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Ryan Succop kicked four field goals, including the 40-yard winner in overtime, as the Bucs rallied from a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Cardinals 19-16 Sunday night in Glendale, Arizona.
After Tampa Bay’s defense forced a punt on Arizona’s overtime possession, Tom Brady completed all six of his passes for 69 yards to set up Succop’s 40-yard field goal with 3:41 left in the extra period.
The Bucs (7-8) maintained their one-game lead over the Panthers and Saints (both 6-9) in the NFC South and can clinch the division and homefield advantage for the wild-card round of the playoffs with a win over Carolina next weekend at Raymond James Stadium.
After a William Gholston fumble recovery near midfield gave Tampa Bay possession with about five minutes remaining, Succop’s 42-yard field goal tied the game with 2:27 to play.
Brady completed a 3-yard scoring pass to rookie running back Rachaad White on the Bucs’ previous possession to bring them within three points at 16-13.
Succop converted from 38 and 35 yards earlier in the game.
James Conner’s 22-yard touchdown run with 10:47 remaining gave the Cardinals a 16-6 lead.
Matt Prater kicked field goals of 56, 53 and 39 yards in a losing effort for Arizona.
Brady finished 32-of-48 for 281 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions. Running back Leonard Fournette amassed 162 total yards (72 rushing and 90 receiving).
Cardinals quarterback Trace McSorley, making his first career NFL start, was 24-of-45 for 217 yards with no touchdowns and one interception.
Here’s how it happened:
Bucs get a break
The Bucs got the break they needed when the Cardinals’ Keaontay Ingram fumbled a pitch near midfield and William Gholston recovered with about five minutes remaining.
Tampa Bay quickly took advantage, as Tom Brady completed passes of 4 yards to Rachaad White, 12 to Chris Godwin, 8 to Russell Gage to quickly move the ball to the Arizona 31.
Brady threw deep over the middle to Godwin on third and 8, but his pass was broken up by Jalen Thompson.
Ryan Succop’s 42-yard field goal tied the score at 16 with 2:27 to play.
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Seemingly, all it took to wake up the Bucs’ offense was a Cardinals touchdown.
Down 10 early in the fourth quarter, Tampa Bay wasted no time getting back into the game, as Leonard Fournette took a Tom Brady pass 44 yards to the Arizona 23-yard line.
Three plays later, Brady and Fournette connected on a 10-yard completion to the 8. After a 5-yard completion to Cade Otton moved the ball to the 3, Brady found Rachaad White for a 3-yard touchdown, pulling Tampa Bay back to within 16-13 with 8:11 remaining.
Pharoh Cooper set up the Cardinals with great field position with a 28-yard punt return to the Bucs 33 with 12:26 to play.
Three plays later, Trace McSorley ran 2 yards up the middle to pick up a first down at the 22.
James Conner covered the distance two plays later on a run around left end, extending the Cardinals’ lead to 16-6 with 10:47 remaining.
Making a splash
The Cardinals made the first big splash play of the game on a 47-yard pass from Trace McSorley to Marquise Brown to the Bucs 20 on the next-to-last play of the third quarter.
The play put Arizona in the red zone, but it was as far as it would get.
Three more plays lost a yard, and the Cardinals had to settle for Matt Prater’s third field goal of the game, a 39-yarder.
The difference? This one put Arizona ahead for the first time in the game, 9-6, with 14 minutes remaining.
Leonard Fournette picked up the first, first down by either team in the second half with a 3-yard run to the Bucs 41 with just over eight minutes to play in the third quarter.
Two plays later, Chris Godwin took a wide receiver screen 10 yards to the Arizona 46 for another first down.
After a false start penalty pushed Tampa Bay back to its 49, Brown hit Russell Gage over the middle for 11 yards and a first down to the 35.
But J.J. Watt dropped Fournette for a 2-yard loss two plays later, making it third and 11, and Brady’s pass for Mike Evans was intercepted by Marco Wilson at the Cardinals 19.
The Bucs blew a great scoring opportunity late in the first half when cornerback Marco Wilson intercepted a Tom Brady pass intended for Mike Evans at the Cardinals 2 and returned it 39 yards to the 41.
Though Tampa Bay lost a chance to add to its lead, the turnover wasn’t costly.
After three James Conner runs netted 12 yards, Trace McSorley threw incomplete, making it third and 11. McSorley was flushed out of the pocked and forced into another incompletion, resulting in an Arizona punt.
Going to Godwin
The Bucs got Chris Godwin involved early in the second quarter.
The wide receiver took short passes from Tom Brady 5 yards and 12 yards to pick up first downs and came close to a third conversion with a 5-yard catch on third and 6 from the Cardinals 23.
Brady picked up the remaining yards on a quarterback sneak, giving Tampa Bay a first down at the 16.
After a 5-yard Leonard Fournette reception, the Bucs faced third and 4 from the 10. Brady’s touchdown pass to Julio Jones was nullified by an illegal shift penalty, making it third and 9.
Tampa Bay appeared to pick up the first down on a Brady pass to Cade Otton, but right tackle Tristan Wirfs was called for holding, setting up third and 19 from the 25.
Brady dumped the ball over the middle to Fournette, who was stopped after an 8-yard gain.
The Bucs took a 6-3 lead on a 35-yard Ryan Succop field goal with just over eight minutes remaining in the half.
Earlier in the drive, Fournette ran for 23 yards around left end to move the ball from the Bucs 38 to the Cardinals 39.
Bucs left tackle Josh Wells, who stared in place of injured Donovan Smith, left on a cart during the drive after inuring his left leg early in the second quarter. He was replaced by Brandon Walton.
Good field position, a better run and a big leg was all it took for the Cardinals to get on the board late in the first quarter.
Arizona started at its 39-yard line after Pharoh Cooper returned a Jake Camarda punt 9 yards.
Wide receiver Greg Dortch carried around left end for 20 yards to the Tampa Bay 41.
Trace McSorley twice threw incomplete before scrambling for 3 yards to the 38.
That brought on Matt Prater, whose 56-yard field goal tied the game at 3 with 32 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Bucs gambled midway through the first quarter and lost, giving the Cardinals the ball near midfield.
After a false start penalty against guard Josh Wells pushed Tampa Bay back 5 yards, Leonard Fournette powered his way for 14 yards over right tackle, setting up second and inches from the Arizona 48.
But three more Fournette runs failed to pick up the remaining yardage, and the Bucs turned the ball over on downs.
It didn’t hurt Tampa Bay, however, as the defense held, forcing a three-and-out and Arizona punt.
Fooled, then forceful
The Cardinals converted a fake punt on their first possession, as punter Andy Lee completed a 4-yard pass to Kamu Grugier-Hill on fourth and 2, giving Arizona a first down at its 45-yard line.
The pick-up gave the Cardinals some momentum, as James Conner ran up the middle for 11 yards and Trace McSorley found Greg Dortch over the middle for 23, moving the ball to the Bucs 17.
But just when it looked like Arizona might put points on the board, Tampa Bay’s defense forced a turnover.
Outside linebacker Anthony Nelson sacked McSorley from behind, knocking the ball from the quarterback’s hands. Inside linebacker Devin White recovered for the Bucs, returning the ball to the 13 yards to the Tampa Bay 43.
Earlier in the drive, it appeared the Bucs had gotten a quick stop when cornerback Carlton Davis broke up a pass for Marquise Brown down the right sideline, making it fourth and 2.
Attacking from the start
The Bucs aggressively attacked the Cardinals’ defense on the their opening possession and took a quick lead.
Tom Brady threw deep to Julio Jones down the right sideline on the first play from scrimmage, and the receiver drew a pass-interference penalty against cornerback Antonio Hamilton, moving the ball 30 yards to the Cardinals 45-yard line.
Rachaad White gave Tampa Bay another first down, carrying for 18 yards to the 27. After a 7-yard run by White, a Brady incompletion set up third and 3 from the 20.
Brady threw into the end zone for a wide-open Jones, but the pass was overthrown.
The Bucs settled for a 38-yard Ryan Succop field goal and 3-0 lead just over a minute and a half into the game.
Winfield, Edwards, Jones will play
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Bucs secondary could get a lift with starting safeties Antoine Winfield Jr. and Mike Edwards expected to play tonight against the Cardinals.
Edwards, who was nursing a hamstring injury, did not practice until Friday, when he was limited.
Winfield aggravated an ankle injury in last Sunday’s loss at Cincinnati and did not practice during the week. Both players were listed as questionable.
In addition, the Bucs will have receiver Julio Jones in the lineup despite a recurring knee injury that limited him in practice all week.
Read Rick Stroud’s full story here.
Bucs control their destiny
Tom Brady might have said it best.
“The whole season comes down to three really important games,” the Bucs quarterback said earlier this week, “and (Sunday) is the first of the three.”
Not the most important, mind you, but still of consequence.
The Bucs’ playoff chances hinge on them winning the NFC South, and they’ll likely be determined by next weekend’s head-to-head matchup with the Panthers, who trail them by a 1/2-game (along with the Saints), at Raymond James Stadium. Carolina defeated Tampa Bay 21-3 Oct. 23 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
For now, the Bucs control their destiny: Win tonight and Jan. 1 against the Panthers, and they will take the division.
But a Tampa Bay loss to Arizona would allow Carolina to move into first place based on the head-to-head tiebreaker. Wins over the Bucs next week and the Saints in the season finale would give the Panthers the division title.
Bucs losses the next two weeks and a Saints win over the Eagles could set up a Carolina-New Orleans showdown for the division title. But the Saints cannot finish with the same record as the Bucs (head-to-head) or Panthers (division record) and win the division based on tiebreaker disadvantages.
The Falcons (5-10), who led the NFC South as late as Week 9, were eliminated from playoff contention with Saturday’s loss to the Ravens, Atlanta’s sixth in its past seven games following a 4-4 start.
The Bucs will get a boost tonight from the return of right tackle Tristan Wifs, who missed three weeks with a high ankle sprain.
But they will be without left tackle Donovan Smith (foot), defensive tackle Vita Vea (calf), cornerback Jamel Dean (toe) and outside linebacker Carl Nassib (pectoral). Josh Wells is expected to move from right to left tackle to fill in for Smith.
The postseason doesn’t get underway for another three weeks.
But where the Bucs are concerned, it might as well start now.
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A little light reading
Here’s some of our content leading up to today’s game:
What’s the hang-up? Bruce Arians still expects Bucs to produce a banner year
Rob Gronkowski contacted Bucs last month about possible return
Can Bucs bottle play-action success and take it to Arizona?
Bucs’ Donovan Smith, Vita Vea, Jamel Dean ruled out vs. Cardinals
Bucs rookie Deven Thompkins gets moved up to active roster on 23rd birthday
After stifling Ja’Marr Chase, Bucs cornerback Carlton Davis seeks encore
It’s early, but Bucs Pro Bowler Tristan Wirfs is putting together Canton credentials
Better to give than receive: Mike Evans buys every teammate a scooter
12 questions of Christmas with Bucs’ Devin White
Bucs right tackle Tristan Wirfs makes 2nd Pro Bowl of 3-year career
Bucs could be short on safeties, tackles entering Christmas game against Cardinals
Russell Gage is making his catches count for the Bucs
Devin White’s ‘Great White Christmas’ party celebrates foster families
A 30-year hot streak seems to be coming to an end for Tom Brady
Why have unheralded quarterbacks become the Bucs’ kryptonite?
Tom Brady has more empathy for those who struggle in their jobs
Tom Brady suddenly is turning the ball over, and it’s costing the Bucs
Were Bengals tipped off to Bucs’ foiled fake-punt attempt?
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