampa Bay at its own 19.
That ended Kansas City’s scoring threat but didn’t set up any points for the Buccaneers. Both teams punted on their next possessions, but a great stop on return man Javier Arenas by WR Arrelious Benn and swarming defense pushed the Chiefs back to their own goal line. On the first play after Colquitt’s punt, Freeman went deep down the left sideline to Williams, who made a stunning catch. Williams was well-covered, but he slipped behind the defender, made a leaping catch over his foe’s helmet, landed on his feet and outran one other Chief for the 62-yard score. The Bucs thus took a 7-0 lead with just seconds left in the first quarter.
Quinn and the Chiefs answered with an impressive drive that resulted in three points. It wasn’t Charles but rookie RB Nate Eachus out of Colgate who did most of the damage, with a 19-yard catch and four carries for 14 yards. However, DT Gary Gibson and DE George Johnson trapped RB Shane Draughn five yards behind the line on a second-down play deep in Bucs territory, and a third-down blitz forced an incompletion. The Chiefs had to settle for Ryan Succop’s 38-yard field goal.
On the next drive, Freeman and Williams hooked up again on a deep ball down the sideline, this time for 36 yards to get the offense out of a hole near its own goal line. Another shot at a similar play drew a defensive holding penalty and made it first down at the Bucs’ 46. A sneaky draw play to RB D.J. Ware converted a third-and-three near midfield but the drive stalled just into Chiefs territory. The Bucs sent Connor Barth out to try a 55-yard field goal, but his try, while plenty long enough, bounced back off the left upright.
That in turn led to outstanding field position for Kansas City, but the Bucs’ defense held again and the first half ended without any more points. The second half, however, opened with some immediate fireworks by the Buccaneers’ offense. Freeman took just four plays to drive the Bucs 80 yards, beginning with a sharp 15-yarder over the middle to Jackson, his first catch of the game. Martin then turned a short out into a 42-yard gain by faking out Houston, and on the next play Freeman and Jackson hooked up again for the 19-yard score.
The Bucs took a 14-3 lead on Jackson’s second touchdown in as many games, then pulled away even farther a few minutes later thanks to a stunning play on defense. On third-and-five from the Bucs’ 28, Quinn tried to zip a quick slant into McCluster’s hands. E.J. Biggers was there to break it up, and as he and McCluster hit the ground, the ball rolled around on their bodies without hitting the ground. After briefly landing on Biggers’ arm, it popped about a yard into the air and Barber caught it just off the grass, taking off around the right end to go 77 yards untouched.
Gibson made an impressive solo stop of Draughn on third-and-two at midfield on the ensuing drive, forcing a punt that was downed at the Bucs’ two. A 16-yard catch by Erik Lorig got the Bucs’ offense out of trouble but the game’s first sack, by Kansas City’s Tamba Hali, killed the drive. Hali hit Freeman from behind and forced a fumble, but T Demar Dotson was able to recover the loose ball.
Kansas City did notch the next score, but not on offense. Koenen’s attempt to punt from the Bucs’ 15-yard line was blocked by Draughn, sending the ball back into the end zone. Koenen managed to get to it first, scooping it up and running out of the end zone. Unfortunately, his ill-advised attempt to throw a pass (illegal under the circumstances anyway) sent the ball right into the hands of Jones, who returned what was officially a fumble 11 yards for the score.
The Bucs pushed their lead back to two touchdowns on the next drive, most of it coming on another big-gainer. This time, Underwood leaped to tip a pass that was nearly intercepted, then caught the deflection as the defender fell down, kept his balance and ran all the way to the Chiefs’ 17. The Bucs got no further but still capitalized on Barth’s 27-yard field goal to make it 24-10 early in the fourth quarter.
The Bucs pulled away midway through the fourth quarter with a five-play, 85-yard touchdown drive powered by runs of 23 and 13 by Martin. Jackson capped it with a 15-yard TD catch, hauling in the pass at the five and weaving between three defenders to walk into the end zone. Though another score wasn’t strictly necessary, the Bucs brought in the hammer to close it out and another touchdown was the result. Blount ran for 53 yards on the clinching drive, finishing with a nifty, change-of-direction 12-yard touchdown run.