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Live updates: Bucs blow lead, then beat Bills in overtime

Tampa Bay squanders a 21-point lead in regulation before winning on Tom Brady’s 58-yard touchdown pass to Breshad Perriman.
Hudson Hitcock, 5, of Claremore, Oklahoma, brings his game face while supporting Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) while arriving at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, before the start of the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Buffalo Bills in Tampa.
Published Dec. 12, 2021|Updated Dec. 13, 2021

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The Bucs squandered a 21-point lead in regulation before recovering to beat the Bills 33-27 in overtime on Tom Brady’s 58-yard touchdown pass to Breshad Perriman.

Brady threw for one touchdown and ran for another as the Bucs raced to a 24-3 halftime lead. Leonard Fournette ran 47 yards for a touchdown, and Mike Evans made a leaping catch in the back of the end zone for a 13-yard scoring reception.

But Josh Allen led the Bills to 17 unanswered points in the second half as they rallied to tie the game at 27 with less than half a minute remaining in regulation.

Allen ran for an 18-yard touchdown and threw scoring passes of 15 yards to Dawson Knox and 4 to Gabriel Davis before engineering a 14-play, 70-yard drive that culminated with Tyler Bass’ tying 25-yard field goal with 22 seconds to play.

The Bucs forced the Bills to punt on their one overtime possession, cornerback Calton Davis preventing Allen from finding Stefon Diggs on a third-and-4 pass from the Buffalo 31.

The Bills thought they had stopped the Bucs when they stood up Fournette on third and 1 from the Tampa Bay 15, but officials ruled that Fournette had picked up the first down, a call that was upheld by replay review.

Tampa Bay then picked up 19 yards on a pass-interference penalty, and Rob Gronkowski took a Brady pass 14 yards to the Bucs 42 to set up third and 3. That’s when Brady connected with Perriman, who beat Tremaine Edmunds on a crossing pattern, stiff-armed the middle linebacker and then pulled away down the right sideline.

Ryan Succop added field goals of 23 and 24 yards for the Bucs (10-3), who can clinch their first division championship in 14 seasons with a win next week against the Saints.

Brady completed 31 of 46 passes for 363 yards and two touchdowns. He passed Drew Brees to become the NFL leader in career completions (7,156).

Chris Godwin caught 10 passes on a team-high 15 targets for 105 yards to surpass 1,000 receiving yards for the season. Fournette finished with 113 rushing yards on 19 carries.

Shaquil Barrett and Devin White each had 1-1/2 sacks, and Richard Sherman intercepted a pass to lead the Bucs’ defense.

Here’s how it happened:

Doing it himself

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) runs against the Bucs during the second half.
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) runs against the Bucs during the second half. [ MARK LOMOGLIO | AP ]
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Josh Allen was a one-man wrecking crew on a mid-fourth-quarter touchdown drive that got the Bills back to within 10 points of the Bucs.

Allen completed all three of his passing attempts on the drive for 29 yards, including a 15-yard scoring pass to tight end Dawson Knox, and ran for 23 yards to the Tampa Bay 15.

Devin Singletary contributed an 18-yard run of his own, moving the ball from the Buffalo 44 to the Tampa Bay 38.

From out of the shadows

Bucs running back Leonard Fournette (7) runs for a touchdown in the first quarter.
Bucs running back Leonard Fournette (7) runs for a touchdown in the first quarter. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

Leonard Fournette had been relatively quiet following his 47-yard touchdown run on the Bucs’ third possession. But he re-emerged during an early fourth-quarter scoring drive, picking up 28 yards on three carries.

One play after he squirted up the middle for 7 yards, Fournette churned around right end for 21 before being pushed out of bounds at the Buffalo 14.

The drive resulted in a 24-yard Ryan Succop field goal that pushed the Bucs’ lead to 27-10 with 11:20 to play.

Fournette has now rushed for 104 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.

Going to ground

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) scores during the third quarter.
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) scores during the third quarter. [ MARK LOMOGLIO | AP ]

The Bills ran the ball just four times in the first half (two fewer than Tom Brady), but they rediscovered their running game on an early third-quarter scoring drive that brought them back to within two touchdowns.

Devin Singletary got things started, running for 29 yards and a first down on the first play to the Buffalo 48.

After passes of 13 yards to Stefon Diggs and 9 to Cole Beasley moved the ball to the Tampa Bay 30, it was another running play — by quarterback Josh Allen — that picked up a first down on fourth and 1 from the 30.

Allen got the Bills into the end zone three plays later, bursting 18 yards off left guard on a designed run to cut their deficit to 24-10 on their first touchdown of the game.

Worth the risk?

Buffalo Bills running back Matt Breida, pictured during a game against the Patriots, was dropped for a 3-yard loss on a fake punt.
Buffalo Bills running back Matt Breida, pictured during a game against the Patriots, was dropped for a 3-yard loss on a fake punt. [ ADRIAN KRAUS | AP ]

Down three touchdowns early in the third quarter, the Bills tried a fake punt from their 45-yard line.

But the play was sniffed out by Bucs defensive lineman Patrick O’Connor, who dropped up-back Matt Breida for a 3-yard loss, giving Tampa Bay the ball at the 42.

Fortunately for Buffalo, the turnover on downs wasn’t costly.

When three plays netted just eight yards, the Bucs went for it on fourth and 2 from the 34. The decision backfired, as well, as Tom Brady’s pass was batted high in the air and nearly intercepted before falling incomplete.

The Bills regained possession, though an unnecessary roughness penalty against defensive lineman Ed Oliver pushed the ball back to their 19.

Down and out

Bucs running back Giovani Bernard (25) is carted off the field after an injury in the second quarter.
Bucs running back Giovani Bernard (25) is carted off the field after an injury in the second quarter. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

Bucs third-down back Giovani Bernard left for the locker room on a cart just before halftime.

Bernard had been down on the field following an incomplete pass. He walked to the sidelines with the help of trainers.

Before the start of the third quarter, Bernard (hip) and cornerback Jamel Dean (illness) were both ruled out for the remainder of the game.

Center of attention

Buffalo Bills safety Micah Hyde (23) works to stop Bucs wide receiver Chris Godwin (14) after a first-quarter reception.
Buffalo Bills safety Micah Hyde (23) works to stop Bucs wide receiver Chris Godwin (14) after a first-quarter reception. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

Wide receiver Chris Godwin was Tom Brady’s favorite target during last week’s victory over the Falcons, when he hauled in a franchise-record 15 passes on 17 targets for 143 yards.

The first half of today’s game has been no different.

Brady targeted Godwin a team-high eight times in the half, resulting in seven completions for 91 yards.

The two hooked up on back-to-back plays on a late second-quarter touchdown drive, resulting in 20 yards to move the ball to the Bills 37-yard line.

After a 20-yard rainbow pass to Mike Evans on third and 3 moved the ball to the Buffalo 2, Brady went 1 yard up the middle on a quarterback sneak to put the Bucs ahead 24-3 with 1:29 remaining in the half.

The completion to Evans was the 7,143rd of Brady’s career, passing Drew Brees for the most all-time.

You got Gronked

Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) and quarterback Tom Brady (12), pictured during pregame warmups.
Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) and quarterback Tom Brady (12), pictured during pregame warmups. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

The Bills got their fill of Rob Gronkowski during a mid-second-quarter drive that extended the Bucs’ lead to 17-3.

Gronkowski took a short Tom Brady pass over the middle 18 yards for a first down to the Buffalo 34. Finding the tight end too much to handle, Buffalo cornerback Dane Jackson was penalized for interfering with Gronkowski three plays later, moving the ball another 11 yards to the 18.

Mike Evans did the rest, leaping high over top of safety Mich Hyde to pull in a 13-yard scoring pass from Brady in the back left corner of the end zone.

Brady got the drive started with a 23-yard completion to Chris Godwin to the Tampa Bay 48. The catch put Godwin over 1,000 receiving yards for the season.

Taking the long view

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) runs away from Bucs linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul (90) after a catch during the first half.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) runs away from Bucs linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul (90) after a catch during the first half. [ MARK LOMOGLIO | AP ]

The Bills eschewed the short game on their third possession, using three completions of 20 yards or more during an early second-quarter drive that put them on the scoreboard for the first time.

Josh Allen threw passes of 25 yards to Emmanuel Sanders, 24 to Stefon Diggs and 21 to Gabriel Davis to quickly move the ball to the Bucs 10.

They got as close as the 3 on a 10-yard scramble from Allen. But Allen’s third-down pass for Davis was incomplete, and the Bills had to settle for a 21-yard Tyler Bass field goal and a 10-3 deficit.

Firing on all cylinders

Bucs quarterback Tom Brady (12) reaches for a first down after scrambling past Buffalo Bills cornerback Taron Johnson (24) and  defensive end Efe Obada (93) during the first quarter.
Bucs quarterback Tom Brady (12) reaches for a first down after scrambling past Buffalo Bills cornerback Taron Johnson (24) and defensive end Efe Obada (93) during the first quarter. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

The Bucs found their rhythm on their third possession, picking up the pace by going no-huddle and driving 80 yards in 15 plays to take a 10-point lead.

They only had to convert three third downs on the drive, as Tom Brady seemingly followed one big play with another: a 9-yard pass Rob Gronkowski, 20 to Chris Godwin, 8 to Tyler Johnson, 16 to Leonard Fournette.

Brady even stretched his legs a bit, scrambling up the middle for gains of 12 and 3 yards to pick up first downs.

The drive finally bogged down at the Bills 4-yard line, as Brady was sacked, Fournette was stopped after a 1-yard run and Brady’s pass for Godwin in the back of the end zone was incomplete.

Ryan Succop’s 23-yard field goal gave them a 10-0 lead with 13:36 to play in the second quarter.

On the run

Bucs running back Leonard Fournette (7) runs for a touchdown in the first quarter.
Bucs running back Leonard Fournette (7) runs for a touchdown in the first quarter. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

Leonard Fournette didn’t need long to get into the flow of the game, taking his second carry 47 yards off right tackle for a touchdown. He is halfway to 100 rushing yards on just two attempts.

The Bucs picked up their first, first down of the game earlier in the possession on a 7-yard pass from Tom Brady to Chris Godwin to the Tampa Bay 48.

A defensive holding penalty against free safety Jordan Poyer on Mike Evans two plays later gave them their second and moved them into Buffalo territory.

Before the Bills could shake off the penalty, Fournette was past their defense and in the back of the end zone celebrating his sixth touchdown in the past three weeks.

Back to you

Bucs safety Andrew Adams (26) grabs Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) by the jersey during the first quarter.
Bucs safety Andrew Adams (26) grabs Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) by the jersey during the first quarter. [ JASON BEHNKEN | AP ]

The Bills didn’t fare much better on their opening possession, picking up one first down on a 10-yard pass from Josh Allen to Devin Singletary to the Buffalo 29 before a Shaquil Barrett sack put the Bills in a third and 17 situation.

Allen’s short pass over the middle to Singletary went for only 11 yards, and Buffalo punted the ball back to the Bucs.

Snap(ped) out of it

Bucs quarterback Tom Brady (12) beats Buffalo Bills defensive end Greg Rousseau (50) to a loose ball during the first quarter.
Bucs quarterback Tom Brady (12) beats Buffalo Bills defensive end Greg Rousseau (50) to a loose ball during the first quarter. [ MARK LOMOGLIO | AP ]

When is a 15-yard gain less than ideal? When it’s third and 18.

That was the situation in which the Bucs found themselves after a bad snap from Ryan Jensen on the opening play from scrimmage resulted in a 14-yard loss, setting up second and 24.

A 6-yard pass to Chris Godwin made it third and 18. Godwin took Brady’s short miss over the middle 15 yards, but he was still 3 yards short of the sticks, forcing the Bucs to punt.

Bucs edge closer to NFC South championship

Nose tackle Vita Vea (50) waves to fans after the Bucs' victory over the Falcons last Sunday in Atlanta.
Nose tackle Vita Vea (50) waves to fans after the Bucs' victory over the Falcons last Sunday in Atlanta. [ DANNY KARNIK | AP ]

What a difference a week makes.

Seven days after cheering for their team to beat the Falcons, Bucs fans today were pulling for their NFC South rivals.

That’s because a Falcons win or tie against the Panthers, combined with a Bucs victory over the Bills and a Jets win or tie against the Saints would have given Tampa Bay its first division title in 14 seasons.

Alas, Tampa Bay will have to wait at least another week. Because while Atlanta did its part by beating Carolina, New York fell to New Orleans. Still, the Bucs can help themselves, as a win today over the Bills and next week against the Saints will give them the division crown no matter what anybody else does.

The Buccaneers (9-3) have momentum on their side, having won three in a row, including a 30-17 triumph last week over the Falcons, following a two-game slide.

Consistency, too, as center Ryan Jensen returned to practice Friday after missing two days with an ankle injury, meaning the offensive line will be intact for the 12th time in 13 games this season. That cohesion is a big reason Tampa Bay has allowed the fewest sacks (15) in the NFL despite Tom Brady having thrown more passes (517) than any other quarterback.

More good news: Cornerback Jamel Dean and receiver/kick returner Jaelon Darden have been cleared from concussion protocol and are available to play today.

Aside from the suspended Antonio Brown and Mike Edwards, the only Buc listed as out for today’s game is safety Jordan Whitehead (calf). Though healthy, wide receiver Scotty Miller is inactive.

With Brown out of the lineup, the Bucs still haven’t settled on a third receiver behind Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Breshad Perriman got the bulk of the snaps last week, while Miller and Tyler Johnson seldom saw the field.

But any concern has been mitigated by the production of tight end Rob Gronkowski, who has caught 17 passes for 252 yards and two touchdowns over the past thee games since returning from four fractured ribs and a punctured lung.

Who’s in/out

Game day scene

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Follow our writers covering the game on Twitter at @NFLStroud, @TBTimes_Bulls and @Romano_TBTimes.

A read on the game

Here’s some of our content leading up to today’s game:

Connection between Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski as strong as ever

In Antonio Brown’s absence, there is no go-to third receiver for Bucs

For beleaguered Bucs secondary, cross-training is now customary

Bucs center Ryan Jensen returns to practice, will play vs. Bills

Emergence of Anthony Nelson, Cam Gill give Bucs a plethora of pass rushers

The giving never stops for Bucs’ Mike Evans

Injury bug takes a bite out of Bucs coaches

Get ready to gulp: Tom Brady has thrown for 100,000 career yards

Early Christmas gift? Bucs can wrap up NFC South on Sunday

Tom Brady named Sports Illustrated’s 2021 Sportsperson of the Year

Time has come for Bucs fans to relax and enjoy the ride

Mike Evans again nominated for Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award

Twelve games in, Tom Brady is bereft of a battle scar

Richard Sherman could return for Bucs against Bills at a new position

Bucs offense ain’t always pretty, but dang it can be entertaining

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