By Andy Villamarzo
TAMPA- At one point in Sunday’s game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it seemed like all hope might be lost.
Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston started off the game with an interception on his first pass for the third time this season. Winston hit Mike Evans on a 61-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, but the superstar wide receiver pulled up on a bad hamstring and did not return.
Down 35-21 in the third quarter, a lot wasn’t going well for Tampa Bay in earning its sixth win of the season. That until the heroics of Winston and the defense came into play. Winston overcame throwing three interceptions and ended up connecting on a go-ahead 12-yard game winning score to Breshard Perriman en route to the Buccaneers beating the Colts 38-35 Sunday afternoon at Raymond James Stadium.
Despite picking up the win over the Colts (6-7), the Buccaneers are now mathematically eliminated from postseason contention, as the Minnesota Vikings defeated the Detroit Lions 20-7, thus ending Tampa Bay’s playoff hopes. Tampa Bay still has a lot to play for despite not being able to make the playoffs anymore.
Now riding a 3-game winning streak, the Buccaneers will look to make it four in a row when they travel up to Detroit to face the Lions on the road.
Coming off the Buccaneers’ 28-11 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, Tampa Bay was hoping for another strong defensive performance against another AFC South opponent in the Colts. Indianapolis (6-7) took advantage of the early Tampa Bay miscue and turned it immediately into points, as Jacoby Brissett hit Marcus Johnson on a 46-yard touchdown pass.
The Buccaneers weren’t done with the turnovers in the first quarter, with tailback a fumble by Dare Ogunbowale which led to a field goal by Chase McLaughlin to put the Colts up 10-0 quickly. Tampa Bay wouldn’t go down quietly, as Winston engineered another scoring drive and snuck it in from a yard out. Though Winston ended the day with three interceptions, he finished with 456 yards on 33-of-45 passing and four touchdown passes and one rushing (five total touchdowns). Winston hurt his right hand during the first half and didn’t begin the second half at quarterback, with Ryan Griffin getting the snaps.
Tampa Bay (6-7) had to play from behind, down 35-21 during the third quarter and Winston would return and lead the comeback. The good Winston throws ignited the comeback, as he hit on a 17-yard touchdown to Justin Watson. Todd Bowles’ defense would begin to make some plays (Devin White forced fumble) and combined with a Matt Gay field goal, brought the Buccaneers within 35-31 heading into the fourth quarter. Winston notched his third interception in the fourth quarter, but bounced back from the turnover with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Breshard Perriman with 3:51 left.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.