The second half began in slightly unusual fashion, with RB Dare Ogunbowale kicking off for the Texans, indicating a possible injury to Fairbairn. A short pass over the middle to Rachaad White and a personal foul flag on Denzel Perryman took the ball out to the Bucs’ 45 and White ripped off a 16-yard run two snaps later. However, a missed deep shot to Godwin and an attempted flea-flicker trick play that didn’t fool the defense and an outlet pass to Otton on third-and-10 came up two yards short of the sticks. The Bucs sent out McLaughlin to try a 49-yard field goal and he drilled it to increase the Bucs lead to 10 points.
Houston’s next drive only took one play, as Brown caught a pass on a crossing route, got around the corner on the Bucs’ defenders and was able to race 75 yards for a touchdown. With their kicker now officially ruled out for the game, the Texans went for two and failed when OLB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka intercepted the pass at the goal line.
Tryon-Shoyinka drew a flag for tossing the ball after he was tackled, which allowed Houston to kick off from midfield and Ogunbowale hit it through the end zone for a touchback. The Bucs quickly got behind the sticks at third-and-nine but Mayfield went deep down the middle to Palmer, who drew a 37-yard pass interference penalty on Shaquill Griffin. Now at the Texans’ 37, the Bucs followed with an incompletion and a White run that lost a yard. Mayfield had to scramble out of a collapsing pocket on third down but only got to the 37. That set up a 55-yard field goal try that McLaughlin calmly booted through the uprights, putting the Bucs up 23-16 with nine minutes left in the third quarter.
Two plays into the ensuing Houston drive, Collins peeled off his go route and cut across the middle, catching a 23-yard pass from Stroud, which was followed by Singletary’s nine-yard run. The Texans once again tried to get big yards on second-and-one but this time Dell dropped a pass near the sideline. On third-and-one, the Texans brought in a jumbo package and got Singletary over the line, but the play came back on a holding call. Stroud once again moved around in the pocket to buy a lot of time and eventually found Schultz, who slipped through a diving tackle try by David and got 26 yards to the Bucs’ 29. On the next play, Stroud went up top, hitting Dell in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. Forced to go for two again, the Texans tried a quick slant to Dell but it was incomplete, leaving the Bucs with a one-point lead.
Thompkins appeared to give the Bucs’ offense a boost with a kickoff return well into Houston territory, but a holding call brough the ball all the way back to the Tampa Bay 19. Neither a checkdown to Chase Edmonds nor a tunnel screen to Godwin worked, so the Bucs quickly were facing a third-and-10 and Mayfield was sacked by Khalil Davis back at the 10. Camarda’s punt went 49 yards and Dell fought through several tacklers to get to the Houston 48.
Stroud remained red hot, starting the next drive with a 13-yard dumpoff to Schultz. After a short pass to FB Andrew Beck made it first down at the Bucs’ 27, an end-around toss to WR Xavier Hutchinson went for 12 yards. Stroud faked a handoff and rolled right to find Schultz again for 11 more to the four. Vea shot around the left end to drop Singletary for a loss of four on a first-and-goal handoff, bringing the third quarter to an end. After both teams walked the length of the field to the other end zone, Kancey filed another handoff to Singletary for a loss of one. Stroud tried a fade to Collins on the left edge but Zyon McCollum kept him from landing in bounds. The Texans went for it on fourth-and-goal and Schultz stretched out for a catch right across the goal line, giving Houston the lead. This two-point conversion succeeded as Stroud kept the ball and was able to power over the line. That gave Houston a 30-23 lead with 14 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
After a touchback, Mayfield hit Otton over the middle for a first down at the 35 and White waited for a hole to develop on the next play before shooting through it for 11 more. Mayfield then went deep to Evans, who had to turn his back to the end zone to catch it. He slid over the goal line for what was originally ruled a touchdown, but the officials then changed the ruling and put the ball down at the one. Two plays later, White powered over left guard for the game-tying touchdown with 11:43 left in regulation.
Stroud answered right back, starting the Texans’ next drive with a strike to Brown over the middle on a crossing route for 28 yards. Houston then got tricky with an option play, with Singletary taking a handoff but then pitching it back to Stroud for a gain of 1 to the Bucs’ 36. Stroud found Brown again downfield for 31 more yards, making it first-and-goal at the five. After a false start, Kancey sniffed out a dumpoff to Beck and dropped him in the backfield for a loss of one. A misdirection handoff to Dell didn’t work either, with White tracking him down for no gain. Kancey chased Stroud out of the pocket on third down, leading to an incompletion. This time the Texans didn’t go for it on fourth down, instead sending out Ogunbowale to try a 29-yard field goal. Remarkably, he made it, putting the Texans back up by three with nine minutes left.
Two White runs gained only three yards and an attempted out to Godwin was incomplete, leading to a punt. Camarda drove that one out of bounds at the Houston 22. A holding call erased another big completion and after a second holding flag the Texans eventually faced third-and-18 at their 14. Barrett worked his way behind Stroud and was able to chop the ball out of his hand, but George Fant recovered for the home team.
After the punt, the Bucs had the ball at their own 39 with a little less than five minutes left. The drive started with a short pass to Evans for eight yards. Two White runs moved the sticks but an Edmonds run lost eight yards as the two-minute warning arrived. Mayfield threw incomplete on second down and the Bucs lost five more yards on a false start. Facing third-and-23, Mayfield stepped up in the pocket and fired a dart to Palmer for a gain of 21. The Bucs had to go for it on fourth-and-one and Mayfield danced around in the pocket to keep the play alive long enough for him to find a lane to scramble for the first down. The Bucs used their second timeout with 1:02 left in regulation and the ball at the Texans’ 36.
The next play was a handoff to White that went for seven yards and Houston called a timeout at the 53-second mark. Mayfield then hit Godwin over the middle for a gain of 26, and disaster was averted when Godwin’s fumble went right into the arms of Evans at the 10-yard line. A teammate cannot advance another player’s fumble in the final two minutes so the ball was moved back to the 14 with 49 seconds left. The Bucs elected to use their final timeout to avoid a 10-second runoff. After the break in action, Mayfield threw a seam pass to Otton, who caught the ball over a defender and held on as he it the turf. McLaughlin’s extra point put the Bucs up by four with 45 seconds left in regulation.
The Texans’ last possession started at the 25 and got a quick 14 yards on an underneath pass to Schultz. After using their second timeout, the Texans went back to Houston for six more but McCollum’s open-field tackle kept him inbounds and forced the use of their last timeout. Stroud hit Brown at the Bucs’ 41 and spiked the ball with 15 seconds left. Stroud then got the ball to Dell just inbounds at the Bucs’ 15 and he ran out of bounds with 10 seconds left. On the next play, Stroud hit Dell again, this time in the end zone for the winning score with six seconds left.
First appeared on www.buccaneers.com