Paxton Lynch made his NFL debut sooner than expected Sunday, stepping in for injured starter Trevor Siemian to help the Denver Broncos remain unbeaten with a 27-7 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Siemian left the game with two minutes remaining in the first half with what the defending Super Bowl champions described as an injury to his left (non-throwing) shoulder. He remained in uniform and watched the second half from the sideline, wearing a baseball cap while Lynch - the 26th pick in this year's draft- finished the Broncos' ninth consecutive win.
Siemien threw a touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas, capitalizing on Aqib Talib's interception and 25-yard return to the Bucs 11 on Tampa Bay's opening possession. The ex-Buc cornerback also set up another first-half TD with a second interception that led to C.J. Anderson's 1-yard run for a 14-7 lead.
For the second straight week, play was stopped in the fourth quarter at Raymond James Stadium because of inclement weather. The game was suspended for 1 hour, 26 minutes with 6:52 remaining Sunday, with only a few thousand fans returning to their seats for the conclusion.
Jameis Winston scrambled 7 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, but had limited success against the Denver defense the rest of the way. In addition to throwing two interceptions, the second-year quarterback was sacked five times while going 17 of 35 for 179 yards.
A week after becoming the first player in league history with 300 passing yards, four TD passes and zero interceptions in his first career road start, Siemian was off to another solid start when he was sacked by Bucs defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, who slung the Broncos quarterback to the turf on his left shoulder for an 8-yard loss late in the second quarter. Siemian left the field on his power and later received a ride to the locker room on a cart.
Denver (4-0) punted after Lynch threw an incompletion on third down coming out of the two-minute warning. The rookie got one more crack at the Bucs defense before halftime, going 4 of 8 for 47 yards to move his team into position for a 38-yard field goal that made it 17-7.
The Broncos set the tone for a frustrating second half for the Bucs, methodically moving 69 yards in 16 plays for a field goal that increased the lead to 13. Lynch's 5-yard TD pass to Emmanuel Sanders, who had eight receptions for 88 yards, made it 27-7 in the fourth quarter.
Siemian was 5 of 7 for 68 yards, including an 11-yard TD pass to Sanders on Denver's first offensive play. Lynch finished 14 of 24 for 170 yards, one TD and no interceptions.
Talib faced his former team for the second time, first in Tampa. He was a first-round draft pick of the Bucs in 2008 and spent four-plus years with the team before being traded to New England in the middle of the 2012 season. His 33 interceptions are the most by a cornerback since the ninth-year pro entered the league. The first 16 came with Tampa Bay. The only other time he faced his former team, Talib had an interception during New England's 23-3 victory over the Bucs in 2013.
The Broncos are 4-0 for the second straight season and third time in four years. Their nine-game winning streak is the longest in the NFL and they've now won a league-best 26 consecutive games when they've won the turnover battle.
SIGNS OF IMPROVEMENT
The Buccaneers had four sacks - 1 1/2 by McDonald, after not getting much pressure on opposing quarterbacks the previous two weeks against Arizona and Los Angeles. Siemian was sacked three times before leaving the game.
Broncos: In addition to Siemian, lost reserve CB Kayvon Webster with hamstring injury in second half.
Buccaneers: Pro Bowl DT Gerald McCoy limped off with a calf in the second quarter and did not return. ... TEBrandon Myers (hip) and LB Noah Spence (shoulder) left in the first half and did not return. ... Played without RB Doug Martin (hamstring) and DE Robert Ayers Jr. (ankle) for the second straight week.