To avoid a third straight loss, the Bucs headed to Arizona for a Christmas Eve game with the Cardinals. And as they’ve done so many times before, the Bucs stumbled and stumbled all night only to win a 19-16 overtime win thanks to late heroics from Tom Brady and a game-winning 40-yard field goal from Ryan Succop.
The Bucs got the ball first and went straight to work, with Julio Jones pulling a 30-yard pass interference call on the first play from scrimmage. Then, after two Rachaad White scored 25 yards, Tampa Bay found itself on the edge of the red zone. But just as things got going, a miss from Tom Brady on 3rd-and-3 forced a field goal attempt from Ryan Succop. He connected from 38 yards out to give the Bucs an early 3–0 lead.
The Tampa Bay defense seemed to get off the field pretty quickly on Arizona’s first drive, but a fake trappass from punter Andy Lee moved the chains. Arizona methodically drove down the field from there and threatened in the red zone, but a third-down strip sack by Anthony Nelson—with Devin White on the recovery—kept the Bucs’ lead intact.
Tampa Bay failed to capitalize on the turnover, and just before the end of the first quarter, a 20-yard run by Greg Dortch was all the play the Cardinals needed to set Matt Prater up for a 56 field goal meters. . After fifteen minutes, the two teams were evenly matched at 3-3.
After a few stagnant drives, Brady and the Bucs offense got moving again on their next possession. A third and short conversion from Brady to Chris Godwin moved things forward before a 23-yard run by Fournette—his longest run of the season—brought Tampa Bay into Arizona territory.
A fourth down Brady sneaking to the 16-yard line gave the unit another run of downs, but penalties were then entered. An illegal shift nullified a Jones touchdown, then a holding penalty to Tristan Wirfs nullified a first down. After failing to convert a 3rd and 19, the Bucs had to settle for another Succop field goal. Still, the 35-year-old gave the visitors a 6-3 lead halfway through the second quarter.
After a punt gave them solid field position around center field, the Bucs once again got just outside the red zone before disaster struck. Pressure allowed by Brandon Walton on the third string from the left led to Brady’s seventh interception in the last six games.
Once again, Tampa Bay’s defenses held. A breakup of Sean Murphy-Bunting’s pass and heavy pressing on third by Davis and White forced another punt from the Cardinals. But the offense continued to falter, and eventually McSorley and the Cardinals took advantage. It only took a 35-yard drive to get Prater ready for another field goal – this time from 53 yards out. At halftime it was a 6-6 game.
Out of the break, the Buccaneer defense forced a quick three-and-out. But what followed was an even faster three-and-out from Tampa Bay’s offense. Once again the defense was under pressure to do something. Aided by a pair of penalty kicks from the Cardinals, the unit forced another three-and-out.
But just as the Bucs started moving the chains again, Brady threw his second interception of the night – again to Marco Wilson and again on a pass intended for Mike Evans.
And just as the Bucs controlled the Cardinals offensively, it couldn’t last forever. A big play, which happened to be a 47-yard ball from McSorley to Hollywood Brown, put Arizona within range of Prater. To open the fourth quarter, the veteran kicker secured a 9-6 lead for the home side with a 39-yard field goal.
In response to Arizona’s go-ahead drive, the Tampa Bay offense again went three-and-out. And to make matters worse, Pharoh Cooper returned the ensuing punt 28 yards to the Bucs’ 33, interfering with Jake Camarda along the way. After a questionable spot on a third McSorley sneak, James Conner ran for a 22-yard touchdown to put the Cardinals 10:47 at 16-6 with 10:47 left.
The Bucs finally showed some offensive life with their backs to the wall. A 33-yard kick return by Deven Thompkins and a 44-yard catch-and-run by Fournette moved Tampa Bay to Arizona’s 23. Finally, the Bucs found the end zone. Brady hit Rachaad White for a three-yard touchdown in third to get them back in three with 8:03 to go.
On the Cardinals’ next possession, rookie Keaontay Ingram couldn’t handle a 3rd & 1 pitch play, and Will Gholston recovered the loose ball. With just under five minutes remaining, the Bucs had it back around midfield.
A 12-yard pass to Godwin and an eight-yard pass to Russell Gage got the ball moving, but the attack soon stopped. After a 3rd and 8 miss, Succop came on to tie the game with a 42-yard field goal. With 2:27 left, the Bucs and Cardinals were even on 16.
The Bucs eventually got the ball back with 1:36 left, starting at their own 34 and needing a field goal to escape the desert with an improbable win. A second down completion from Otton set up 3rd and 3 and against a stacked box they ran Fournette down the middle for a yard. That meant Tampa Bay, with less than a minute left, had to punt. Arizona went from his own 20 to midfield, but a last-second Hail Mary effort was intercepted by Keanu Neal to send the game into extra time.
The Cardinals won the coin toss in overtime, but they had to quickly kick the ball away. Thompkins called for a fair catch on the 12th on the kick, so Brady and the offense went from there – again needing only a field goal to win.
Throws to Evans and Gage moved the chains twice for Tampa Bay, getting the ball to the 47. A five-yard pass to Jones then put the Bucs into Cardinals territory before Brady and Evans connected for a 16-to-32 gain. They didn’t go conservative from there either, with Brady finding Gage for another 13 yards to the 19 on the next game. A false start and two runs later, Succop got on a game-winning 40-yard field goal. Bucs 19, Cardinals 16.
Brady had a game to forget most of the night, but he finished with 281 yards and a touchdown to two interceptions on 32-of-48 passes. Fournette was the go-to guy, catching nine of his 10 targets for 90 yards while running for 72 yards on 20 carries. White had the touchdown to go with 36 yards on seven carries and four catches for 17 yards. Gage was the man to come through on the game-winning drive, finishing the game with five catches for 65 yards.
Defensively, Devin White had three quarterback hits, as did Joe Tryon-Shoyinka. Nelson came up with the sack and a forced fumble, while White had the recovery. Succop, of course, was the hero, doing all four of his field goal attempts and his extra point attempt for 13 of the team’s 19 points.
The Bucs (7-8) now return to Raymond James Stadium next Sunday with a chance to capture the NFC South. They must beat the Panthers (6-9) to capture their second straight division crown. The kick-off is set for 13:00
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