TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers dominated much of Sunday's 26-20 overtime loss to the Green Bay Packers. But three things doomed one of their best offensive efforts of the season and spoiled the return of quarterback Jameis Winston.
Playing with a makeshift offensive line and down to their third center, the Bucs' pass protection consistently broke down as Winston was sacked a season-high seven times.
Two mistakes changed the game.
In the second quarter, Bryan Anger had a punt blocked for the second time this season to set up a Packers touchdown.
Then Winston fumbled while trying to pass to tight end Cameron Brate, and the fumble popped into the hands of 296-pound defensive end Dean Lowry, who returned it 62 yards for a Packers touchdown.
"I don't even know how the ball came out," Winston said. "I had Cam Brate on a route in front of me and I was about to throw it to him and when I reared back, it hit somebody."
It was Winston's 50th turnover in 41 games.
"That could be an issue," head coach Dirk Koetter said. "That definitely can be an issue. That's something we've talked about many times. Jameis is going to make some plays. He made a couple really nice scramble plays. He was under pressure all day. That particular one right there, in a perfect world, he would've gotten that ball out of his hands but they were on him quick. You've got to remember, he's 23 years old and experience is still the best teacher."
By all other measures, Winston had a solid game. He passed for 275 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
While the Bucs weren't able to pass protect, they ran the football as well as they have all season.
Second-year pro Peyton Barber started at tailback in place of Doug Martin, who was inactive with a concussion. Barber rushed for 102 yards on 23 carries, becoming the first Bucs player to eclipse the century mark in a game this season.
"When Peyton has gone in there on a limited basis, he's done OK," Koetter said Monday. "That, coupled with Doug being out, led to him getting more and you know, you see a lot of times a running back gets into a little bit of a groove and it's one of those days where he's making yards. As long as you can do it efficiently, you keep feeding him."
On Sunday, Barber moved piles like a backhoe. Of his 102 yards rushing, Barber tallied 68 of them after contact. He had 23 of the Bucs' 30 running back carries. He also caught all four passes thrown to him, and his 41 yards led the team in receiving.
"We did a pretty good job of run blocking," Koetter said. "Not perfect, but we did a pretty good job of run blocking, but left some out there. The best thing Peyton did is he made yards after contact and broke some tackles."
--The Bucs discovered Sunday they would be down to their third center, and Evan Smith tried to fill the void.
With center Ali Marpet and right tackle Demar Dotson placed on injured reserve with knee injuries they suffered in last Sunday's 34-20 loss to Atlanta, the Bucs planned to start veteran Joe Hawley at center against the Packers.
But on Saturday morning, Hawley became ill. He made the trip to Green Bay, but wasn't well enough to play in the game. That meant Smith, who was going to start at left guard with Kevin Pamphile replacing Dotson at right tackle, had to slide inside to center.
"We were hopeful maybe Joe was good enough to go today, but he wasn't," Koetter said after the game. "So that made one more rotation late in the week. We practiced most of the week with Joe at center and Evan at right guard and Kevin (Pamphile) at right tackle. But based on the sickness, we had to switch it around."
While Smith did well helping the run game, he had two critical mistakes that cost the Bucs. Trailing 17-10 in the fourth quarter, on third-and-goal from the Green Bay 3-yard line, Smith snapped the football before Winston was ready and it resulted in a 9-yard loss. The Bucs were forced to settle for a 30-yard field goal by Patrick Murray.
Then after the Packers tied the game at 20 with under two minutes left in the game, Charles Sims took a screen pass on first down and gained 20 yards to the Packers' 40-yard line. But Smith was called for a block in the back. Instead, it was first-and-20 from the 30-yard line and the Bucs went nowhere.
NOTES: TE Anthony Auclair, a free agent from Canada, had his first NFL catch Sunday. ... RB Doug Martin still is in concussion protocol and his status is unknown for Sunday's game against the Lions. ... S T.J. Ward was inactive Sunday with a concussion and his status is unknown for Sunday's game against the Lions.
REPORT CARD VS. PACKERS
--PASSING OFFENSE: C -- The Bucs allowed a season-high seven sacks and QB Jameis Winston was pressured more than 20 times in the game. He passed for 275 yards and two touchdowns, but lost a fumble that was returned for a score.
--RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- The Bucs rushed for a season-high 165 yards, with 102 of it coming from Peyton Barber, who made his first start of the season at tailback for the injured Doug Martin. Barber got more than 60 of those yards after contact.
--PASS DEFENSE: A -- Packers QB Brett Hundley is not a good passer, but he completed just 13 passes for only 84 yards with an interception, but won the game. It was the third interception of the season by Bucs rookie S Justin Evans, who leads the team.
--RUSH DEFENSE: D -- The Bucs couldn't stop the run on Sunday as the Packers' Jamaal Williams rushed for 121 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. QB Brett Hundley hurt the Bucs with 66 yards rushing on seven carries.
--SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- The Bucs had a punt blocked and did not cover kickoffs very well. The bright spot was Patrick Murray, who made both his field-goal attempts.
--COACHING: C -- The Bucs had a good game plan. But as is too often the case, huge gaffes and giveaways accounted for another loss.
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