ORCHARD PARK, NY – A week after playing what was easily their worst game of the season, the Buccaneers responded on Sunday with another mistake-filled effort in what proved to be a 30-27 loss to the Bills.
An Adam Humphries fumble, the Bucs third give-away of the game, set up the Bills for the game deciding score, which came on a 30-yard Stephen Hauschka field goal with 18 seconds left in regulation.
As bad as those giveaways were, though, it was once again the poor play of the Bucs defense that spelled doom for Tampa Bay, which was coming off a 38-33 loss at Arizona.
The Bucs were down 31—0 at one point in that game and were down 17-3 in t3he third quarter of this one but struggled yet again to stop the run and get off the field when they had to.
Led by LeSean McCoy, who ran 22 times for 91 yards, the Bills churned out 173 rushing yards and converted 10 of 15 third downs to improve to 4-3 while the Bucs fell to 2-4 on the year.
Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter admitted something about his team this week that every objective observer already knew: Simply put, the Bucs have been playing bad football.
The Bucs didn’t play as badly in the first half Sunday as they did a week ago, but they continued to suffer from a lot of the same problems that have been plaguing them all year as they allowed the Bills to build a 10-6 halftime lead.
Two potential scoring drives were thwarted altogether by giveaways – one a lost fumble by Winston, the other a Winston interception late in the half – and two others resulted in field goals instead of touchdowns.
Both of the field goal drives came after the Bucs had moved the ball well but were slowed by mistakes of their own making, including penalties and mishandle balls, including the first of Winston’s two first-half fumbles.
The problems on defense were similar to what they were a week ago as LeSean McCoy ran 10 times for 49 yards against a unit that struggled yet again to get off the field on third down.
The Bills converted seven of their 10 third downs in the first half, but a late stop in the wake of Winston’s interception allowed the Bucs to keep the game close going into the second half.
The Bills made up for the missed opportunities right out of the box in the second half, though, scoring on a 22-yard Tyrod Taylor to Logan Thomas to extend their lead to 17-6 after their first possession.
The Bucs problems with mistakes continued into their next series when a holding penalty wiped out a 53-yard pass to DeSean Jackson, but this time around they didn’t let the mistake destroy the drive.
They persevered instead, bouncing back to produce their first touchdown of the game, that coming on a 7-yard Winston pass to tight end O.J. Howard to cut their deficit to 17-13.
The Bills extended their lead to 20-13 one drive later when a 32-yard pass to tight end Nick O’Leary set the stage for what proved to be a 52-yard Hauschka field goal.
But the Bucs continued to respond in kind, this time getting a 33-yard TD pass from Winston to Howard that tied the game at 20-20 with 10:08 left in the fourth quarter.
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