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It’s almost as if the Buccaneers never recovered from the long flight to London to play the Bears in Week 7.
Tampa Bay’s 4-2 record upon their arrival to England is now a distant memory after dropping their seventh consecutive game with a 41-14 loss to the Jaguars on Sunday.
There haven’t been any major changes made to the roster, so the continuous losing following a 10-6 season last year remains a head-scratcher.
Things looked more than promising out of the gate for the Bucs. After missing last week’s game with a shoulder injury Josh Freeman opened up the game by leading his team on an 80 yard scoring drive. A one yard LeGarrette Blount touchdown run gave them a quick 7-0 lead.
The defense held 10th overall pick Blaine Gabbert, league rushing leader Maurice Jones-Drew, and the rest of the Jacksonville offense completely in check throughout the first quarter.
A Ronde Barber interception late in the first immediately erased the threat of a scoring drive for the Jags. Barber recorded the 43rd interception of his career with a pick off Gabbert that he returned to his own 48.
Freeman would turn the takeaway into six after a 13 yard touchdown rush to give the Bucs a 14-0 lead in the second quarter.
The Jaguars then suddenly woke up, and they did so with a bang.
Montell Owens crushed Buccaneers punt returner Preston Parker on the Tampa Bay 20. The ball came flying out and was recovered, and returned eight yards into the end zone by Jacksonville’s Colin Cloherty. The Jags had unexpectedly cut the deficit in half at 14-7.
However, the Bucs still believed that they were in good shape, as they were still containing the Jaguar offense.
But Gabbert’s day completely turned around on the next drive after completing a 62 yard throw down field to tight end Mercedes Lewis. He was just 2-7 for 9 yards prior to the throw, but went 17-23 for 208 yards after. It was clear that he gained a new found confidence from it.
Maurice Jones-Drew then punched home a one yard touchdown to tie the game at 14 with 2:05 remaining in the half.
Tampa Bay tried to remain composed, but a sack of Freeman near the end zone ruined that plan. Nate Collins recovered the ball in the end zone for the Jags to give them their first lead of the day.
And the Jags would not lose that aggression. An Ashton Youboty interception at the Tampa Bay 49 eventually set up five yard touchdown throw to Jones-Drew with just four seconds left in the quarter.
The touchdown was Jones-Drew’s 71st of his career, passing Fred Taylor for number one on the Jags all-time touchdown list. He reached the end zone four times before the clock hit triple zero.
“It means a lot,” said Jones-Drew. “To break a record that Fred set, it means a bunch. Words can’t explain how excited I am to have a guy that mentored me the whole time, taught me how to play this game the right way, how to take care of my body and do those things.”
The record-breaking touchdown capped a less than eight minute span in which the Jaguars put 28 points on the board.
“I can’t remember a quarter like that,” said interim Jags head coach Mel Tucker. “When you’re playing like that, that’s fun. That was good for us to have that feeling, to experience that. That’s what it takes to win consistently at a high level in this league. We got a taste of that today.”
Turnovers were a major contributor to the huge scoring output by the Jags. Giving the ball away seven times gave Tampa Bay no shot at victory.
“Yeah, once again, turnovers,” said Freeman. “It seems every time we started to get something going, we’d shoot ourselves in the foot. It makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to win a football game when you turn the ball over like we did.”
The Bucs offense was unable to put anything together throughout the entire second half, and 13 fourth quarter points sealed a comfortable victory for the Jags.
Jaguars fans enjoyed watching their fourth win of the season, but this one was different for the team. This was their first victory under Tucker.
So they just had to celebrate by giving him a classic Gatorade bath on the sideline.
It doesn’t get any better than that.