Tampa, Fla. The football took a lot of funny bounces Sunday, and most of them went against Kansas City in a 38-10 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that dropped the Chiefs to 1-5.
The toughest bounce of all went off Kansas City’s Dexter McCluster and into the hands of the Bucs’ Ronde Barber, who ran the interception back 78 yards for a game-breaking touchdown.
“It happens all the time in the NFL,” said Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel. “Guys tip it rather than knock it down. They jump over us and catch it. We tip it and they catch it. That happens sometimes and it’s just unfortunate that it happened to us.”
Josh Freeman threw for a season-high 328 yards and three TDs for the Bucs (2-3), who intercepted Brady Quinn twice in the Kansas City quarterback’s first start in nearly three years.
Barber, making the transition to safety after 15 seasons as one of the NFL’s top cornerbacks, scored his 14th regular-season touchdown to make it 21-3 early in the third quarter.
It was Barber’s eighth career interception return for a TD. The Chiefs challenged the play, contending that the pass should have been ruled incomplete.
“We thought that it hit the ground and then bounced up and he caught it, and they couldn’t tell definitely on the replay so they ruled it as a touchdown,” Crennel said.
“It was a tremendous play on his part,” said Quinn, who completed 22 of 38 passes for 180 yards filling in for the injured Matt Cassell (concussion). “I couldn’t tell on the replay. From my point of view it looked like it hit the ground, but (Barber) made a great play.”
It was one of several big plays against the Chiefs, who gave up 31 points in the second half. Mike Williams scored Tampa Bay’s first touchdown on a 62-yard reception against tight coverage by Stanford Routt, and Tiquan Underwood turned another bounce into another 62-yard reception in the second half -- also against Routt.
“The hardest thing for us right now is when you see plays like (Barber’s) or when you see Stanford Routt almost pick a ball and then it turns into a big play for the other team,” said Quinn. “At some point the luck’s going to turn our way.”
But the Chiefs couldn’t blame it all on luck. They had two more turnovers, bringing their season total to a league-high 21, seven penalties, and only 80 yards rushing on 30 carries. Their defense wore down in the second half.
“We’ve got to learn how to play defense for four quarters no matter what’s going on, how the game’s going,” said safety Kendrick Lewis. “That’s the bottom line.”
The Chiefs scored their only touchdown early in the fourth quarter on Edgar Jones’ 11-yard fumble return on a play that began with Shaun Draughn blocking a punt into the end zone.
Bucs punter Michael Koenen chased down the loose ball and ran out to the 1, where he was hit by Draughn as he was trying to throw the ball forward. Jones caught it on the fly, but the play was ruled a fumble because a pass can’t be attempted off a blocked punt.
The Bucs played without cornerback Aqib Talib, who began serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
Tampa Bay limited NFL rushing leader Jamaal Charles to 40 yards on 12 attempts.
“I don’t understand why we played the way we played,” Crennel said. “We were still in it at halftime, but then came out in the second half and couldn’t get anything done. If we keep turning the ball over and keep getting penalties, keep giving up scores like we do on defense, it’s going to be hard to win games.”
Quinn, a former first-round draft pick, made his first start since Dec. 12, 2009, when he was with the Browns. He didn’t get off the bench at all over the past two seasons with the Broncos and played briefly after Cassel went out last week.
“It was not the quarterback’s fault,” Crennel said. “He wasn’t as sharp as he would have been if he had had plenty of reps and all that, but he wasn’t the cause of it. It was a team effort that screwed things up and we’ve got to fix it as a team.”