Jaguars 29, Buccaneers 18
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP)—Tampa Bay and Jacksonville hardly looked ready for the regular season. At least not on offense.
Byron Leftwich threw a touchdown pass and ran for a score—both against backups in the third quarter—and the Jaguars rallied to beat the Buccaneers 29-18 in a preseason game Saturday night.
The Jaguars weren’t nearly as efficient against Tampa Bay’s starters, though.
Leftwich completed 13 of 20 passes for 167 yards, but was sacked four times in the first half. He has been sacked seven times in three preseason games, prompting questions about whether he can stay healthy—something he hasn’t done the last two seasons. He also has failed to lead the first-team offense to a touchdown against an opponent’s starting defense.
“Everybody, don’t get discouraged,” Leftwich said. “We’re OK and we’ll be ready for the opener. There were a few bumps in the road. It was kind of a big bump there in the first half. Nothing went our way. You’ve got to understand that you have those type of halves in this league. We came out and began to make plays. Once you begin to make one, they begin to come in bunches and that’s what happened.”
Tampa Bay’s starters scored a touchdown against fellow first-teamers for the first time in the preseason.
Playing with receiver Joey Galloway and running back Cadillac Williams for the first time in three preseason games, Tampa Bay capitalized on several mistakes to take an 11-0 halftime lead.
Galloway and Williams certainly gave the Bucs a boost, but they were hardly the difference. Jacksonville’s errors were.
Galloway caught an 18-yard pass on Tampa Bay’s opening drive—cornerback Terry Cousin missed a tackle on the third-down play—and Williams set up a touchdown with a 5-yard run.
Mike Alstott plunged 2 yards for the score, the Buccaneers added a 2-point conversion and then made it 11-0 in the second quarter after consecutive pass-interference penalties against cornerback Rashean Mathis.
Tampa Bay (1-2) did little else on offense, though.
“It’s a concern, but it’s not like we’re going to panic about it,” Williams said.
Chris Simms was 9-of-14 for 77 yards and was sacked three times while playing the entire first half. Galloway caught two passes for 28 yards. Williams ran four times for 3 yards and had two receptions for 9 yards.
“Inconsistency again is the word of the day,” Simms said. “We did some good things, but we left some points out there to be had. I feel like we have made improvement every week. We’re continuing to build. Hopefully we’ll hit our stride (for the season opener).”
Bruce Gradkowski, a rookie from Toledo who had three touchdown passes for the Bucs in the first two preseason games, had another one with 6 seconds to play. But he mostly struggled against the Jags, throwing two interceptions, fumbling twice and probably ending any chance he had of supplanting Tim Rattay as the team’s backup quarterback.
“It was good, in a way, to see him get slapped back into the reality of the league,” Bucs coach Jon Gruden said.
The Jaguars (2-1) were equally inept in the first half. But Leftwich got them moving after the break. He completed consecutive passes to Reggie Williams and Matt Jones, then the Jaguars ran seven times in a row to set up Leftwich’s 1-yard plunge.
On Jacksonville’s next drive, Leftwich completed a 17-yard pass to Williams, a 27-yarder to Derrick Wimbush and then put the Jags ahead with a 19-yard fade pass to Jones.
David Garrard—who fumbled three times, threw two interceptions and was sacked once while playing with Jacksonville’s first-team offense last week— directed two scoring drives in the fourth quarter.
“We would have loved to come out and put on a great performance for everybody, but it just didn’t happen,” Leftwich said. “I know one thing: the mistakes that we’re making, we’ve got an opportunity to correct them.”
Jags LB Mike Peterson, the team’s emotional leader, sprained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee and likely won’t be ready for the season opener Sept. 10 against Dallas. … Jags RB Greg Jones sprained his left knee and did not return. … Bucs CB Juran Bolden bruised his thigh.