By Dory LeBlanc
A new era dawned Sunday in Tampa, as Josh Freeman, who made 59 consecutive starts for the Bucs watched from a suite, and the rookie out of NC State, Mike Glennon led the Bucs to another last-minute loss, this time 13-10 at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals.
Before kickoff, all of the talk may have been Freeman, but once the clock started running down, Gerald McCoy quickly became the hot topic in the first half at Raymond James Stadium.
Once of the Bucs defense captains, McCoy came through as a leader Sunday, sacking Cardinals QB Carson Palmer on the opening play, and recovering a fumble on the following Arizona possession.
Glennon and the offense capitalized on the turnover, using short passes and a healthy does of Doug Martin to move 41 yards down the field and go up 7-0 after an eight-yard Mike Williams touchdown reception.
Tampa Bay's defense had their foot to the pedal during the first 15 minutes, but let off halfway through the second quarter, allowing the Cardinals to move the chains down the field, but a terrific pass break up by Mason Foster on third down forced Arizona to punt once again.
The Bucs continued their gameplan of keeping the ball on the ground and eating up as much of the clock as possible until the two-minute warning when the playbook opened and Glennon starting making deeper throws. The Bucs were in prime position to go up by two touchdowns, but a false start penalty moved them back and they were forced to settle for a 50-yard field goal by Rian Lindell to go up 10-0 before the half.
Tampa Bay had the first chance of scoring in the second half, but were forced to punt, pinning the Cardnials offense inside the eight. The Buccaneers D again allowed Palmer & Co to move the chains, and a breakdown in coverage following an intentional grounding penalty, gave the Cardinals a fresh set of downs after Michael Floyd flew through the middle of the field untouched and came down with the ball at the 11. Luckily for the Bucs, a false start flag backed them up five yards to the 16 and on the next play, Palmer fired into the end zone, but instead of finding Floyd, the ball landed into the arms of rookie Johnthan Banks, who picked up his first career interception.
Tampa Bay's offense stalled on the ensuing drive, but the $16-million man, Darrelle Revis, gave them another shot with a minute remaining in the third after cutting off the route and grabbing a pass intended for Larry Fitzgerald.
The Cardinals penalties continued to benefit the Buccaneers, with a horse collar call giving the Bucs a first down at the 41 in Arizona's territory as the quarter came to a close.
Arizona's defensive plan was to stack the box with eight or nine men, limiting the productivity of Martin, and by all intents and purposes, their plan worked; holding Martin to 1.7 yards per carry and forcing a fumble by the second-year back.
Jay Feely put Arizona on the board following the fumble recovery with a 42-yarder with 11:16 to go in the contest to bring them within a touchdown.
The Bucs found themselves in another three-and-out, but Dashon Goldson picked up the first down with a 22-yard run in a fake punt situation. Unfortunately, the effort didn't produce any points as Tampa Bay was forced to punt it away three plays later.
With six minutes remaining, the Cardinals started the next possession at their own 20, but after a series of penalties, were forced to punt it away.
The Bucs' rive started from their own seven, but Glennon makes the biggest mistake of his debut at a crucial time, and throws an interception to Patrick Peterson.
On the next play, Palmer finds Fitzgerald for a 13-yard TD to tie it up with less than three minutes to go.
To make matters worse, the Bucs started at their own 10 after the speedster Jeff Demps took the ball out from nine yards deep in the end zone, instead of taking a knee and bringing Tampa Bay out to the 20. The Bucs couldn't get anything going, and Michael Koenen was forced to punt from the back of the end zone.
Following the two-minute warning, the Cardinals started in great field position, in the Bucs' half of the field, and took the lead with 1:33 remaining on a 27-yard FG.
The Bucs offense began to move down the field, but a missfire by Glennon ended up in the hands of Peterson for the second time in the afternoon.
With 43 seconds remaining, Palmer took a knee to end the ballgame.