Tampa Bay's starters played like they were in early regular season form.
The same could not be said for the second- and third-team Buccaneers.
The Bucs held Jacksonville scoreless for the first quarter, but the Jaguars took advantage of Tampa Bay's backups from there for a 31-19 victory on Saturday night in preseason action at Jacksonville's Memorial Stadium.
Jacksonville's running game and defense overwhelmed the Bucs once the first-team defense left the field for Tampa Bay. The Jaguars did not pile up a lot of rushing yards — just 125 yards for the game — but two Buccaneers turnovers set up the Jags with opportunities to take control of the game.
Tampa Bay's defensive starters played three possessions and provided the Buccaneers with stout run defense and great pass pressure that limited the Jaguars to just one first down.
But the reserves couldn't maintain that pressure.
Jacksonville took control of the game with a 17-point second quarter, most of it coming against the Buccaneers' second- and third-team defenders. Gruden expressed his unhappiness with their performance at halftime, and it didn't get much better in the second half.
The tide swayed on a fumble by Maurice Stovall of the Buccaneers in the second quarter, with Tampa Bay driving toward a possible scoring chance in a 7-7 game.
Quarterback Luke McCown hit Stovall, who took the pass inside and collided with a pair of Jaguars. The ball came loose and Jacksonville's Jamaal Fudge picked it up and went 70 yards deep into Tampa Bay territory before McCown tackled him inside the Bucs 5-yard line.
McCown's hustle, plus a great goal-line stand, limited the Jags to a 19-yard field goal by Josh Scobee, which made it 10-7 Jaguars with 7:48 left in the half. But all it did was embolden a Jaguar offense led by starter Byron Leftwich for most of the first half.
The Jags scored twice more in the second quarter, as LaBrandon Toefield scored an 8-yard touchdown run, and backup quarterback David Garrard followed with a 3-yard touchdown run with just nine seconds remaining.
Tampa Bay began the game sharply, with starting quarterback Jeff Garcia leading his first touchdown drive as a Buc. Garcia connected with wide receiver David Boston for a 19-yard touchdown pass with 8:29 left in the first quarter. It was the only score of the first quarter for either team.
Garcia finished the game 6-of-6 for 43 yards and the score.
"It was a planned rollout," Garcia said of the TD pass. "There wasn't anything there initially and eventually David Boston made his way back to me and I put the ball where he could make the play."
Backup quarterback Luke McCown played two quarters and played well, going 9-of-13 for 66 yards, adding 37 rushing yards. Unfortunately, fumbles by Stovall and rookie Kenneth Darby stymied the Bucs' offense with McCown under center.
Darby's fumble came in the third quarter, with the Bucs driving toward a possible score inside the Jags' 10-yard line.
The Jags took that turnover and turned it into a 95-yard scoring drive, capped by Alvin Pearman's 1-yard TD run early in the fourth quarter.
Notes: DE Gaines Adams recorded his first preseason sack in the third quarter. … DE Kevin Carter started on the left side and also recorded a sack. … LB Antoine Cash suffered a knee injury early in the second quarter on kickoff coverage and had to leave on a cart. He reportedly had a severe knee sprain. A MRI should be performed on Sunday. … S Tanard Jackson left early in the third quarter with what appeared to be a hamstring pull, but was later reported to be cramps. … QB Chris Simms did not play for the second straight preseason game. … OG Jeb Terry, who is fighting for a roster spot, went down with an injury in the fourth quarter. He left the field on a cart.
Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association and has won national awards for his Buccaneers coverage from the PFWA, the National Newspaper Association and the Associated Press Sports Editors.