With improved protection from the offensive line, Josh McCown stepped up and resembled the quarterback Lovie Smith has talked about throughout training camp. McCown took advantage of his tall targets, distributing the ball effectively in the first half. He connected consistently with veteran Vincent Jackson and rookie Mike Evans, converted on third downs and sustained drives.
In the second quarter, McCown capped an 11-play, 82-yard drive with a perfect 26-yard touchdown strike to Mike Evans. The rookie receiver flashed his speed to get behind the defender with 5:56 remaining in the half, putting the Bucs up 24-0 after the extra point. McCown went 6-for-6 on the drive, which ate up nearly six minutes on the clock.
McCown overcame an early interception, completing 13-of-16 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown in the first half. Mike Glennon led the offense in the second half.
“We just responded [after the early interception],” said McCown on Buccaneers.com. “Those things are going to happen. It was a bad break for us, but those things happen. The good thing is that our defense, even when we give them bad field position like that, they go out there and get the ball back for us. So we’re thankful for those guys. As an offense, you take those breaks, you roll with them and you respond. We did that, and that was a good thing. After those couple bumps, I thought we played well.”
Evans finished with three catches for 44 yards and a touchdown.
Tampa Bay’s offense took advantage of favorable field position early in the game thanks to the production of the defense. The Bucs got on the scoreboard first when Doug Martin punched it in from the one yard line, completing a five-play, 39-yard drive in the first quarter.
Martin ran hard, making crisp cuts and gaining 38 yards on 12 carries.
The defense joined in on the scoring in the second quarter when Clinton McDonald recovered a fumble and rambled 17 yards into the end zone for the touchdown.
“We game-planned these guys and we went out there and executed what we had planned for them,” said McDonald. “Our defense played lights-out tonight. I think we’re all getting better and we’re all understanding what’s expected out of all of us. It’s a talented defense and I’m just glad to be a part of it.”
Tampa Bay’s defense has been sharp in the preseason and was dominant once again, keeping EJ Manuel and the Bills’ offense off balance throughout the first half. The Bills’ five offensive possessions in the first quarter ended with three punts, an interception and a fumble.
The defense held the Bills scoreless in the first half as the Bucs took a 24-0 lead into the locker room at halftime. According to Scott Smith, senior writer at Buccaneers.com, the last time the Bucs scored 24 first half points in a preseason game was in 2007 in a 31-24 win over Houston at Raymond James Stadium.
The Bills gave the hometown crowd something to cheer about in the third quarter when the Bills’ starters shredded the Bucs’ second-team defenders for 14 points. Two quick touchdown drives closed the gap to 10 points before Patrick Murphy nailed a 27-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter to stretch the Bucs’ lead back to 27-14.
Nursing a significant lead in the second half, the Bucs went to the second team earlier than expected, providing players on the roster bubble on opportunity to put solid performances on tape for the coaches. The Bucs are expected to announce 15 cuts tomorrow, two days before rosters need to be trimmed to 75 players.
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