During the previous two games, the Buccaneers squandered away leads late. Due to this, there were a couple key plays in the fourth quarter that stood out a clear cut moments where the game changed for the worst. This week in Foxboro that wasn’t quite the case. The Buccaneers started the game looking like the better team, but as time elapsed, the tide turned and the Bucs were left walking off the field down 20 and 0-3. So what changed the momentum? Where did it go from, “we are in this game” to “we are not.” The answer is, “The Play.”
It was the second quarter of what, at this point, was a hotly contested game. The Buccaneers were trailing the Patriots 7-3 after New England scored a touchdown on a drive in which they converted a fourth down. Previously, the Buccaneers failed on a fourth down conversion when Freeman’s 4th and 5 pass to Mike Williams was incomplete.
Tampa Bay was faced with a 4th and 1 from the New England 38 yard line. The 3rd and 1 play was a deep ball to Vincent Jackson indicating the Bucs wanted to take a shot expecting they could pick up the fourth and short if it came to it. The play is a run to Doug Martin.
The Bucs run to the left. Fullback Erik Lorig lead the way. Jamon Meredith was brought in as a “tight end” or more so an eligible receiver in to block. When the ball was snapped the Buccaneers had five bodies needing to block five Patriot defenders. Well, it didn’t happen. Martin is hit at the line of scrimmage, lunged forward and was stopped a few inches short of the crucial line to gain. The Buccaneers turn the ball over New England on downs for the second consecutive drive.
Before we get a little more into the impact, it’s interesting to note that on the 20 carries Martin had in the game, only this one did not gain a single yard.
In a three drive stretch in the 2nd quarter, the Buccaneers went from having the ball at the New England 34 leading the game 3-0, to two failed fourth down conversions for Tampa and one successful one for the Patriots, and the game winding up 14-3.
Had the Buccaneers successfully picked up that single yard, they would have at worst gotten a field goal out of the drive putting the game at 7-6. They could have scored a TD as well which would have given them the lead. But, they didn’t. And that’s why the 4th and 1 fail is this week’s winner of “The Play.”