Bucs rally in second half to beat Colts

by Gary Shelton on November 29, 2021

in general

Vea left a tooth on the field Sunday./TIM WIRT

Monday, 4 .M.

Wrap this one up the new gap in smile of Vita Vea. It was happy enough at the end, but along the way, the Tampa Bay Bucs took some licks.

It was that face, and its missing tooth, that tells the story of a team that sputtered and struggled throughout the first half before escaping. It might turn into the most famous grin since Leon Spinks.

"I don't care," Bucs' coach Bruce Arians said of Vea's missing chopper. "He's got 30 other ones. He's going to play without a tooth? That ain't nothing."

The Bucs stole one from the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, winning a 38-31 comeback because of an opportunistic defense and the relentless running of Leonard Fournette. It wasn't smooth, and it wasn't pretty. But what is that they say? Any airplane landing you walk away from is a good one.

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The Bucs were outplayed for much of the game, with quarterback Carson Wentz playing pitch-and-catch with his receivers while the beleaguered Bucs' secondary looked helpless. It was as if the Bucs concentrated so hard on stopping NFL rushing leader Jonathan Taylor that they forget about playing pass defense ... again.

Even after the Bucs scored their winning touchdown with 30 seconds to play, they had to withstand a late Colts' rush following a 72-yard kickoff return by Isaiah Rodgers.

At the end of the day, the entire Bucs team looked as if it had taken a punch at the half. Consider. On the Colts' first seven drives, they had four touchdowns and a field goal. On their four second-half drives, they had two fumbles, two interceptions and a touchdown.

In the first half, Colts' quarterback Carson Wentz had a 131.6 rating. In the second Hal, he had a 31.04.

The Bucs? They scored two touchdowns and a field goal on their second half dives. They outscored Indianapolis 24-7 in the second half. Despite that, it took a last-second interception to seal the game.

"It wasn’t pretty the first 30 (minutes)," Arians said, "but it was real pretty the last 30. Part of me was telling Lenny to go  down so something like that (the Colts' kickoff return) wouldn’t happen. It was one of our better halves of football in the second half."

Fournette helped to make up for it, rushing for 100 yards and scoring four touchdowns, including a game-winning 28-yarder with 30 seconds left.

Still, the Bucs played uphill for most of the game, struggling to get off the field on third down. Carson Wentz threw for three touchdowns and 306 yards, but he struggled in the second half.

How did the Bucs pull this out after trailing by 10 at the half?

-- Lavonte David recovered a fumble to set up a touchdown.

-- Shaq Barrett had a strip-sack to stop a Colts drive.

-- Scotty Miller recovered a muffed punt to set up a field goal.

-- Antoine Winfield intercepted a pass at the Colts' five. The Bucs followed with a touchdown.

-- Desir intercepted a pass at the 2 to close out the game.

At one point, the Colts dropped back to pass on 26 straight plays.

"No one runs the ball on us, I don’t care who the hell you are," Arians said. "You’re going to end up passing it. if you’re going to run it all day, you’re not going to get much. I’ll compare our run defense vs. anyone’s run offense any time."

It was only on the Colts' final scoring drive that they established Taylor, who had 58 yards in the drive. By then, Arians said, the Bucs thought the Colts would go back to the pass.

The Bucs are now 3-3 on the road.

Tampa Bay travels again next week, going to Atlanta to play the Falcons.

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