The Miami Dolphins hosted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a long-postponed I-75 matchup today, a game that was supposed to be played in Week 1. The Buccaneers won the game with four seconds left, kicking a field goal for the 30-20 victory.
First Half Recap
The Buccaneers received the opening kickoff, then immediately completed a 16-yard pass on first down. After that bad signal to start the game, the Dolphins defense immediately tightened up, keeping Doug Martin to six yards on two carries, then rookie cornerback Cordrea Tankersley broke up a Ryan Fitzpatrick to Mike Evena pass attempt, and the Buccaneers were forced to punt.
On first down, Miami’s offensive line broke down on what may have been a running back screen, with Jay Cutler having to just throw the ball at Damien Williams’ feet in order to prevent a sack. On second down, things got a little better - with Williams breaking out a 69-yard run, Miami’s longest rush of the year. Williams picked up another three yards on two additional carries before Cutler looked for DeVante Parker in the endzone. Parker fell on the play, appearing to get his feet tangled with Justin Evans, leading to Evans picking off the pass.
Tampa Bay started at their own 25 yard line after the interception return, with 15 of those yards coming from an unnecessary roughness penalty on Williams. Martin was able to pick up 13 yards on a run up the middle, with Fitzpatrick then finding O.J. Howard for 22 yards. Fitzpatrick then went right back to Howard for 24 more yards. The Dolphins defense then locked it down again, giving up four yards on two Martin carries before an incomplete pass forced a 30-yard field goal.
Buccaneers field goal. TB 3-0.
Miami started that their own ten yard line after the kickoff due to a holding penalty, but they quickly made up the deficit. On first down, Cutler looked initially for Julius Thomas on a drag route, but then looked up field to find Jarvis Landry, who made a one-handed catch for 12 yards. On the next play, Cutler found Williams for a short pass, but the running back turned it up field for 24 yards. After WIlliams picked up four more yards on the ground, Miami was called for a false start on Jermon Bushrod. Cutler took care of the backwards movement on the next play, finding a wide open Kenny Stills for 26 yards. Two plays later, Cutler rolled to his right, with Landry recognizing his quarterback needed his help and moving back to find a hole in the defense, picking up 12 yards and setting up a 1st-and-Goal from the two-yard line. Cutler again looked for Landry on the next play, connecting for the score.
Smooth one-hand catch from Jarvis Landry pic.twitter.com/glt1tvQ9cM— Def Pen Sports (@DefPenSports) November 19, 2017
Dolphins touchdown. MIA 7-3.
The Buccaneers again tested the Dolphins’ bend-don’t-break defense on their next possession. Fitzpatrick found DeSean Jackson on first down, picking up 24 yards. Ultimately, the Buccaneers would go 59 yards on the drive, but the Dolphins defense again forced a field goal.
Buccaneers field goal. MIA 7-6.
The Dolphins’ next drive was ended just three plays into the possession with Cutler throwing a bad interception straight to Kwon Alexander.
After a one-yard loss from Martin, Fitzpatrick found Howard in the endzone for a six-yard touchdown.
Buccaneers touchdown. TB 13-7.
After the kickoff, a holding penalty on Laremy Tunsil moved Miami back to their own 15 yard line and 1st-and-20. Williams picked up two yards on the next play, then Cutler appeared to find Parker, splitting a double-team, but Parker let the ball bounce off his hands leading to the third interception of the half.
Good job by Howard to stay balanced in his backpedal and break with Evans. Textbook pass breakup on 3rd down pic.twitter.com/mfGQkOGwtm— Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy) November 19, 2017
The Buccaneers appeared to hit on another touchdown on the first play after the turnover, but Howard’s touchdown reception was called back due to a holding penalty. Tampa Bay was then only able to pick up 11 yards on their next three plays, leading to a field goal attempt, but the kick sailed wide right.
Miami would go three-and-out on their next drive, despite what appeared to be a 49-yard throw from Cutler to Landry. That huge gain was nullified by a Bushrod holding penalty.
Tampa Bay would pick up 32 yards on eight plays on their next drive, with the Dolphins defense finally forcing a punt. Miami was assisted by an illegal block above the waist penalty on a play when the Buccaneers picked up 30 yards. Ultimately, Tampa Bay punted the ball back to the Dolphins
And then Jarvis Landry fumbled on the first down screen pass and Tampa Bay got the ball right back.
The turnover would turn into points for the Buccaneers, with the defense unable to force another stop. After an incomplete pass from Fitzpatrick to Howard, a pass that should have been caught but was just badly dropped, Fitzpatrick found Evans for 29 yards to set up 1st-and-Goal from the eight yard line. On 2nd-and-Goal, Fitzpatrick scrambled to his right, with Kiko Alonso called for unnecessary roughness as the quarterback threw away the ball. On the 1st-and-Goal from the four-yard line, Fitzpatrick found a wide open DeSean Jackson in the endzone, with no defender anywhere near the play.
Buccaneers touchdown. TB 20-7.
After a one-yard run from Cutler, Tunsil was called for a false start at the half ended.
First Half Reactions
The offense was confusing during the first half. They simply could not get out of their own way. A huge gain would be called back by penalty, a good drive would end with an interception. Cutler would throw a good ball, but the receiver would drop it. A long run would be followed up by a loss of yards. It was back-and-forth all half. The fact that the Dolphins are even still in the game is purely on the defense at this point.
Not that the defense has been great, but they are clearly going with bend-don’t-break at this point. The linebackers seem to be out of position too often, either over-pursuing the ball before a cut back, or getting pulled out of the position because of a run-fake or misdirection.
Second Half Recap
The Dolphins started with the ball in the second half, and they made a change at quarterback, with Matt Moore entering the game. Cutler did not come out of the locker room for the second-half, with reports that he had entered the concussion protocol. On a drive that included two false start penalties, a really questionable offensive pass interference call that nullified a touchdown, and a defensive pass interference, Moore was able to take Miami 70 yards in nine plays. The Dolphins stalled after reaching the Tampa Bay three-yard line, and had to settle for a field goal.
Dolphins field goal. TB 20-10.
After a 16-yard gain on their first play, the Buccaneers were unable to get anything else going on their possession and punted.
Moore continued to provide the spark the offense has been missing. On 3rd-and-13, a play that normally would lead to a punt for the Dolphins, Moore scrambled to his right, then found a wide-open Stills for 45 yards. On the next third-down play, this a 3rd-and-8, Moore found Landry, who picked up 13 yards. Then Julius Thomas was able to pick up 11 yards on a short pass. The Dolphins would eventually reach the Tampa Bay 13 yard line, but again settle for a field goal.
Dolphins field goal. TB 20-13.
Miami’s defense held the Buccaneers to a three-and-out on their next possession, giving up just three yards on the three plays.
The Dolphins moved the ball again on their next drive, with Moore finding Stills for 18 yards on 3rd-and-11, then finding Parker for 17 on 3rd-and-8, followed by Stills on first down for 14 yards. However, they could not advance the ball past the Tampa Bay 44-yard line, and were forced to punt, with Matt Haack putting the ball inside the five-yard line and Walt Aikens downing it at the two-yard line - with a holding penalty then moving the ball back to inside the one-yard line.
A quarterback sneak on first down gave the Buccaneers a little breathing room, gaining one yard. After picking up first down, Tampa Bay was penalized for holding, dropping them back to their own eight yard line. The Dolphins then sacked Fitzpatrick in the endzone, but the referees called it forward progress to the half-yard line, saving the Buccaneers from a safety.
It was a bad call, one that should have given Miami two points, but the Buccaneers were still forced to punt.
The Dolphins appeared to have great field position, with Landry returning the punt to the 33-yard line, but a holding penalty backed them up to the 43. Stills then picked up nine yards on first down, but the Dolphins failed to pick up another yard despite going for it on second-, third-, and fourth-down.
The Buccaneers did nothing with their next possession, only avoiding a three-and-out because of a penalty, but picking up just four yards on five plays.
After the punt, Miami started at their own 26 yard line. Moore found Thomas for six yards then Stills for seven yards, followed a no-gain run from Kenyan Drake and an incomplete pass brought up 3rd-and-10. Moore chucked the ball long on the third down play, with Stills catching the ball and running for a 61 yard touchdown.
Dolphins touchdown. 20-20.
The Dolphins defense could not stop the next drive for the Buccaneers, however. A 17-yard pass from Fitzpatrick to Evans started the drive, following by a 14-yard pass from Fitzpatrick to Chris Godwin. Godwin then caught another 24 yard pass. After that, the Bucs just focused on killing the clock, before connecting on a 35-yard field goal, leaving just four seconds on the clock.
Buccaneers field goal. 23-20.
On the kickoff, the Dolphins attempted to run a series of laterals, but ultimately the ball rolled into the endzone with the Buccaneers falling on it for a late touchdown.
Buccaneers touchdown. 30-20.
This game was crazy. The Dolphins turned the ball over four times, had 17 penalties, and yet were still in it the entire way. The defense, exhausted with the lack of possession and turnovers from the offense, somehow kept the team in it, then Matt Moore sparked the offense into some really good drives.
That non-safety was a bad call from the refs. Even with the replay, how can a quarterback run into his own offensive lineman, and that somehow stops the play from being a sack in the endzone?
Miami played a better game this week, especially when Moore came into the game on offense, but it was not a game they should have had to fight this hard in just to remain close. The Buccaneers are a struggling team - similar to the Dolphins - and Miami should have come away with a win at home. Instead, they now fall to 4-6 on the year and still have questions that need to be answered.