Bucs 27 Bills 6 - the game report
Scott Smith, Buccaneers.com, published 9 December 2013

The fastest start in team history allowed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to doom the Buffalo Bills to a slow death Sunday, as the Buccaneers won, 27-6, in a battle of rookie quarterbacks and swarming defenses. Tampa Bay scored 18 seconds into the contest – the quickest score into a game in franchise history – on RB Bobby Rainey’s 80-yard touchdown run, part of a 127-yard performance by the out-of-nowhere star. The Buccaneers pushed that lead to three touchdowns by halftime – thanks in large part to the first three of their five takeaways – then rolled to victory in a second half that included only six combined points.

“Right away, the second play of the game you take it 80 to the house, I think that set the tone for the whole game,” said Buccaneers rookie QB Mike Glennon. “From that point forward, our defense really took off. To get five turnovers and put the offense in a great position all game…I would have liked to have scored a few more touchdowns offensively, but still we did what we needed to do, and any win in the NFL is a great win.”

LB Lavonte David led an incredible defensive performance that sacked Bills rookie QB E.J. Manuel a season-high seven times and collected four interceptions, the same total of picks Manuel had thrown in his first eight NFL games combined. David had two of those interceptions, plus a sack, a team-high tackles, two tackles for loss, two quarterback hits and two passes defensed. With rookie DE William Gholston contributing 1.5 sacks and interceptions also coming from rookie CB Johnthan Banks and middle LB Mason Foster, the Buccaneers allowed Buffalo’s offense to record just 214 total yards, much of it after the game was well in hand.

“Sometimes we have a tendency to lean on the offense, but as a defense we have a job to do and that’s to get the ball back for the offense,” said David. “That’s what we’ve been trying to do all year and today we did a great job of that. We had five turnovers, and that was a great job on our behalf. The secondary, everybody was just running to the football and making plays. The offense, once we gave them the ball, they did their thing.”

CB Darrelle Revis recorded one of the Buccaneers’ seven sacks and also delivered the hit on WR Robert Woods that created a pass deflection leading to David’s second interception. The Buccaneers had seen their three-game winning streak snapped the week before in Carolina, giving up more than 400 yards in the process, but the defense asserted itself once again on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium, where the team has won three straight.

“Last week against Carolina we didn’t do a very good job, and that wasn’t like us,” said Revis of the Buccaneers’ defense. “We just wanted to come out today and start fast on defense, and we actually did. We had a couple of three-and-outs and we just continued with that momentum and kept making plays throughout the game.”

Tampa Bay’s run defense was especially impressive against a Buffalo attack that had been averaging 139.5 rushing yards per game and featured two of the NFL’s most explosive backs in Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. The Bucs recorded nine tackles for loss while allowing just 67 yards on the ground and just 3.0 per carry.

Buffalo’s defense made things difficult for Glennon, the Bucs’ own rookie starter, who completed just nine of 25 passes for 90 yards and was picked off twice. But Glennon threw a pair of touchdown passes and was careful with the football in the second half when the Bucs were protecting a three-touchdown lead. Tellingly, Glennon was sacked only one time by a Buffalo defense that came into the game with a league-leading 43 QB takedowns. There were plenty of hidden yards in Glennon’s work, as well, as his eight targets of #1 WR Vincent Jackson produced not only 70 yards and a score but also a series of pass-interference calls against the Bills’ secondary. Buffalo was penalized 11 times for 114 yards on the day.

Tampa Bay scored twice in the first quarter, on a pair of plays that covered an average of 59 yards. Rainey’s run was followed by Glennon’s running 38-yard touchdown toss to Jackson, a heady play by the rookie passer that converted a tough third-and-14 situation into points. Jackson was well-covered on the play, even drawing a pass interference flag, but he managed to come away with the ball as he backed into the end zone. “He’s great at playing the ball and he’s so strong and explosive that when it’s Vince against their guy, I’m going to throw it up every time,” said Glennon. “He’s proven time and again that he’s going to come down with the ball. That was a great play by him and, again, to get off to that early start really helped us out.”

Those two TDs were sandwiched around a 40-yard field goal by Buffalo’s Dan Carpenter, but at the end of the first quarter Tampa Bay had a 169-38 edge in yardage. Tampa Bay’s defensive domination continued in the second quarter, as the Bucs allowed just 32 more yards and no points while picking off rookie QB E.J. Manuel twice. The Bills’ defense did manage to counter with two interceptions of their own, including one inside the five-yard line, but the Bucs’ maintained their grip on field position throughout the period and eventually got close enough for Rian Lindell’s 53-yard field goal and Glennon’s five-yard touchdown pass to a fellow rookie, TE Tim Wright.

The Bucs tried a short pass to Jackson on the first play of the game but it was tipped at the line and nearly intercepted. Fortunately, the ball eluded a diving Bills defender, which gave Rainey a chance to break free on the next snap. The second-year back found a big hole between LT Donald Penn and LG Jamon, danced left to evade LB Kiko Alonso and broke into the clear on the left sideline. He had to deliver one more stutter-step in and then back to the sideline inside the 10 in order to get around the last Bills defender and complete the longest run in franchise history.

Just like the Bucs’ offense, the Bills had their first pass attempt tipped at the line, and in this case it was nearly intercepted in the backfield by DE Adrian Clayborn. However, a second-and-10 run didn’t go quite as well for Buffalo, as Spiller was nailed at the line by LB Mason Foster and DT Akeem. Manuel athletically escaped a near-sack by Clayborn on third-and-10, just keeping his knees off the ground, but was stopped two yards short of a first down on his scramble. Unfortunately for the Buccaneers, another near-miss, this one on special teams, kept the Buffalo drive alive. LB Dekoda Watson looked certain to get his fourth blocked punt of the last two years but just missed and instead took out P Brian Moorman’s leg. The roughing penalty led to a new set of downs, but the Bucs then forced a punt from just before midfield.

Tampa Bay’s second possession was a three-and-out, giving the ball back to Buffalo in good field position. It immediately got a lot better for the Bills when a 10-yard catch by Stevie Johnson had a 15-yard unnecessary roughness flag on Foster tacked on the end. A 15-yard pass to TE Scott Chandler got the ball into Tampa Bay’s red zone but a sack by Lavonte David two plays later helped force Buffalo into a field goal attempt. K Dan Carpenter made it from 40 yards out to cut the Bucs’ lead to 7-3.

The Bucs’ offense got it moving again with their next possession, thanks to a 10-yard Jackson catch and a trio of sharp Rainey runs. However, the Bills stopped Rainey for a loss of two on his fourth carry of the drive, setting up a third-and-seven at the Bucs’ 44. Glennon and Jackson combined to convert it with an incredible pitch-and-catch, the quarterback throwing a deep out just over two defenders and Jackson making a leaping catch and landing on his back just inbounds at the Bills’ 34. The Bucs momentarily converted the next third down, too, with a nice crossing pass to Skye Dawson, but the play was erased by a holding penalty on C Jeremy Zuttah. On third-and-14, Glennon bought time by scrambling away from a collapsing pocket and eventually throwing on the run to Jackson deep down the right sideline. Glennon couldn’t get quite as much on it while running, but Jackson located the ball, fought off pass interference and made the catch in the end zone for a 14-3 Bucs lead.

Barron started the Bills’ next drive by sacking Manuel for a loss of one, and S Dashon Goldson nearly intercepted a pass down the middle of the field to Johnson on second down. On third-and-11, DT Gerald McCoy nearly single-handedly destroyed Manuel’s pocket, setting up a split sack between DEs Da’Quan Bowers and William Gholston. The Bucs’ offense followed with their own three-and-out and Buffalo got it back at their own 19 after the punt. The first quarter came to an end on Manuel’s seven-yard scramble on first down.

Three plays into the second quarter, the Bucs came up with the game’s first turnover, as David caught a deflected pass that went through Johnson’s hands. David returned his fourth pick of the season 25 yards to the Buffalo 34, but three plays later Tampa Bay gave it back. Glennon nearly hit Underwood in the end zone on first down but the ball was tipped away at the last moment. On third down, Jackson slipped while making a cut and Glennon’s pass was easily intercepted by S Jairus Byrd.

Tampa Bay’s defense trumped that almost immediately, with Johnthan Banks running in step with WR T.J. Graham and cleanly intercepting an intermediate-range pass at the Bucs’ 41. Banks returned the pick 18 yards to the Buffalo 41 but the Bucs soon faced a third-and-seven. A short pass to Dawson failed to move the sticks but did set up Lindell for a long-range attempt. He made the 53-yarder easily and put the Bucs up by two touchdowns with 11 minutes remaining in the half.

Tampa Bay’s defense continued to swarm Manuel, with Gholston batting down his first-down pass and Revis dashing in for a six-yard sack on third down. WR Eric Page made a difficult fair catch with a Buffalo cover man in his face to give the ball back to the Bucs’ offense at their own 46. Unfortunately, the offense got only four yards on three plays and ended punting it back from the midfield stripe. Page’s fair catch seemed like a little thing, but it looked big in comparison to the try by veteran return man Leodis McKelvin minutes later. McKelvin fumbled, with Goldson recovering at the Buffalo 21. That scoring attempt ended quickly, however, when CB Stephon Gilmore intercepted a pass intended for Jackson near the goal line.

The Bucs’ defense at least had Buffalo backed up at their own three, but Spence jumped offsides to give the Bills five free yards. After getting one first down, the Bills faced a third-and-six at their own 15 after Manuel just got rid of the ball to avoid a McCoy sack at the one-yard line. The Bucs brought a big blitz and Manuel was forced into a quick incompletion over the middle. The resulting punt was fair caught at the Bucs’ 43. Glennon took another shot downfield, this one in Dawson’s direction, but it was broken up again by Gilmore. However, a tough run up the middle by Leonard and an offside penalty on the Bills moved the chains. Leonard then made a pair of nice cuts to get 12 yards on first down, but a trick play that looked like it was set up to have Eric Page throw an option pass lost five yards.

The Bucs caught a break at the two-minute warning when a roughing-the-passer call on Byrd extended a drive that appeared to end on a third-and-15 incompletion. Three plays later, Glennon looked for Wright over the middle on third-and-six and found him for a gain of 16. Wright got the ball into the end zone two plays later, as well, first cutting outside and then back to the middle to get open for Glennon’s second TD pass of the day. The Bucs thus took a 24-3 lead into the intermission.

Buffalo got the ball first to start the second half but its first play went backwards as Clayborn stopped Spiller for a loss of one. However, a pass-interference call on CB Leonard Johnson created a new set of downs and Manuel promptly scrambled for 10 yards to the Buffalo 36. On the next play, Manuel threaded the needle to Johnson for a 33-yard gain down to the Bucs’ 28. A holding penalty pushed the Bills back 10 yards, and on third-and-six from the 24 Gholston dropped Manuel for a nine-yard sack. Buffalo had to settle for Carpenter’s second field goal, a 46-yarder.

The Bucs’ offense ran twice, setting up a third down that resulted in a nine-yard sack of Glennon by DT Marcell Dareus. Buffalo got the ball back just past midfield after the punt and got a first down on a seven-yard catch by Lee Smith at the Bucs’ 31. Two plays later, however, Foster made a diving interception of an errant Manuel pass, giving the ball back to the Bucs at their own 21 with six minutes left in the third quarter.

The Bucs got the ball close to midfield two plays later when Glennon threw deep in Jackson’s direction and McKelvin was flagged for pass interference at the Bucs’ 47. The Bucs got no further, however, and Michael Koenen ended up punting it 58 yards to the end zone for a touchback.

The Bills got the ball out to their 46 on a 10-yard catch by WR Robert Woods, but then committed two consecutive false starts. On the next snap, Manuel threw to Woods again and it was momentarily in the receiver’s grasp before he was hit hard by Revis, sending the ball into the air. David plucked it out of the air for his second interception of the day and returned it 32 yards to the 12. The Bucs couldn’t punch it in – a TD catch by Jackson at the back of the end zone was reversed on replay – but they still pushed their lead back to three touchdowns with Lindell’s 32-yard field goal.

A screen play to Spiller almost turned into an 83-yard touchdown but the majority of the play was called back on a holding call. The Bucs took that second chance and clamped down, with Foster pressuring Manuel into consecutive incompletions on second and third down. There were still more than 13 minutes left in the game at this point, but the Buccaneers simply ran the ball the remainder of the fourth quarter to drain the clock and Buffalo got nothing out of three more possessions.