TAMPA — Nick Folk, who missed a field goal and had an extra point blocked last week against the Jaguars, bounced back nicely Saturday night against the Browns, going 3-for-3 on field goals and providing the only points for the Bucs.
Folk connected on a 31-yard field goal on the final play of the first half to tie the score at 3. He was good again from 42 yards in the third quarter for a 6-3 lead and again from 43 in the fourth quarter.
Folk lined up for another kick from 45 yards on the opening drive of the game, but the Browns jumped offside to give the Bucs a first down. But Jameis Winston's interception kept Tampa Bay from scoring on the drive.
After only one takeaway in the first two preseason games, the Bucs defense stepped up with two in the first half, holding the Browns to three points .
CB Vernon Hargreaves, whose interception against the Bengals in the preseason opener had been the only takeaway before Saturday, got another on a pass deflected by Lavonte David in the second quarter.
Cleveland had gone on an 85-yard drive to the Bucs 12-yard line when rookie LB Kendell Beckwith hit Browns RB Duke Johnson and forced a fumble that was recovered by Adarius Glanton, filling in for Kwon Alexander at middle linebacker.
After holding the Jaguars scoreless in the first half last week, the Bucs held Cleveland to three points, clamping down after allowing 135 yards in the first two drives.
The national anthem came and went without any protest: All Bucs players stood on the sideline, and the Browns — who had 12 players kneel in protest last week — all stood, with a large portion together with their arms interlocked.
Bucs coach Dirk Koetter spent part of a team meeting Wednesday allowing players to talk about the issue of anthem protests and letting players know they were free to handle the anthem as they pleased.
The Bucs went 0-for-7 on third downs in the first half, with Jameis Winston going just 2-for-6 for 12 yards on third downs, with a sack and an interception. The Browns opened 4-for-5 on third downs, with rookie QB DeShone Kizer moving the chains against the Bucs defense.
With the Bucs' top two receivers sitting out, Adam Humphries had two catches for 24 yards during the first two drives, but he left the game in the second quarter with an injury. Humphries said after the game that he had a hip pointer.
DaVonte Lambert, who started in place of Will Gholston at defensive end, left the game in the third quarter with a wrist injury.
With Doug Martin missing the first three games while suspended, the Bucs gave Jacquizz Rodgers an extended look in the first half Saturday, and he totaled 34 yards on 10 carries. Rodgers also caught one pass for 17 yards in his most extensive work of the preseason. Martin barely played in the first half, catching one pass for 7 yards.
PIN THEM DEEP
Best unit on the field for the Bucs in the first half? Bryan Anger (below) and the punt coverage team. Coach Dirk Koetter opted to punt from the Cleveland 38, and Anger's situational punt was downed by rookie Justin Evans at the Cleveland 1.
Twice, the Bucs pinned the Browns deep and got a half-the-distance penalty, for drives starting at the 3 and the 9 to win the field-position game.
SIXTEEN MEN OUT
Erring on the side of caution, the Bucs held out 16 players from the game with various injuries, including eight starters: WRs Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson, LG Kevin Pamphile and RT Demar Dotson on offense; and DT Gerald McCoy, DE Will Gholston, LB Kwon Alexander and CB Brent Grimes on defense. Also out: WR Josh Huff, S Josh Robinson, LB Devante Bond, T Caleb Benenoch, QB Ryan Griffin, DE Jacquies Smith, DE Justin Trattou.
Contact Greg Auman at [email protected]tampabay.com and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.