The Return of 'Fitzception' Leads Buccaneers to Close Loss on Monday Night
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was the hottest QB in the league heading into Monday Night Football against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Fitzpatrick had led the Bucs to a surprising 2-0 start after starter Jameis Winston was suspended three games for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. In those two games, the 35-year-old threw for 819 passing yards, eight touchdown passes, and just one interception. But that all changed when the 'FitzMagic' of the first two weeks was traded in for 'Fitzceptions' against Pittsburgh.
Things were clicking for Tampa Bay in the early going of this one as safety Justin Evans picked off Ben Roethlisberger in Steeler territory to give the Buccaneers great field position on their second drive of the game. Fitzpatrick took advantage of the Steelers miscue and found a wide-open Cameron Brate in the end zone for a four-yard touchdown pass to give the Bucs an early 7-0 lead. However, the Steelers would respond in a big way, scoring on each of their next three drives. It started with a 75-yard catch and run by Vance McDonald that resulted in a touchdown thanks to a big stiff arm by the massive tight end. Pittsburgh's defense was able to force a punt after knocking Tampa Bay out of field goal range on a nine-yard sack of Fitzpatrick on 3rd and eight.
Roethlisberger happily made the most of the next possession and worked the Steelers into a red zone where Chris Boswell converted on a 38-yard field goal to bump Pittsburgh in front, 9-7. It would not take long for them to get the ball back either as a fumble by receiver Chris Godwin in Bucs territory that was recovered by Mike Hilton resulted in a brief two-play drive ending in a 27-yard touchdown reception by Antonio Brown. This was the first of four consecutive turnovers by Tampa Bay on the offensive side of the ball, the next three would come via the interception from Fitzpatrick, only one resulted in points from Pittsburgh and it was a pick-six to give the Steelers a 23-7. Following the three consecutive picks, Fitzpatrick drove the Bucs inside the Steeler five-yard line before stalling out and settling for a field goal. The Steeler offense closed out the half with seven more points on a one-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to Ryan Switzer and Pittsburgh had a 30-10 advantage at halftime.
However, Tampa Bay was not ready to roll over and quit in this contest. Coming out of the half, Fitzpatrick led a 14-play, 65-yard scoring drive that gave the Bucs three more points to trail 30-13. Momentum seemed to be shifting too as Chris Boswell's missed 47-yard field goal attempt at the end of a nearly seven-minute drive gave Tampa Bay the ball back with an opportunity to pull within 10. They took full advantage and Fitzpatrick led another long drive that was finished off with a Chris Godwin touchdown grab to bring the deficit to 30-20 with 11 minutes left in the fourth. The Buccaneers' defense stepped it up and forced a Pittsburgh punt, giving Fitzpatrick another chance to shrink the large halftime deficit they had once faced.
Yet again, the quarterback answered the call and about three minutes later Fitzpatrick hit Mike Evans with a 24-yard touchdown passes to pull the Bucs within three now, 30-27. The Tampa Bay defense held their own again and forced another Steelers punt that gave the team a chance to either tie things up or take the lead with just over three minutes remaining. This time, the offense went three-and-out in their own territory, forcing them to punt it back to Pittsburgh with just two timeouts and the two-minute warning remaining. It was now up to the Roethlisberger and the offense to seal the victory. They did just that as running back James Connor broke free for a 17-yard run after the Bucs used their final timeout and the Steelers could kneel out the rest of the clock.
The difference in this one was truly the turnover battle as the three Fitzpatrick interceptions and a fumble by Godwin gave way to 14 points off the turnover for the Steelers en route to their big first half. Despite Ryan Fitzpatrick's turnover struggles in this one, he still finished the game having completed 60% of his passes for 411 passing yards, three touchdowns, and three interceptions as mentioned before. He is likely going to still be the starter even with the return of Jameis Winston next week, the question remains if he will be able to hold onto the starter title or if his turnover issues linger on, forcing a change at QB for the Bucs. As for Pittsburgh, they got back on track after a bad loss to the Chiefs and it was largely in part to the strong play by Ben Roethlisbeger who finished with 353 passing yards, three touchdowns, and an early first-quarter interception on 30-for-38 passing. Tampa Bay looks to rebound next week against the Chicago Bears on the road while the Steelers will head home to face the Baltimore Ravens in a Sunday Night Football matchup.
Pittsburgh Steelers 30, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27
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