TAMPA — Chris Godwin's first three quarters Monday night weren't as rough as Ryan Fitzpatrick's, but they were close.
Through 45 minutes of Tampa Bay's 30-27 loss to Pittsburgh, Godwin dropped two touchdown passes, had another TD reception reversed, lost a fumble to set up a Steelers touchdown and dropped a deep ball in Pittsburgh territory.
But Godwin — a second-year receiver who finished last season with a walk-off, game-winning TD against the Saints and opened this one with touchdowns in wins over New Orleans and Philadelphia — re-emerged about the same time as Fitzmagic.
Godwin capped the Bucs' first last-ditch drive of the fourth quarter with a nifty move on Steelers cornerback Coty Sensabaugh before he skied to grab a 4-yard TD pass. That catch on third-and-goal pulled the Bucs to within 30-20 with 11:06 to play.
"He's a big-time player. He's a big-time competitor," Fitzpatrick said. "This game is hard. They've got good players just like we do and so there's always going ot be great plays made on both sides of the ball."
Godwin finished with 74 yards on five catches and his fourth straight game with a TD catch. It could have and should have been so much more.
"We made too may mistakes (Monday) and we know that's not the team that we are," Godwin said. "We'll go back and learn from our mistakes and bounce back next week. We still have a great team."
It started on the Bucs' first possession when Godwin got behind the defense and dropped a ball deep in Steelers territory after cornerback Joe Haden's vicious but clean hit.
The Steelers need to go only 33 yards for their second touchdown and a 16-7 lead in the second quarter after Godwin's fumble at Bucs 33.
A critical turning point came late in the first half when Tampa Bay settled for a Chandler Catanzaro 21-yard field goal and a 23-10 deficit with 1:15 left after Godwin let a touchdown pass go through his hands in the back of the end zone. Pittsburgh used those 75 seconds to drive 75 yards for a 30-10 lead.
With the Bucs desperately needing some sign of life in the third quarter, Godwin appeared to score on a 56-yard catch and run, falling to the ground only to get up believing he'd been untouched and running into the end zone . An official signaled touchdown, but the play was overturned on review and Godwin ruled down by contacted — he kicked a Steeler's shoulder pad as he went to the ground.
His 19-yard reception on third-and-long kept that drive alive, but the Bucs settled for another field goal after Godwin's dropped another pass in the corner of the end zone on third-and-goal.
Until Monday, it looked like Jameis Winston didn't have to worry about playing in six days in Chicago. But after Monday night's first-half meltdown, don't be so sure, Rick Stroud writes. #Bucs #Buccaneers @TB_Times @NFLSTROUD #Steelers #PITvsTB https://t.co/MQutDVSEoJ— TampaBayTimesSports (@TBTimes_Sports) September 25, 2018
Neither Fitzpatrick nor Bucs play-caller Todd Monken gave up on him. For the third time in the game, the Bucs went to Godwin on third-and-goal. This time he scored.
"I think it's important after something like that happens, just the look in Chris' eye the rest of the game," Fitzpatrick said. " (He) wasn't feeling sorry for himself. He was out there ready to make plays, and he made a bunch of them."
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