Titans at Buccaneers Recap: Titans Hammer Bucs, 34-3


The Bucs (0-2) entered Saturday night’s game against the Titans (2-0) with the goal of getting to .500 on the preseason after a tough loss to the Bengals. That didn’t happen, however, as the Titans dominated the game for all four quarters en route to a 34-3 win.

Let’s dive into this week’s recap.

The Bucs received the opening kick and Blaine Gabbert started the game. The drive ended shortly after, however, as O.J. Howard failed to reel in a catch on 3rd and 2 from the Titans’ 48-yard line. The Bucs punted the ball to the Titans, where Chester Rogers made a fair catch at his own 11.

The Titans went three-and-out on their first possession of the game. Jaelon Darden had a really nice 21-yard return, but it was called back thanks to a Ross Cockrell holding penalty. Therefore, the Bucs would start at their own 23 instead of their own 35.

The Bucs followed the Titans offense with a three-and-out of their own on the next drive. Darden had a chance to move the chains, but dropped a tough catch on second down. David Long Jr. broke through the line on 3rd and 10 to sack Gabbert and kill the drive. The Titans would start their second drive of the game at their own 30.

Pat O’Connor was able to take down McNichols on first down for a four yard loss, Antonio Hamilton then took down McNichols for a two-yard loss on second down, and the duo of Kevin Minter and Dee Delaney finished the job on third down to force the Titans’ second punt in as many possessions. Darden barely avoided disaster as he recovered his own fumble on the punt return.

Nevertheless, the Bucs would start their third possession of the game at their own 34. A botched snap between Gabbert and center Nick Leverett put the Bucs in a 2nd and 13 situation, which led to a 3rd and 13 due to another Howard drop. Darden snagged a 12-yard reception, but likely could’ve had the first down if he just dropped his head and pushed forward. But instead it led to a 4th and 1, which the Bucs went for. The Titans stopped Giovani Bernard before he could get the first down and took over at the Bucs’ 43.

Logan Woodside‘s night ended early as Matt Barkley took over with just under four minutes left in the first quarter. He immediately found Nick Westbrook-Ikinhe for an 18-yard gain down to the Bucs’ 25-yard line and completed a tough ball to Rogers a couple of plays later. All of a sudden, the Titans were at the Bucs’ 14 with a fresh set of downs.

The Bucs forced a 4th and 1 a couple of plays later, but the Titans decided to go for it. Barkley executed a play-action pass perfectly and found Mekhi Sargent in the flat for the game’s first touchdown. K.J. Britt simply couldn’t keep up with the undrafted free agent. The Titans led, 7-0, with :19 left in the first quarter.

Ryan Griffin came in for Gabbert and handed off to Ke’Shawn Vaughn for a five-yard gain to end the first quarter.

First Quarter: Titans 7 Bucs 0

Griffin couldn’t connect with Darden on 3rd and 5, which forced another punt. The Titans took over at their own 37, looking to add to the lead. Sargent led the way with 37 yards on four carries. But the Titans offense couldn’t break through on a 4th and 4. But Sam Ficken drilled a 48-yard field goal to extend the Titans’ lead to 10-0.

The Bucs were able to move the chains on the next drive, but couldn’t do much more than that as a deep pass attempt from Griffin to Scotty Miller fell incomplete.

Tennessee took over at its own 11. Woodside started the drive at quarterback. The Bucs defense absolutely throttled the Titans offensive line on second down, which led to an O’Connor sack and forced a 3rd and 16. The Titans simply ran the ball on the next play and subsequently punted the ball from their own 11 afterward.

Darden’s eight-yard return set the Bucs up at the Titans’ 45-yard line. Would they able to take advantage of the great field position and put some points on the board?

John Simon sacked Griffin on a 1st and 10 which put the Bucs in a spot where they couldn’t overcome the negative yardage. As a result, Ryan Succop attempted his first field goal of the game and the the 49-yarder was good. The Titans now led, 10-3, with 3:27 left in the first half.

An unnecessary roughness penalty forced the Titans to start the drive at their own 16. The Bucs defense held strong and limited the Titans offense to zero yards, but a 59-yard punt from Brett Kern placed the Bucs at their own 33.

Griffin and the Bucs offense couldn’t get anything going outside of another three-and-out. Bradley Pinion pinned the Titans at their own 21, but another tough Sargent run had the Titans offense at their own 43 just a couple plays later. Barkley was back in the game at this point and hit Mason Kinsey for a nine-yard gain on 3rd and 6 to move the chains and put the Titans in at the Bucs’ 44.

Joe Tryon-Shoyinka got to Barkley for the sack and forced a 3rd and 13 at the Bucs’ 47. But Fred Brown was able to reel in a seven-yard pass to give Ficken a shot at a 58-yard field goal attempt. Ficken drilled the kick and the Titans led, 13-3, with :08 to go in the first half.

The Bucs understandably ran out the clock and went into halftime down 10 points to the Titans.

Halftime: Titans 13 Bucs 3

The Titans received the ball to start the second half. Barkley started the second half at quarterback. The Bucs defense held strong and forced the Titans into a three-and-out. The Titans punted the ball and Tampa Bay was about to take over at its own 7, but an already bad situation became worse as Jeremiah Ledbetter was called for holding. The Bucs started at their own 5-yard line after the call.

Kyle Trask was now the Bucs’ quarterback. It looked like he found Hudson down the seam for a big gain, but Hudson fumbled after getting hit and the Briean Boddy-Calhoun was able to “intercept” the ball and run into the end zone for a touchdown.

There’s a strong argument that the ground caused the fumble or that it was an incomplete pass. The Bucs even challenged the call, but the ruling stood and the Titans now led, 20-3, with 12:02 left in the third quarter.

Trask found Hudson for a 15-yard completion on 3rd and 9 and this time the tight end held on to the ball. But the former Florida Gator couldn’t muster much after that outside of a nine-yard completion to Vaughn. The Bucs punted the ball away once again and an 11-yard return by Cameron Batson started the Titans at their own 24.

Woodside stared the drive for the Titans. It looked like the Bucs stopped the Titans offense on 3rd and 2, but an offsides call on Nate Brooks gave the Titans a new set of downs.

Brooks’ mistake turned out to be the Titans’ fortune. Woodside found rookie receiver Dez Fitzpatrick for a 23-yard touchdown pass that capped off a nine-play, 73-yard scoring drive. Fitzpatrick burned fellow rookie Chris Wilcox on a corner route to the front right corner of the end zone to put the Titans up, 27-3, with 1:46 left in the third quarter.

The Bucs proceeded to go three-and-out on the following drive. Batson’s four-yard return set the Titans up at their own 34 to start their next drive.

Third Quarter: Titans 27 Bucs 3

Tampa Bay’s defense came to life as Grant Stuard combined for the defense’s third sack of the game. The play forced a Titans punt and the Bucs started the drive at their own 33.

Two Trask mistakes doomed the Bucs. First, he randomly lost grip of the ball as he was rolling out of the pocket on first down, which put the Bucs behind the chains. Then, he made a bad decision/throw to Jaydon Mickens and was intercepted by Clayton Geathers. Geathers returned the pick 30 yards to the Bucs’ 23.

Barkley then found Kinsey over the middle for a 20-yard touchdown pass to put the Titans up, 34-3, with 11:03 left in the game.

Trask was able to hit Cyril Grayson Jr. for a 35-yard pass down to the Titans’ 25 on the next drive, but back-to-back negative plays relegated the offense to a 4th and 9 situation. The Bucs tried to go for it, but Trask’s pass attempt fell incomplete and the Titans took back over.

The Titans offense couldn’t get anything done. Trask was picked on the Bucs following drive. The Titans offense started at Tampa Bay’s 14-yard line after Jamal Carter’s 36-yard return.

One of the Bucs’ few bright spots on the night came when the defense stuffed Sargent behind the line of scrimmage on a 4th and 3.

But it wasn’t near enough to erase the poor performance on the night. The Titans would go on to win, 34-3, as the Bucs fell to 0-2 on the preseason.

Final Score: Titans 34 Bucs 3