The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost their preseason home opener Saturday night, 20-7, to the Miami Dolphins, but they enjoyed standout performances from the players who are likely to determine their success in the regular season.
All-Pro DT Gerald McCoy forced a fumble that led to a seven-yard touchdown pass by free agent acquisition QB Josh McCown to WR Vincent Jackson in the second quarter. The Bucs were ahead 7-3 at that point, but relinquished the lead just before halftime on reserve QB Matt Moore's nine-yard touchdown pass to WR Rishard Matthews.
McCoy played one play into the second quarter and had three tackles, a sack, a quarterback hit, a tackle for a loss and a forced fumble. McCown played one drive into the second period and completed five of seven passes while compiling a 128.3 passer rating.
"That's exactly how you want to draw it out," said Head Coach Lovie Smith, whose defenses have always been known for their copious amounts of takeaways. "It's about taking the ball away, and after you take it away it's about getting a touchdown and we were able to do that."
The Bucs' starting offense looked far more competent in its second game of the preseason thanks to improved blocking from the offensive line. However, it didn't put up overwhelming numbers while McCown was at the helm, and it had trouble sustaining drives behind reserves Mike Glennon and Mike Kafka. The Bucs were out-gained on the night, 326 to 250, and they lost the turnover battle, 2-1.
The deciding play of the night may have belonged to prized first-round rookie WR Mike Evans. Evans caught a pass over the middle from Glennon in the second quarter, bounced off a hit and ran 43 yards for a touchdown that briefly put the Bucs up, 14-3. However, a successful replay challenge showed that CB Brent Grimes had forced a fumble by Mike Evans just before he reached the goal line, resulting in a touchback.