Early on, the Buccaneers were clicking.
The Colts reached Tampa Bay territory on each of their first two drives, but the defense held and kept them out of the end zone. Doug Martin charged toward 1,000 rushing yards and crossed the mark when he ripped off a 56-yard gain late in the second quarter. A poised Jameis Winston was money on third down, converting five of seven in the first half.
Then the third quarter happened. In four drives and seven and a half minutes, the game completely flipped.
The Bucs' 12 penalties certainly contributed toward their downfall, but more than anything, they lost to the Colts 25-12 on Sunday because Indianapolis could pressure the quarterback, and they could not. Here's a step-by-step look at how the Bucs came undone.
1. Bucs' first possession of the third quarter
Score: Tampa Bay leads 12-6
Time at start of drive: 15:00
Bucs' win probability: 69.2 percent
The drive begins inauspiciously as a holding penalty on Vincent Jackson negates a Martin 5-yard run and pushes the Bucs back to their own 10-yard line.
On first-and-20, the Colts send five rushers after Winston. Tackle Donovan Smith (76) reaches for defensive end Kendall Langford (90) but can't lock him up. Langford squeezes through an inside lane between Smith and guard Logan Mankins and hits Winston as he throws. Vincent Jackson is running a deep out route, and the pass is just out of his reach.
On second-and-20, linebacker Jerrell Freeman reads the screen pass to Martin. Center Joe Hawley tries to get out in front of the running back, but he overruns Freeman, who sheds the block and holds Martin to a 1-yard gain to set up third-and-long.
On third-and-19, the Colts protect against the deep pass and leave the middle of the field open. Winston lives to fight another day and throws a short pass to Adam Humphries, who gains 9 yards before the defense converges on him. The Bucs punt for the first time in the game.
2. Colts' first possession of the third quarter
Score: Tampa Bay leads 12-6
Time at start of drive: 13:05
Bucs' win probability: 63.8 percent
The play-action on first down momentarily freezes the Bucs' linebackers. T.Y. Hilton runs a crossing route behind them, and the offensive line gives Matt Hasselbeck an extraordinary amount of time to throw. Hasselbeck hits Hilton for a 31-yard gain that takes Indianapolis to the Tampa Bay 33-yard line. It's the Colts' third completion of 20 or more yards; it took them 40 minutes before they completed one against the Falcons the week before.
Holding penalties can be judgment calls, but the Colts got away with a rather egregious one on the completion to Hilton.
Later in the drive, on third-and-3, no Bucs defender comes close to laying a hand on Hasselbeck as he lobs a beautiful 16-yard touch pass to Donte Moncrief. As spectacular as the throw is, it's an equally great catch.
A touchdown seems inevitable until a Lavonte David blitz on second-and-6 hurries Hasselbeck's throw to Andre Johnson on the out route. Safety Bradley McDougald makes a solid play on the ball, lunging to knock it down just before it reaches Johnson.
After Hasselbeck loses a yard on a third-down scramble, the Colts settle for a field goal that cuts the Bucs' lead in half.
3. Bucs' second possession of the third quarter
Score: Tampa Bay leads 12-9
Time at start of drive: 10:01
Bucs' win probability: 59.2 percent
On second-and-9, the Colts again send five rushers. Linebacker Erik Walden and defensive tackle Billy Winn get upfield, but the Bucs' tackles initially keep them out of the pocket. The pass play breaks down entirely when Martin misses on his block of linebacker D'Qwell Jackson. Jackson's pursuit forces Winston to retreat, but Walden and Winn's presence in the backfield restricts his movement in the pocket. There's nowhere for Winston to go; he has to take the sack.
Winston's screen pass on third-and-19 is over Martin's head, and the Bucs are forced to punt from their own 12-yard line. The Colts deal the Bucs another blow when they return the kick 20 yards to the Tampa Bay 46-yard line.
4. Colts' second possession of the third quarter
Score: Tampa Bay leads 12-9
Time at start of drive: 8:27
Bucs' win probability: 46.7 percent
On previous drives, the Colts were content to play it safe and chip away at the Bucs defense. Here, they strike quickly and aggressively.
On second-and-14, the Colts send three receivers deep against the Bucs' Cover 2 (two safeties deep, zone coverage underneath). Andre Johnson, lined up in the slot, runs a fly route down the left seam that draws the attention of the safeties and clears a zone for Moncrief down the right sideline. Hasselbeck drops the pass between cornerback Sterling Moore and a late-arriving McDougald for a 31-yard gain.
While McDougald is responsible for deep routes on the right side of the field, Moore does little to disrupt Moncrief's route. In fact, he doesn't get his hands on him until he's running past him.
The Colts go no huddle and run a similar concept on the next play. On the right side, tight end Dwayne Allen and Hilton run vertical routes. Hasselbeck is trying to get the ball to Allen, who is matched up against Lavonte David, but when McDougald takes a step toward the middle to help David, he vacates the zone Hilton is running to.
When Hasselbeck hits Hilton for the 19-yard touchdown, the Bucs' win probability drops to 26.7 percent and steadily shrinks thereafter.
Contact Thomas Bassinger at [email protected] Follow @tometrics.