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Special-teams errors costly for Buccaneers

CLEVELAND -- The running game looked better than it has most of the season and the passing game was decent. The defense also did some good things.

So why did the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lose 22-17 to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday?

The easy and most accurate answer is the special teams. The Bucs had three catastrophic special-teams plays that each led to Cleveland points.

"Special teams really hurt us today," coach Lovie Smith said. "Can't have a punt blocked, a field goal blocked, jump offsides and let them continue a drive to score a touchdown. All those plays really hurts us."

Let's run through the litany of errors. The first came early in the game when Patrick Murray's 31-yard field-goal attempt was blocked by Billy Winn. That came with 9:43 left in the first-quarter and the Browns followed it up with a field goal.

The more costly plays came in the second half. The one that seemed to anger Smith the most came with 10:10 left in the third quarter. The Bucs had shut down Cleveland in the red zone and the Browns were about to settle for a field goal.

But that's when William Gholston was called for a neutral-zone infraction. That gave the Browns a first down. Three plays later, Cleveland scored a touchdown to take a 16-10 lead.

It didn't end there. With 9:42 left in the fourth quarter, Michael Koenen lined up to punt. Officially, the play was not called a blocked punt, but it had the same impact. A Cleveland player deflected the ball and Koenen was credited with a 1-yard punt.

That gave the Browns possession at the Tampa Bay 35-yard line. Two plays later, Brian Hoyer hit Taylor Gabriel with the game-winning touchdown pass.

"Good plays on their part," Smith said. "One jumped over us. Got to be able to get that. A guy coming up the middle, we should have him blocked. And then, you move on the snap of the ball and let a drive keep going. Those were all blunders that really cost us in the end."