Everybody knew it wasn't going to be easy, but the Bucs did a great job… for one half.
The Bucs held a 10-7 halftime lead on Sunday against Manning and the Broncos.
But a disastrous third quarter doomed the Bucs as they lost 31-23 to the Broncos and fell to 6-6 on the season.
Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman started and finished the game hot, but ended up just 18-of-39 for 242 yards with two touchdowns and one costly interception.
Freeman's pick capped off an ugly third quarter, one that the Broncos dominated by scoring 21 unanswered points. After two Manning touchdown passes to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, linebacker Von Miller intercepted Freeman and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown.
Miller, who is among those considered for the Defensive Player of the Year Award, was a one-man wrecking crew and finished with six tackles, 1.0 sack, one forced fumble, one interception, and one touchdown.
After struggling to getting any rhythm in the first two quarters outside of the opening scoring drive, Manning lit up the Bucs' defense in the second half. He picked them apart with the short passing game and finished 27-of-38 for 242 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.
The Bucs played well at times, but ultimately just couldn't stop Manning when it mattered the most. That and, for the second straight game, Tampa Bay didn't have much of a running game.
Rookie Doug Martin had just 56 rushing yards on 18 carries. Martin also added 42 yards through the air on three catches.
Wide receiver Mike Williams six receptions for 96 yards and one touchdowns, and tight end Dallas Clark kept his hot streak going with his third touchdown in the last four games.
Meanwhile, linebacker Lavonte David continued his case for the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award with 10 tackles and an interception. But he was really the only player to do anything on defense as the Bucs failed to cause any more turnovers and couldn't sack Manning at all.
At 6-6, the Bucs are still in the hunt for a playoff spot but are they are now one game back after the Seattle Seahawks (7-5) got an overtime victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday.
Next week, the Bucs take on the Philadelphia Eagles and will celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the 2002 Super Bowl Championship team.
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