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Game Ball: Buccaneers vs. Dolphins

Posted Nov 19, 2017

Who got this week's game ball?

Game Ball: It's tempting to give this to the birthday boy, O.J. Howard, particularly since Howard responded for three catches, 52 yards and a touchdown in the first half as the Bucs' built a 20-7 lead. On defense, Gerald McCoy was often dominant and he recorded the Bucs' one sack of the day. However, we're turning to neither offense nor defense on this one but rather giving it to special teams, specifically kicker Patrick Murray. Murray made field goals of 30, 30 and 35 yards, the last one the game-winner with four seconds left. Murray said he never had a shred of a doubt as he lined up for his final try. The team gave him the real game ball in the locker room after the game.

Play of the Game: This one comes to three big moments: safety Justin Evans's athletic diving catch at the goal line in the first quarter, cornerback Ryan Smith's forced fumble and fumble recovery in the second quarter and Chris Godwin's 24-yard catch to set up the winning field goal. All are deserving but we're going with Smith's turnover because it allowed the Buccaneers to take a two-score lead into halftime. They needed every point. After a shanked punt by Bryan Anger, the Dolphins had the ball at their own 30 with two minutes to try to usurp the Bucs' 13-7 lead. However, on the first play of the drive, after Jarvis Landry had caught a tunnel screen pass and started upfield, Smith shot in from his side and hit the receiver hard enough to dislodge the ball. Smith then swept the loose football underneath his body at the Dolphins' 37. The Buccaneers capitalized on Ryan Fitzpatrick's touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson moments later to make it 20-7.

Turning Point: The real turning point of the game came at halftime when Miami quarterback Jay Cutler was evaluated for a concussion. He had thrown three first-half interceptions and the Buccaneers had scored 17 points off takeaways at that point. Cutler was replaced by Matt Moore, who immediately kick-started the Miami offense. The Dolphins had 292 yards of offense after the intermission, almost all of it through the air. That turned what looked like it would be a lopsided win for the Buccaneers into a contest that went down to the bitter end. It was not a welcome turning point for the visiting team, but the Buccaneers were able to overcome it and win in the end.

It Was Over When: If one chooses to join Murray in believing he had no chance to miss the final field goal, then the clinching moment was Godwin's 24-yard catch on a deep slant with just under two minutes to play. That got the ball down to the 20-yard line and allowed the Buccaneers to exhaust Miami's final timeouts and all but four seconds of game time before taking the three-point lead. Still, no matter how confident Murray is, the game was not truly over until his kick split the uprights.