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Leonard Fournette scored four touchdowns, including the 28-yard game-winner with 20 seconds remaining, to lift the Bucs to a 38-31 victory over the Colts Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Jonathan Taylor’s 4-yard run with just over three minutes remaining tied the score at 31, but the Bucs drove 75 yards in eight plays to go back ahead. Tom Brady was 4 of 4 for 30 yards on the drive, and Fournette ran three times for 47 yards.
Isaiah Rodgers returned the ensuing kickoff to the Bucs 32 to give the Colts one last chance. But Pierre Desir intercepted Carson Wentz’s desperation pass for Michael Pittman Jr. just short of the goal line.
Fournette rushed for 100 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries. He caught seven passes for 31 yards and another score.
Brady finished 25 of 34 for 226 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Tight end Rob Gronkowski was his favorite target, pulling in seven passes for 123 yards.
Wentz passed for three touchdowns in the second quarter to help the Colts to a 10-point halftime lead.
The Bucs defense limited Taylor, the NFL’s rushing leader, to 83 yards on 16 carries, 58 of which came on the late fourth-quarter drive that tied the game.
The Bucs forced five turnovers, converting them into 24 points.
Desir and Antoine Winfield Jr. intercepted passes, while Lavonte David, Shaquil Barrett and Scotty Miller recovered fumbles. Barrett had two sacks, and Ndamukong Suh added one.
Here’s how it happened:
Playing to their strengths
After squandering a 10-point, third-quarter lead, the Colts seemed to remember midway through the fourth what had gotten them wins in five of their previous six games and three straight.
Indianapolis fed NFL rushing leader Jonathan Taylor during a 10-play, 75-yard drive that tied the game at 31 with 3:29 to play.
Taylor picked up 58 yards on eight carries, including a 4-yard scoring run up the middle. He had two runs of 15 yards during the drive and another 10-yard gain.
‘Tis the season
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The Colts gifted the Bucs a field goal early in the fourth quarter when Nyheim Hines misplayed a Bradley Pinion punt and Scotty Miller recovered at the Indianapolis 19.
The Bucs, already leading by four, extended their advantage to 31-24 on Ryan Succop’s 25-yard kick with just over 10 minutes remaining in the game.
Tampa Bay has converted four Indianapolis turnovers into 24 points.
With the Colts leading by a field goal and driving into Bucs territory late in the third quarter, Carson Wentz threw a ball up for grabs deep downfield.
Tampa Bay safety Antoine Winfield Jr. out-jumped Michael Pittman Jr. at the 5-yard line, reaching over the Indianapolis receiver to intercept the ball, and returned it 30 yards to the 35.
It was the third takeaway by the Bucs defense, to go along with three sacks.
Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski took over from there, hooking up twice for 41 yards as Tampa Bay drove deep into Indianapolis territory, including a 32-yard completion to the 12.
After a pass interference penalty in the end zone against T.J. Carrie gave the Bucs a first down at the 1, Ronald Jones carried up the middle to give Tampa Bay a 28-24 lead with just over a minute left in the third quarter.
Scotty Miller returned to the Bucs lineup after missing seven games with a turf toe injury and used his speed to stretch the field early in the second half.
Miller didn’t pull in a long pass from Tom Brady, but he got open deep and drew a 37-yard pass-interference penalty against Rock Ya-Sin that gave Tampa Bay a first down at the Indianapolis 15.
Leonard Fournette scored his third touchdown of the game three plays later, his 4-yard run cutting the Bucs’ deficit to 24-21 with just over eight minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Shaq to the rescue
Just when the Colts seemed poised to take a three-score lead early in the third quarter, Shaquil Barrett took the ball out of their offense’s hands.
The Bucs outside linebacker knocked the ball away from quarterback Carson Wentz and pounced on it at the Tampa Bay 32, giving the Bucs possession.
Indianapolis had driven 55 yards to the Tampa Bay 20 before the strip-sack ended the possession.
Squeezing almost every last second out of the second quarter, the Colts drove 75 yards on 14 plays in 1:38 to answer the Bucs’ touchdown with one of their own, restoring their 10-point lead.
Carson Wentz completed a 4-yard touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton on fourth and 1, extending Indianapolis’ lead to 24-14 with 18 seconds remaining in the half.
Wentz completed passes of 22 yards to Jack Doyle, 12 to Michael Pittman Jr. and 9 to Hilton and Nyheim Hines on the drive.
He also scrambled for 16 yards on third and 15 from the Indianapolis 34, giving the Colts a first down at midfield.
Finding his guy
With the Bucs trailing by 10 and sputtering on offense late in the second quarter, Tom Brady looked to his favorite target to give his team a boost.
Brady found tight end Rob Gronkowski twice for 41 yards on an eight-play, 75-yard drive that pulled Tampa Bay back to within 17-14 with just under two minutes remaining in the first half.
The big play was a 26-yard completion over the middle that gave the Bucs a first down at the Colts 9.
Running back Leonard Fournette covered the final 4 yards on a short pass from Brady to the left side. It was Fournette’s second touchdown of the game.
Done for the day
Bucs cornerback Jamel Dean, who sustained a shoulder injury in the first quarter, and inside linebacker Devin White (hip) have been ruled out for the remainder of the game.
Dean was replaced by Dee Delaney, White by Kevin Minter.
Giving it away
Trailing 10-7 early in the second quarter, the Bucs gave the ball right back to the Colts when Tom Brady was intercepted by cornerback Isaiah Rodgers at the Indianapolis 10.
The Colts quickly moved the ball down the field, Carson Wentz completing passes of 10 yards to Nyheim Hines and 14 to Jack Doyle. Indianapolis picked up another 24 on a pass interference penalty against Sean Murphy-Bunting.
Three plays after Jonathan Taylor’s 12-yard run moved the ball to the Tampa Bay 27, the Colts faced fourth and 1 at the Bucs 18. But Wentz picked up 3 yards and the first down on a quarterback sneak, getting a helpful push from behind from Taylor.
One play later, Wentz connected with Doyle on a 15-yard touchdown pass, extending Indianapolis’ lead to 17-7 with 5:07 to play in the half.
The Colts didn’t pick up a first down until Jonathan Taylor’s 5-yard run early in the second quarter.
Their first touchdown came on the very next play.
Carson Wentz hit Ashton Dulin in stride on a play-action pass, the 62-yard scoring play restoring the Colts’ lead at 10-3 with 11:44 remaining in the first half.
Cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting was left alone in coverage when safety Antoine Winfield Jr. jumped on a crossing route.
Turning the tide
In need of a break after their offense failed to generate anything on their first four possessions, the Bucs got one late in the first quarter.
Tampa Bay safety Mike Edwards forced a Zach Pascal fumble at the Indianapolis 46, and linebacker Lavonte David recovered, returning the ball 12 yards to the 34.
Tom Brady wasted no time taking advantage of the takeaway, completing passes of 10 yards to tight end Rob Gronkowski, 8 to running back Leonard Fournette and 7 to tight end Cameron Brate as the Bucs quickly advanced to the 5 as the quarter came to a close.
The Bucs took their first lead of the game on the third play of the second quarter, Fournette running 1 yard over left tackle to give Tampa Bay a 7-3 advantage with 13:22 to play in the half.
A world of hurt
Before the first quarter was halfway over, the Bucs had three players injured.
Guard Aaron Stinnie, who started in place of injured Ali Marpet (oblique), injured a knee. Inside linebacker Devin White (hip) and cornerback Jamel Dean (shoulder) also are questionable to return.
Nick Leverett replaced Stinnie at left guard. Kevin Minter stepped in for White. Dee Delaney took Dean’s place in the secondary.
Playing with fire
The Bucs managed to avoid a couple of close calls when Tom Brady passes were nearly intercepted by Xavier Rhodes and Rock Ya-Sin on their first two possessions.
But their luck ran out as they drove into Colts territory on their second opportunity with the ball.
Indianapolis linebacker Darius Leonard stripped the ball from wide receiver Chris Godwin after a catch over the middle, and safety Andrew Sendejo recovered at the Colts 34.
The turnover didn’t hurt the Bucs, as their defense forced an Indianapolis punt, Carson Wentz throwing incomplete for Michael Pittman Jr. on third and 1 from the Colts 43.
Slow starts have been a problem for the Bucs on the road this season, and Sunday’s game was no exception.
The Bucs went three-and-out on their opening possession, with Tom Brady throwing consecutive incomplete passes after a 4-yard run from Leonard Fournette.
Tampa Bay compounded its problems when a 14-yard Bradley Pinion punt and a holding penalty against long-snapper Zach Triner gave the Colts possession at the Bucs 30.
Fortunately for Tampa Bay, its defense held and Indianapolis had to settle for a 45-yard Michael Badgley field goal and early 3-0 lead.
Bucs look to reverse road woes
No sooner did the Bucs end one losing streak than they encounter another.
Six days after snapping a two-game losing streak with a victory over the Giants on Monday night, the Buccaneers seek to end a two-game road skid this afternoon against the Colts in Indianapolis.
Though it has gone 5-0 at home this season, Tampa Bay is 2-3 on the road, including consecutive losses at New Orleans and Washington.
The Bucs average 38.4 points at home but have not managed to score as many as 30 in any of their five road games this season. Slow starts, turnovers and penalties (including 13 pre-snap infractions in their three road losses) have conspired to give them a losing record away from home.
To reverse the trend and beat a Colts (6-5) team that has won three straight and five of its past six, the Bucs (7-3) will have to find a way to do something few teams have this season: stop running back Jonathan Taylor. Big and fast with soft hands, Taylor leads the NFL with 1,122 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns.
Taylor’s production has taken much of the pressure off quarterback Carson Wentz, who has eight TD passes and no interceptions in Indianapolis’ past five wins. The Colts have done a nice job protecting the football, their 10 giveaways this season (four interceptions, six fumbles) tied for fifth-fewest in the NFL.
The Bucs will counter with the league’s best run defense, one that expects to get back nose tackle Vita Vea (knee) from a one-game absence. Inside linebacker Devin White (quad) and wide receiver Mike Evans (back) also appear to be good to go, meaning receiver Antonio Brown (ankle), guard Ali Marpet (oblique) and cornerback Carlton Davis (quad) should be the only starters out.
It also helps to have quarterback Tom Brady in the Bucs’ corner. Brady is 15-4 all-time against the Colts, including 4-1 in the postseason. He has 38 touchdown passes, averages 252.1 passing yards and has a career quarterback rating of 98.0 against Indianapolis.
And recent history obscures a larger truth: Tampa Bay has played pretty well on the road over the past two seasons. The Bucs won their final eight games away from home last season, including all three road playoff games, and 10 of 11 before dropping their past two.
Investigators question Brown’s former chef about allegations
Investigators from the NFL contacted Antonio Brown’s former live-in chef Wednesday and questioned him about his allegations that the Bucs receiver obtained a fake COVID-19 vaccination card to avoid league protocols.
They also were interested in Steven Ruiz’s claims that another player sold Brown the card.
Ruiz, owner of Taste ThatLA, said he spoke with attorneys for the NFL by telephone for about 10 minutes.
Game day scene
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