Bucs Stun Bills With Walk-Off Thriller
For the sixth time in as many home games in 2021, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers scored at least 30 points and walked off with a victory. They just needed a little extra time to get that done on this occasion.
In one of the most thrilling finishes in franchise history, the Buccaneers beat the Buffalo Bills, 33-27, on Tom Brady's 58-yard touchdown pass to Breshad Perriman with 5:31 left in overtime. It happened to be the 700th regular-season scoring pass of Brady's career, but it was just the second time in 46 seasons that Tampa Bay has won on a walk-off touchdown.
"Tom threw an amazing ball and the rest is history," said Perriman. "39 [Levi Wallace], he was running pretty fast too, so I was like, man, I've got to pick it up and get going."
The overtime heroics were needed after the Buccaneers squandered a 24-3 halftime lead and were sent to the extra period by a 25-yard Tyler Bass field goal with 22 seconds left in regulation. Buffalo scored 17 points on its three drives in the fourth quarter and the Buccaneers put up only three points in the second half after gaining 303 yards before halftime.
Buffalo came into the game with the NFL's top defense, allowing just 272.3 yards per game. However, two third-down stops, both with CB Carlton Davis in tight coverage – one on Buffalo's final field goal drive and one to start overtime after the Bills won the coin toss – allowed Brady and the Buccaneers to rally for the win.
"I'm obviously very happy with a good team victory," said Head Coach Bruce Arians. "I didn't like the second-half offense, especially not making third downs, getting the ball back to them and not getting off the field. But it showed a lot of toughness and we got the stop in overtime and BP made a big play to win the game. Overall, they're a very good football team and so are we."
The Buccaneers improved to 10-3 with the win, joining Arizona as the only 10-win teams in the NFL after the late-afternoon games. The 10-2 Cardinals host the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night while the 9-3 Green Bay Packers play at Chicago on Sunday night. Tampa Bay also put itself on the verge of clinching the NFC South title as Atlanta's win over Carolina and the Bucs' own victory eliminated both of those teams from contention. A win over New Orleans next Sunday at Raymond James Stadium would give Tampa Bay it's first division title since 2007 and break the Saints' four-year stranglehold on first place.
The victory also pushed Tampa Bay's win streak to four games and kept them perfect against AFC opponents in 2021, with a 4-0 mark. The Bucs' final game against an AFC opponent will be at the New York Jets in Week 17. Tampa Bay also remains perfect at home, at 6-0, and is now averaging 37.5 points per game on their own turf. The Buccaneers have not lost a game at Raymond James Stadium since Week 12 of the 2020 season.
"I would much rather it not come down to that," said Brady. "We've got to learn from it and move on, and obviously we're playing for a division championship next week, which is pretty exciting for all of us."
The Buccaneers and Bills each dominated one half of the game but in the end it was a complete offensive explosion, despite the Bucs ranking second in rush defense and the Bills ranking first in pass defense coming into the weekend. The two teams combined for 954 yards of offense (488 for the Bucs, 466 for the Bills) and 53 first downs, with each team averaging more than six yards per play. Tampa Bay did do much better on third downs, converting eight of 16 attempts to just two of 13 for Buffalo. Leonard Fournette, who ran for a season-high 113 yards and scored the game's first points on a 47-yard jaunt in the first quarter, said the Bucs knew what kind of fight they were in for.
"We knew what was at stake," said Fournette. "We kind of let them back in the game. At the end of the day, to see BP finish up with that home run…he just got here. That's amazing. To see him and Tom work after practice, that's paying off right there."
Brady completed 31 of 46 passes for 363 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 105.6. He is now 13-2 in his career, and 9-0 in home games, when playing against the NFL's top-ranked pass defense, as Buffalo came in allowing just 165.3 yards per game. Brady connected with Mike Evans on a dazzling 13-yard score in the second quarter, and then later ran one in himself on a one-yard sneak to give the Buccaneers their 21-point lead. He saved his best pass for last, though, hitting Perriman on a deep crossing route on third-and-three from the Bucs' 42. It was the first catch of the game for Perriman, who only joined the team on November 10 after being released by the Chicago Bears.
"That's awesome," said Brady. "Everybody contributes when we win. We win as a team and we lose as a team. BP, we just added him here three or four years ago. He had a really good run here a few years ago and we're just trying to get him up to speed with what we're doing. He made just a huge, huge play for us."
This is Perriman's second stint with the Buccaneers, as he first joined the team in 2019, not long after Arians took over as head coach. Perriman came on strong at the end of the season after injuries to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, finishing with career highs in catches (36), yards (645) and touchdowns (6) before earning a lucrative free agency deal with the New York Jets. He went to camp with the Detroit Lions this year but ended up in Chicago to start the season and never got into a game for the Bears before he was cut.
"I can't even put it into words," said Perriman of his triumphant return to Tampa. "It's really a blessing. From just how my year had been going so far – I can't really put it into words. I'm just thankful to God, and my teammates make me feel like I'm on top of the world. It's a great feeling."
The Buccaneers' defense put pressure on Allen early, sacking him three times in the first half, with Shaq Barrett and Devin White getting one each and combining on the other one. But they had trouble containing the mobile fourth-year passer on the ground, as he ran for 109 yards and a touchdown, helping the Bills rack up 173 rushing yards overall, roughly twice what the Bucs were giving up per game.
Running back Devin Singletary added 52 yards on just four carries as the Bills surprised the Bucs by running frequently to start the second half despite their big deficit on the scoreboard. "They came out with a game plan in the second half for us and were able to execute it," said Barrett. "We were just able to make the stops at the right time and get the job done."
The Buccaneers had a chance to pull away after getting up by 21, particularly when Richard Sherman intercepted Allen near midfield with a minute left in the first half and after the Bills tried a fake punt early in the second half that didn't work. But neither of the ensuing drives resulted in points and the Bills were left in position to make their impressive comeback.
"I think we just had a mental lapse," said White. "We kind of got overly confident and just expected them to lay down because they got down early. But at the end of the day we've got to all keep playing hard and play with that same energy we had in the first half, because teams can claw their way back in. We've just got to do a better job on the defensive side, because 24 points was enough to win."
The Buccaneers' last victory in overtime was a 26-23 win over Cleveland in Week Seven of the 2018 season. The only other time that Tampa Bay has ever won in overtime on a touchdown was at Carolina on Nov. 18, 2012, when Josh Freeman's 15-yard touchdown pass to Dallas Clark produced a 27-21 victory. Tampa Bay's 94-yard scoring drive is the longest one in overtime in the NFL since at least 2001, according to Stathead. On Sunday, the Buccaneers were just happy to escape with the win, no matter how it happened.
"They're a really solid defense, one of the best defenses in the league, so we were able to play a really competitive game and it came down to just a couple plays in overtime," said Brady.
The Buccaneers got the ball first but got off to a rough start when Ryan Jensen's shotgun snap on the first play sailed past Brady, who had to fall on at the 10 for a loss of 14. Two passes to Godwin were good for 21 yards but it wasn't enough and the Bucs had to punt just two minutes into the contest. Grant Stuard led a swarm that trapped return man Marquez Stevenson at the Buffalo 18.
Buffalo got a quick first down with two short dump-offs to RB Devin Singletary, but a blitzing Andrew Adams was able to leap and knock away a third straight pass intended for Singletary. Adams blited off the opposite edge on the very next play and helped forced Allen into the waiting arms of Barrett for a seven-yard sack. The Bills couldn't overcome that and had to punt it back.
The Bucs went to a hurry-up approach on their second possession and moved the sticks with Brady's third-down seven-yard pass over the middle to Godwin. A defensive holding call on safety Jordan Poyer drawn by Evans pushed the ball across midfield and Fournette did the rest. Taking a handoff going left to right, Fournette shot through a seam, broke into the open field and outran the defense to the right pylon for the 47-yard touchdown.
A designed keeper for Allen around right end got 14 yards and a first down at the Bills' 44 on the second play of the Bills' second drive. Two plays later, Barrett and White combined for a one-yard sack and Allen's pass on third down was off target, leading to another punt.
The Bucs started again at their own 15 and unsurprisingly gave it back to Fournette to start the drive with a four-yard run. After converting a third-and-one with one of his patented sneaks, Brady moved the sticks on the next play with one of his decidedly unpatented scrambles up the middle for 12 more. After another quick third down, Brady hit Godwin crossing over the middle and the receiver accelerated upfield for 20 yards and a first down at the Bills' 31.
The Bucs then faced a third-and-two at the 23 and Brady took off up the middle again, this time juking one defender and spinning through the tackle of another Bill to get just enough for the first down. A swing pass to Fournette on the next play turned into a 16-yard gain down to the four when Fournette found an opening up the left sideline.
After the two teams switched sides to start the second quarter, Brady had to scramble again on first-and-goal and was dropped by DT Eli Ankou for a one-yard sack. Fournette's run up the middle got nothing on second down and Brady was chased into a throwaway on third down, so the Bucs settled for Ryan Succop's 23-yard field goal and a 10-point lead.
The Bills got their third drive started off in a good fashion with Allen's 25-yard strike to Emmanuel Sanders on the midfield stripe. Allen then followed with consecutive completions of 24 yards to Stefon Diggs and 21 to Gabriel Davis to quickly get the ball down to the Bucs' 10. The Tampa Bay defense was ready for a play-action keeper by Allen and trapped him in the backfield for a loss of three, but Allen was able to scramble down to the three on the next play. The Bucs covered well on third-and-goal and Allen threw it away, so the Bills brought in Tyler Bass to hit a 21-yard field goal.
Godwin went low to catch a 23-yard pass on the first play of the next drive, and Gronkowski took a quick dart over the middle and brushed off several defenders to get 18 more to the Buffalo 34. On third-and-five from the 29, the Bucs isolated Gronkowski to the right and Brady's pass in his direction turned into a first down at the 18 thanks to a pass-interference call on CB Dane Jackson. Three plays later, on third down, Brady threw a high pass to the back left corner of the end zone and Evans made a remarkable leaping catch for the touchdown and a 14-point lead with 7:11 left in the first half.
After the Bills got one first down to start their next possession, White shot up the middle and rode Allen to the ground for a seven-yard sack. Antoine Winfield's great open-field tackle on TE Dawson Knox prevented a conversion on third-and-17 and Buffalo's punt went out of bounds at the Bucs' 28 with four minutes left in the half.
The Bucs got a quick 16 with a first-down catch by Gronkowski but Fournette was bottled up for a loss of one on the next play. Godwin's first tunnel screen of the game worked to the tune of 13 yards and a first down at the Bills' 44. The Bucs faced a third-and-three at the Buffalo 22 and Brady was backpedaling against a blitz when he let go of a high pop of a pass that somehow found Evans at the sideline for a 20-yard gain to the two. Two plays later, Brady took it in himself on a quarterback sneak.
Trying to make something of the last 90 seconds of the half, the Bills got a first down at their 40 but heavy pressure on Allen on the next snap led to an errant throw that Sherman intercepted at the 45. The Bucs couldn't do anything with the extra possession but neither could the Bills with their next possession and the home team went into the half with a 21-point lead.
Buffalo got the ball to start the first half and Allen immediately ripped off a 22-yard run, but Barrett hit Allen on second and third down of the next series, forcing incompletions and the Bills sent out the punt team. Bills coach Sean McDermott called for a fake punt but the Bucs weren't fooled and DL Patrick O'Connor tackled RB Matt Breida near the left sideline for a loss of three.
That gave Tampa Bay outstanding field position but it didn't result in any points. The Bucs went for it on fourth-and-two and Brady's pass was tipped in the backfield and nearly intercepted. Buffalo's Ed Oliver incurred a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty after the play which pushed the ball back to the 19 but Buffalo still took over possession. Singletary immediately ripped off a 29-yard run down the right sideline and Diggs caught a 13-yard pass to get the ball into Bucs territory.
White pressured Allen into a first-down throwaway and three plays alter the Bills faced a fourth-and-one at the Bucs' 30. Allen took it around right end on a keeper and was flipped down at the 26. The Bills faced a third-and-two at the 18 and got that plus much more when Allen kept it, ran left and sprinted to the end zone to make it 24-10 at the midway point of the third quarter.
Ronald Jones ripped off a nine-yard run over right guard to kick start the Bucs' next drive and got enough for a first down on the next carry. However, the drive stalled after a deep shot to Gronkowski just barely missed and the Bucs had to punt again, giving th ball back to Buffalo with five minutes left in the third quarter.
The Bills once again started their drive on the ground and Breida got 15 yards on two runs up the middle. However, the Bucs allowed no more first downs, with ILB Lavonte David making a solid open-field of Singletary three yards short of the sticks on third-and-10. Jaelon Darden fair caught the ensuing punt on the Bucs' 10. On the second play of the drive, Brady found Evans down the left hash for a gain of 24 yard and a first down at the 36. Three plays later, on third-and-six, Brady fit a dart in between two defenders to Evans for a gain of 18 to the Buffalo 42.
Fournette followed with runs of seven and 21 yards and the Bucs had a first down at the 14. The Bucs then faced a fourth-and-two at the six and initially lined up to go for it. However, Brady called a timeout with the play clock winding down and then Succop was sent out to hit a 24-yard field goal. That gave the Bucs a three-score lead, 27-10, with 11:20 to play.
Buffalo kept the game's outcome in doubt with a quick two-minute touchdown drive ending in Allen's 15-yard touchdown pass to Knox. Allen set up that score with his own 23-yard run and Singletary ripped off an 18-yarder on the drive, as well.
A holding penalty on the kickoff return by Anthony Nelson erased a good return by Darden and put the Bucs all the way back at their own 10. A dispiriting three-and-out followed and Buffalo got the ball back at Tampa Bay's 46 with eight minutes still to play.
Singletary broke a tackle to convert a third-and-one and get a first down at the Bucs' 35. A quick slant to Cole Beasley two plays later got another first down at the 23, and Diggs made an excellent sideline catch at the 11 on the next snap. A roughing the passer call on White made it first-and-goal at the four. Two plays later, Allen hit Gabriel Davis on a quick slant and it was a three-point game with just under five minutes to play.
Two quick completions to Brate and Evans moved the chains to start the Bucs' next possession. Buffalo used its initial first down at 3:35 after Fournettee's four-yard run to the Bucs' 45. A play-action shot to Godwin down the right sideline missed and Brady's third-down completion to Godwin was erased by off-setting penalties. On the replay, Brady was sacked back at the 35 and the Bucs had to punt with 3:16 left. Buffalo used their second timeout to stop the clock at that point.
Buffalo's next drive started at its own 22 with 3:05 to go. Allen scrambled for a fisrt down at the 35. The Bills had to go for it on fourth-and-four at their own 40 and Davis caught a ball on the sidelien and fought through a tackle for the first down. Two plays later, Beasley caught a pass down to the Bucs' 40. The Bucs used their second timeout after Antoine Winfield, Jr. swung Beasley down at the 39 on the next play, but on the next play a very short pass to knox turned into a 24-yard gain down to the 15. An incompletion and an Allen keeper made it third-and-three at the eight with 28 seconds left. Allen's third-down pass was incomplete and Bass came on tie the gameon a 25-yard field goal with 22 seconds left.
Buffalo won the toss to start overtime but the Bucs' defense came up big with a three-and-out, with Davis in coverage on Diggs on a third-down incompletion. Matt Haack helped the visitors by blasting a 63-yard punt that went out of bounds at the six. Fournette converted a third-and-inches moments later to keep the drive alive, though the play was reviewed before it was upheld. A pass down the right sideline to Evans drew a pass-interference call on CB Levi Wallace and made it first down at the Bucs' 35. A swing pass to Fournette lost seven yards but
Gronkowski took a short pass back over the middle of the field and made it a manageable third-and-three. That set up the game's final play. Brady stood in the pocket and surveyed the left side of the field before turning and putting a perfect pass out in front of Perriman so that he could catch at without breaking stride. Perriman initially tried to stiff-arm the Bills' last defender before turning on the jets and running untouched down the right sideline.
Scott Smith, Buccaneers.com, published 13 December 2021