The Buccaneer defense had five turnovers, a season-high on Sunday afternoon, as they dominated the Colts in the second half on the way to their eighth win of the season.
The Bucs beat a quality opponent for the first time this season on the road. Down by ten at the half, the Bucs outscored the Colts 24-7 in the second half to beat the Colts 38-31.
Coupled with losses by the Saints and the Panthers, the win puts the Bucs in the driver’s seat for the NFC South division title. The Bucs now have an 8-3 record and lead Atlanta and New Orleans by three games with six to play.
However, this was not an easy win. The Bucs started this game, like they have many other games this season, slow and sluggish. Moreover, the Bucs continued to be in the giving mood as they turned the ball over twice in the first half.
A fiery halftime speech by running back Leonard Fournette got the Bucs refocused in the second half. Additionally, he was asked about what he said at halftime to change the Buccaneer fortunes, Fournette said,
“I’m like, man, you have to have a will and a want. And you have to be willing to risk everything. Play by play, you have to want to win, want to fight each and every play, And I think they understood that message and came out and played the lights out.”
Fournette also took his words to heart and played lights out. Fournette had a season-high 100 yards rushing and four touchdowns on the ground. He also caught seven passes for 31 yards and a touchdown.
Rob Gronkowski, who had 123 yards receiving, the most he has had since becoming a Buccaneer, said, “Lenny was just amazing running the ball.”
Tom Brady talked about the strong running game of the Bucs and how it contributed to the win:
“He had a great game,” Brady said of Fournette. “Leonard played great in the run game and the pass game. Ro (Ronald Jones) ran the ball really well. The big guys blocked great upfront. It was a very physical game and a very good defensive front. They really make you earn it. We found a way. It wasn’t perfect. We can certainly play a lot better than that.”
Fournette, with his seven catches, is now second on the team this season with 51 receptions.
The defense played lights out in the second half as well. After allowing Colts quarterback Carson Wentz to throw for three touchdowns in the first half, the Bucs did not let Wentz throw a touchdown pass in the second half while picking off Wentz twice.
The first pick of Wentz however was one of the prettiest interceptions you will ever see. Antoine Winfield Jr. was running stride for stride with Colts receiver Michael Pittman Jr. Winfield Jr. went up and outdueled Pittman Jr. for the ball, which set up the Bucs offense deep in their territory.
The Bucs would then go on a 65-yard touchdown drive to cut the Colts’ lead to three.
The Bucs held Jonathan Taylor to 25 yards on eight carries through three quarters. Taylor ran for 58 yards on eight carries in the fourth quarter and scored the Colts’ final touchdown to tie the game at 31. Taylor would finish with 83 yards on 16 carries.
The play of the game was made by linebacker Shaq Barrett. With the Colts driving deep in Buccaneers territory, in the third quarter, Barrett sacked Colts quarterback Carson Wentz, stripping the ball in the process. The Bucs offense then drove 65 yards for a touchdown, which began to turn the game around.
“That was huge because they were moving it; that strip-sack, I think, changed the whole ball game.”Bruce Arians, Bucs HC
Arians went on to say that the second half was one of the better halves of football for the Buccaneers:
“Great win. Coming here, this is a hard, hard place to win, and we beat a really good playoff team that’s playing good. It wasn’t pretty the first 30, but it was real pretty the second 30. Good team victory – getting turnovers, scoring off turnovers. One of our better halves of football in the second half.”
Tom Brady had another ordinary day at the office, completing 25/34 for 226 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.
The Bucs on the other hand needed this win against a quality opponent on the road, and they delivered in a challenging environment.
Carson Wentz summed up this game afterward in his post-game chat with the media:
“You’re not going to win many ball games when you turn it over five times.”
The Bucs must play a lot better, too, if they want to play football in late January. They have given up 29 points in five of their 11 games this season. Getting everyone healthy in the secondary will certainly be critical to a successful post-season.
The Bucs will play in Atlanta next Sunday in an NFC South matchup.