DALLAS — The Bucs showed some late first-half life against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday afternoon, quickly driving down the field to get a much-needed touchdown in the final seconds of the first half.
The Bucs had been held out of the end zone until then but went into the locker room trailing only 17-13.
Tampa Bay was charged for seven penalties for 57 yards, nullifying in part a half that saw the Bucs outgain the Cowboys in total yards (206 to 116) and dominate time of possession (19:32-10:25)
Jacquizz Rodgers scored from two yards out with 20 seconds left in the half, capping na eight-play, 75-yard drive that took up just 1:23.
Jameis Winston connected with DeSean Jackson for the first time in the game on the drive, gaining 24 yards, then getting an additional 15 on a roughing-the-passer penalty.
Jackson, playing for the first time after missing the last three games with a thumb injury, hobbled off the field with an apparent right ankle injury.
Trailing 7-3 and with the Bucs driving for what could have been a go-ahead score in the first quarter, Winston fumbled on third-and-5 at the Dallas 35-yard line. A hard hit from Randy Gregory jarred the ball loose, and linebacker Jaylon Smith scooped and returned it 69 yards for a touchdown.
On the Bucs' first drive of the game, Winston hit Mike Evans for a 38-yard gain to reach the Cowboys' 13, but the Bucs went backwards on a holding penalty on guard Caleb Benenoch and had to settle for a 37-yard field goal by Cairo Santos.
After falling behind 14-3 on Smith's fumble return, the Bucs drove to the Dallas 27 — rebounding from a first-and-20 created by a Demar Dotson's holding penalty — but Winston was called for an illegal block in the back on second down, and the Bucs had to settle for a 45-yard field goal by Santos.
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at [email protected] Follow @EddeInTheYard.