Aqib Talib's two interceptions help Buccaneers outlast Cardinals

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers added to their reputation for fourth-quarter comebacks, even if they had to blow a 17-point lead to do it.

Aqib Talib had two of Tampa's four interceptions, returning one 45 yards for a touchdown and saving the game with the other, and the Bucs came from behind in the final quarter for the fourth time this season in a 38-35 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

"It was just one of them days," Talib said, "right place at the right time."

The Bucs (5-2) won their fifth straight on the road dating to last season and moved into a tie with idle Atlanta for first in the NFC South. The leaders play next Sunday at Atlanta.

Josh Freeman's 53-yard pass to rookie Arrelious Benn set up LeGarrette Blount's 1-yard run for what proved to be the winning score with 5:13 left. Freeman has six fourth-quarter comebacks in 16 career starts.

"It's like he almost did that on purpose," Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris joked. "He is throwing games to get another fourth-quarter comeback."

Morris called his 22-year-old quarterback "resilient and wise beyond his years."

Blount, the rookie from Oregon who was suspended nearly all of his senior season for punching a Boise State player, rushed for 120 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries. Among his runs was a late 48-yard run that featured an Olympics-worthy hurdle of would-be tackler Kerry Rhodes.

Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt called it "a very bitter loss." It was the first time in 10 tries that the Cardinals had not won after a loss.

Derek Anderson, who replaced Max Hall after the Cardinals rookie had two early interceptions returned for scores, had rallied Arizona (3-4) to take a 35-31 lead with 9:41 to play.

Arizona's Steve Breaston, back after missing three games because of arthroscopic knee surgery, caught eight passes for a career-high 147 yards.

"It all washes out in a loss," Breaston said. "It really doesn't matter what I did."

Gerald Hayes, activated for the first time since offseason back surgery, returned a fumble by Blount 21 yards for the second Cardinals touchdown in a 23-second span of the final minute of the third quarter.

Freeman passed for 278 yards but failed to throw the ball away on a crucial third-down play late in the game. That left Connor Barth with a 54-yard field goal try that Rhodes burst up the middle to block. Arizona drove to the Tampa 20 and seemed certain to at least get a game-tying field goal.

But on first down, Talib stepped in front of Larry Fitzgerald for an interception at the Buccaneers 3-yard line with 2:15 remaining.

Fitzgerald's second TD catch of the day, a 5-yarder from Anderson, had put Arizona ahead 35-31, but nearly 10 minutes still remained, plenty of time for a Tampa Bay team that Morris had proclaimed "best in the NFC."

"We got in the huddle and everybody was ready to go," Freeman said. "All right, they scored. So what? Let's go."

The big play was Freeman's deep pass to Benn, who bumped Rhodes before breaking free just enough for the catch and landing inside the Arizona 1.

Whisenhunt wouldn't say who his starting quarterback would be on Sunday at Minnesota.

"I'm not going to have any decisions on that right now," he said. "The one thing I'll tell you is we're not getting what we need out of the quarterback position."

Whisenhunt was upset with Anderson trying to force the ball to Fitzgerald on first down when the team was in position for the game-tying field goal.

"We're in field goal range and we've got two minutes. Worst case you think you're going to get a tie," Whisenhunt said. "We can't force it in there. Throw it away, come back down and we still have a chance to get in and win the game."

Hall threw his first NFL touchdown pass, a 2-yarder to Fitzgerald.

But his day went severely downhill in a hurry, first with Geno Hayes' 41-yard return for a score, then with Talib's 45-yarder.

Breaston made a spectacular sideline catch for 33 yards to the Bucs 11 late in the first half, but the drive stalled and Whisenhunt chose to go for it on fourth-and-2 at the Tampa Bay 3.

Anderson's pass bounced off the helmet of offensive guard Alan Faneca, but still got to the arms of Breaston, who couldn't hold on in the back of the end zone.

Tampa Bay's offense went 94 yards but had to settle for Barth's 21-yard field goal with time running out to put the Buccaneers up 24-14 at the half.

Game notes
Arizona had four turnovers a week after committing five in a loss at Seattle. ... Tampa Bay's Mike Williams had four catches for 105 yards. ... Arizona dropped to 2-1 at home this season. .... Cardinals RB Beanie Wells rushed for 50 yards on 16 carries in his first NFL start.