It took a few series for the offense to find its stride but thanks to an opportunistic, stifling defense, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were able to get their first preseason win in Buffalo 27-14.
The first-team defense forced three turnovers and converted two of them into touchdowns, playing the type of ‘Buc ball’ head coach Lovie Smith has long called for since he took the reins in Tampa Bay.
There was interception by Dashon Goldson on the Bills’ opening possession. There was the forced fumble by Lavonte David that was recovered by Mason Foster. Then came nose tackle Clinton McDonald barreling downfield with a 17-yard touchdown midway through the second quarter, giving the Bucs a 17-0 lead.
The Bucs would score 24 unanswered points in the first half, extending their lead with a 24-yard touchdown along the right sideline from quarterback Josh McCown to Mike Evans on a go-route. It was the second offensive score of the game for Tampa Bay and served as some redemption after an overturned Evans’ touchdown last week was the difference-maker in a 20-14 loss to the Dolphins.
The first scoring drive came on a one-yard scoring run by Doug Martin, who leapt over the goal line after a 22-yard catch-and-run to give the Bucs a 7-0 lead. It came after David knocked the ball loose from the hands of running back C.J. Spiller with Foster recovering it and returning it 24 yards to the Buffalo 39.
McDonald followed with his heroics. On first-and-20, after an illegal block above the waist by Eric Wood, defensive ends Michael Johnson and Adrian Clayborn brought down Manuel, with Johnson forcing the fumble and McDonald recovering it and scoring.
Manuel struggled throughout the afternoon, completing 19 of 28 passes for 198 yards one touchdown, an interception and a lost fumble. He was sacked four times, with the Bucs defense recording five the entire game, including two from defensive end and former first-round pick Larry English, who just joined the team last week.
Anthony Gaitor, who got a look at safety due to injuries, and Scott Solomon also recorded sacks.
McCown completed 13 of 16 passes for 112 yards, a touchdown and an interception, while tacking on 21 yards rushing. His pick on the offense’s second possession, on second-and-8, was on a short pass intended for tight end Brandon Myers.
McCown was sacked once, on third-and-13 of Tampa Bay’s first possession, fumbling the ball with guard Patrick Omameh recovering it.
Manuel found his groove in the second half, mostly against Bucs backups, hitting tight end Scott Chandler across the middle for a 23-yard pickup before finding former Bucs wide receiver Mike Williams in the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown.
On Manuel’s next possession, he found Robert Woods and Chandler for 18 and 10-yard gains respectively, with Fred Jackson running it in for an 8-yard touchdown to make it a 24-14 game.
Bucs kicker Connor Barth had a 43-yard field goal in the second quarter with Patrick Murray adding a 27-yarder late in the fourth quarter to make it a 27-14 game.
Backup quarterback Mike Glennon finished 5 of 7 for 44 passing yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. He was sacked once for a loss of 11. The Bucs offensive line surrendered two sacks.
Cornerback Alterraun Verner saw his first action of the preseason after suffering a hamstring injury that plagued him throughout minicamp and training camp. He played approximately one quarter.
Strong safety Bradley McDougald, who started in place of Mark Barron, left the game with a knee injury and did not return.
Fullback Jorvorskie Lane left the game with a hand injury.
Those missing the game due to injury include cornerback Mike Jenkins (upper leg), running back Mike James (shoulder), defensive end William Gholston (shoulder), running back Charles Sims (ankle), defensive end/defensive tackle Da’Quan Bowers (groin), cornerback Danny Gorrer (unspecified), safety Major Wright (back) and linebacker Brandon Magee (ankle).
Notably missing in the Bills’ lineups included No. 4 overall draft pick Sammy Watkins (ribs) and defensive tackle Kyle Williams (leg).
Bucs strongside linebacker Jonathan Casillas did not make the trip with the team due to a violation of team rules.
Mark Barron was also punished for a violation of team rules and sat behind McDougald.
The Bills outgained the Bucs offensively 353 to 231 yards, but were unable to sustain drives and turned the ball over, with the Bucs dominating the time of possession 35:03 to 24:57.
Buffalo committed 12 penalties for 80 yards with Tampa Bay committing just five for 50 yards.
The Bucs’ 24 points in the first half was the most in a preseason game since 2007, when the team led Houston 24-17 going into halftime.