In what is commonly referred to as the “dress rehearsal for week one”, the Bucs’ starters dominated the Buffalo Bills. The defensive unit was every bit as good as people expected from the first day Lovie Smith was hired in Tampa Bay. Although the first few possessions for the offenses were, well, offensive, the defensive performance by the Buccaneers’ front line was dominant. They pressured E.J. Manuel consistently with just their front four, which is exactly what makes the Tampa-2 system effective. Manuel threw an early interception to safety Dashon Goldson when his intended receiver lost his footing, something that plagued both teams. The Bucs were unable to capitalize on the possession, going 3-and-out.
On the Bucs’ second possession, quarterback Josh McCown threw an interception when his intended receiver lost his footing. Two plays later, Bucs’ linebacker Lavonte David forced C.J. Spiller to fumble, and linebacker Mason Foster recovered.
After taking the ball back, McCown hit Doug Martin on an impressive 21-yard catch and run to set up Martin’s one-yard touchdown leap. This was an impressive possession for the Bucs’ offensive line which, yet again, was having difficulty stopping pass rushers. Buffalo was sending a lot of delayed blitzes that often went unblocked due to communication issues of not calling out proper assignments for the front line.
The Buccaneers blew it open in the second quarter. After Connor Barth kicked a 43-yard field goal, the vicious Buc defense was at it again. End Adrian Clayborn sacked Manuel, holding him up long enough for fellow end Michael Johnson to strip the ball. The ball was recovered by another new Buc, Clinton McDonald, and returned 17-yards for a touchdown. When the Bucs’ offense took to the field again, McCown, who went 13/16 for 112 yards and a touchdown, engineered an 82-yard drive. He converted two third-downs to wide out Vincent Jackson, who ended the day with 5 receptions for 43 yards and three third-down conversions. McCown then hit Mike Evans in stride for a 24-yard touchdown. And this time, there were no issues on Evans’ touchdown, unlike his fumble on the one yard line last week.
When the second quarter came to an end, the first-team units for the Bucs were beating the first-team Bills 24-0. The Bills left their starters in in the third quarter, scoring on two quick drives to cut it to 24-14, but Buccaneer fans seemed perfectly content with the starters on the bench. With as dominant as this defense seems to be in preseason, the last thing they want to see is a guy like Gerald McCoy or Lavonte David go down with an injury in a meaningless contest. The Bucs were able to tack on a field goal to make the score 27-14 mid-way through the fourth, and that was how the game would end.
Overall, the Buccaneers showed significant improvement on offense over the last two games. Coach Lovie Smith repeatedly expressed his disdain for people reading too much into the first two games, neither of which involved any kind of game planning. And even though the offensive unit struggled early, they made great in-game adjustments, something the Buccaneers didn’t do a single time all last season. The offensive line is still shaky, but showing slight improvement week to week.
–Doug Martin had 12 carries for 38 yards and a touchdown, as well as 2 receptions for 27 yards
-Mike Evans had 3 receptions for 44 yards and a touchdown
-E.J. Manuel was 19/28 for 198 yards, a touchdown, interception, and fumble
-Buccaneers defense had 5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, an interception and a touchdown
-Bucs linebacker Johnathan Casillas did not travel with the team due to “disciplinary reasons”
-Conerback Alterraun Verner saw his first, albeit limited, action of the preseason
-Conerback Mike Jenkins did not play again as he nurses a hamstring injury
-Bills receiver Mike Williams had 3 catches for 46 yards and a touchdown against his former team in the contest