Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Trail 6-0 at Half

Two defenses rule the first half at Pro Player Stadium

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LB Derrick Brooks and the Bucs defense held Miami to six points thanks to two takeaways

After both the Bucs and Dolphins displayed their usual dominant defenses in their respective preseason openers, it was assumed that tonight's game would be a defensive struggle.

Correct.

The first half ended in a 6-0 Dolphin lead, thanks in part to two takeaways by the Bucs and one by the Dolphins, all three in enemy territory. The Dolphins had the only score of the second quarter on a short field goal set up by an ill-timed penalty, but the period did have its share of highlights.

The Bucs' first drive of the second quarter went nowhere, as completions to WR Keyshawn Johnson on second and third down came up two yards short of a first down. After Mark Royals' punt, the Dolphins started anew at their own 31-yard line. They quickly fell into a third-and-ten thanks to the dubious strategy of testing CB Donnie Abraham. Abraham broke up a long pass on first down and an intermediate out route on second down.

On third down, DE Marcus Jones broke through for a five-yard sack of QB Damon Huard. On fourth down, P Matt Turk shanked a kick that bounced into WR Karl Williams' arms at the Bucs' 35, setting up a slashing 19-yard return. On first down, RB Warrick Dunn found a seam on a sweep to the left and darted upfield for eight yards. Dunn gained a first down on the next play with a short reception over the middle.

Two plays later, Miami got their first turnover of the game to end the Bucs' drive. On third-and-eight, QB Shaun King scrambled to his right and tried to throw downfield on the run. The pass fell short and into the arms of S Brock Marion, who returned the pick 14 yards to the Dolphins' 22.

RB Lamar Smith, who barrelled for 54 rushing yards in the first quarter, blasted for eight on first down but was stuffed for a loss of three by LB Jamie Duncan. The Dolphins then tried a toss-sweep to the left with Thurman Thomas, but he was quickly surrounded and stopped after gaining just two yards.

The Bucs opened their next drive at the team's own 24-yard line, and quickly picked up 14 yards on a King pass over the middle to TE Dave Moore. After a one-yard Dunn run, King hit Johnson on a quick slant for another 14-yard gain. Two hardnosed runs by Dunn in traffic set the Bucs up at the Dolphins' 41-yard line at third-and-four. King's pass attempt to Reidel Anthony on a short out was nearly intercepted by CB Sam Madison, ending the drive. P John Shay's kick was fair-caught by rookie CB Ben Kelly at the 13, but a penalty on the Buccaneers brought it back. Royals came on for take two, and his kick was fielded by Kelly at the 29.

Smith ran for five yards on first down. On second down, QB Damon Huard's pass was nearly intercepted by S Shevin Smith, who would have had an easy stroll to the end zone. That came back to haunt the Bucs when Huard somehow slipped out of what seemed like a sure sack and found WR Bert Emanuel for a 37-yard gain.

On first down from the Bucs' 29, CB Ronde Barber broke up a pass attempt to Tony martin, but Smith slashed for seven yards on second down.

That's when the Buccaneer defense came up with another turnover. With blanket coverage downfield, Huard tried to scramble up the middle but was caught from behind by DT Anthony McFarland. McFarland knocked the ball from Huard's grasp and DE Marcus Jones recovered at the Bucs' 23.

Johnson then helped the Bucs' offense assert itself with the type of acrobatic reception that became his trademark in New York. King floated a pass down the left sideline and Johnson leapt to catch the ball around the Dolphins defensive back for a 27-yard gain to the Bucs' 49. An incompletion, a one-yard loss and a false start later, the Bucs were in a third-and-16 hole at their own 45. That proved too deep, as a screen pass to Dunn gained just half of that. The Bucs punted from the Miami 47.

The Dolphins started inside their own 30 but moved to the 48 with four straight short completions. With 16 seconds remaining, Miami called a timeout with a first down at the 48.

Then, disaster. Miami directed Huard to loft a cloudscraping bomb over the middle. The ball was knocked down by S David Gibson, but not before Smith committed a pass interference penalty at the five-yard line. First down at the five for Miami. The Dolphins tried one run up the middle to no avail, then brought on K Olindo Mare for a 21-yard field goal. It was good and the quarter ended.

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