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Monday, Oct 23, 2017
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Lynch makes case in Bucs' 24-17 preseason win

HOUSTON - They had reached the point in the preseason Thursday night where proving you can help on special teams was about the best thing any player on the bubble could do for himself. Unless, of course, you are Corey Lynch.

Lynch bounced around the NFL for a couple of years mostly because he has a penchant for blocking field-goal attempts and punts, so what he needed to do more than anything in the preseason finale was show he can make plays on defense.

Label that objective Mission: Accomplished.

Lynch, who blocked a kick and a punt in 13 regular-season games last year and blocked a punt in this year's preseason opener at Miami, intercepted two passes Thursday to propel the Buccaneers to a 24-17 victory over Houston at Reliant Stadium.

The victory allowed the Bucs to finish the preseason 2-2, and it's safe to say they might not have compiled that mark were it not for Lynch's big-play heroics.

Stepping in front of a Dan Orlovsky pass at his 9-yard line, Lynch cut off an early Houston drive that already had moved 71 yards and ran the ball back 91 yards for a second-quarter touchdown, the Bucs' first of the night. Two series later, Orlovsky threw a pass right into Lynch's hands at the Texans' 44. Lynch brought that one back only 28  yards, but it was enough to set up a 3-yard touchdown pass to Arrelious Benn, who had just as big a night as Lynch.

Benn, the rookie second-round draft pick out of Illinois, went into the game trailing badly in the battle for the starting Z receiver spot with just one catch in three preseason games. He tripled that total against the Texans, catching three passes for 33 yards and two touchdowns, the second a 21-yarder from Rudy Carpenter in the third quarter that sealed the victory.

"(When) opportunities come ... I have to go out and take (advantage of them)," said Benn, who made adjustments in the air against single coverage on both touchdown receptions. "I just went up and made opportunity (catches)."

Benn wasn't the only one taking advantage of some good opportunities thrown his way. Lynch did the same, but he credited the players in front of him for setting up the opportunity he seized to pick off two passes.
"Yeah, we got a great rush, the linebackers were doing their jobs and that's what happens when you have a good crowd around you," said Lynch, who helped the Bucs build a 17-0 halftime lead.

"That was a good outing by the team out there," Bucs coach Raheem Morris said. "Coming up big and getting two balls back and then scoring twice, it was a good look by some of our young guys."

It came on a night when the look overall wasn't so good. On the defensive side of the ball, the Bucs struggled again to get off the field, stopping Houston after three plays just once all night.

As they have throughout the preseason, though, the Bucs came up big when they had to, taking the ball away twice on Lynch's picks and forcing the Texans to settle for a field goal on one other scoring occasion.

What it all meant was difficult to judge. After all, both teams played the entire game as if it was the final quarter of their three previous preseason games. The Texans didn't even bother to dress 20 of their 22 projected offensive and defensive starters. The Bucs, in turn, started only seven projected starters, all of them on defense.

None of those starters lasted very long, leaving the game to the likes of Lynch, third-string quarterback Carpenter and second-team running back Kareem Huggins.

Huggins turned in another glittering outing, running six times for 37 yards. He finished the preseason with 25 carries for 134 yards (5.36 yards per carry).

The Bucs also got another impressive outing out of Carpenter, who completed 15 of 27 passes for 203 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 127.7 passer rating. The picks notwithstanding, the Texans moved the ball through the air pretty well, too, racking up 316 of their 417 yards that way.
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