Tampa, FL (Sports Network) – Micheal Spurlock caught a 33-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rallied past the Cleveland Browns, 17-14, in the first game of the season for both clubs.
Josh Freeman completed 17-of-28 passes for 182 yards, two touchdowns, and a pick for the Bucs, who went just 3-13 last season.
Rookie Mike Williams caught a TD pass for Tampa Bay, which got 75 rushing yards from Cadillac Williams.
“Good win for our football team,” Tampa Bay head coach Raheem Morris said. “We take them one at a time. This was not our best performance but I’m not going to cry about that when we get a win. It was a great job going out there and getting this win, but that means nothing in this league. We have long-term goals.”
Jake Delhomme connected on 20-of-37 passes for 227 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions in his Browns debut.
Peyton Hillis, who spent the last two years with Denver, carried the ball nine times for 41 yards and a score. Jerome Harrison rushed for 52 yards on nine carries. Mohamed Massaquoi caught a TD pass for Cleveland, which went 5-11 last year.
Trailing 14-10, the Bucs took over at the Cleveland 47 with 8:37 to play in the game. Following two incomplete passes, Sammie Stroughter caught a 14-yard pass for a first down. Three plays later, on another 3rd-and-10, Spurlock hauled in a 33-yard TD pass to give Tampa Bay a 17-14 lead with 6:45 to go.
Delhomme was intercepted by E.J. Biggers on the ensuing possession. Tampa Bay drove down to the two, but Earnest Graham lost the football. The Browns recovered at the three-yard line with 2:16 to play.
Faced with a 4th-and-9 following a penalty, Delhomme threw an incomplete pass. The Bucs, though, went four-and-out, leaving the Browns at their 11-yard with 34 seconds left and no timeouts.
Cleveland got to its 33 before time ran out.
“We got to get to the point where we’re playing to win the game and not making mistakes that are going to cost us the game,” Browns head coach Eric Mangini said.
The Browns’ second possession of the game resulted in a touchdown. Faced with a 3rd-and-12 from the 47, Hillis gained the necessary yardage on the ground for a fresh set of downs. Delhomme hooked up with Massaquoi for a 41- yard score on the next play.
The Buccaneers drove down the field on their next possession, but settled for a 49-yard Connor Barth field goal. The 7-3 score stood after one quarter of action.
Cleveland took a 14-3 lead with 5:35 to play in the first half. Harrison’s 39- yard run got the Browns down to the Tampa Bay 10. Hillis then found an opening on the left side of the field and scampered into the end zone.
Each quarterback was picked off late in the second quarter. Mike Adams intercepted Freeman to set up Cleveland at the 47. On first down from the Tampa Bay 39, Delhomme was picked off by Ronde Barber. A 64-yard return down the left sideline put the ball at the three. Mike Williams hauled in a deflected pass in the back of the end zone to cut the gap to 14-10.
A nine-yard return on a squib kick put the Browns near midfield. Following a five-yard pass, Phil Dawson came on the field to attempt a 62-yard field goal. The kick was off the mark, keeping it a four-point contest at the break.
Cleveland marched down the field to start the third frame. However, Hillis fumbled at the 14 and the Bucs recovered. Tampa Bay failed to do anything with the ball on offense, and the quarter went scoreless.
The Browns lead the all-time series with the Bucs, 5-3…Cadillac Williams carried the ball 22 times…Evan Moore caught three passes for 87 yards for Cleveland…It was the first career touchdown for Spurlock.