A look at the Dolphins' projected starters, according to the team's website.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins are like next-door neighbors with high fences and a shared fondness for the Fourth of July. They don't get together often, but when they do there are usually fireworks.
The 200-mile flight from Tampa to Miami makes the Floridian neighbors natural partners in the preseason, during which they have met 30 times. That's nearly twice as many as the next most common preseason opponent for the Buccaneers, Atlanta. However, the conference divide separates them in the regular-season, and meetings have been infrequent before and after the NFL went to a rotating schedule format in 2002.
As such, the Buccaneers and Dolphins have played only 10 regular-season games against each other, and decided very little in terms of bragging rights. The series is an even 5-5 split, and even the overall point total is nearly a tie, with Tampa Bay scoring 228 points to Miami's 222. Individually, six of the 10 games have been decided by three or fewer points and only three had a two-score gap at the end. While the overall scoring hasn't been outrageous, it has certainly been steady: Neither team has ever scored fewer than 13 points in a game in the series.
Pictures of some of the Dolphins' top players.
Perhaps the infrequency of the meetings between the close neighbors has made them attractive to the schedule-makers. Despite only having those 10 games together, the Bucs and Dolphins have squared off in a nationally-televised prime-time game, including two Monday Night Football appearances. That includes the most recent meeting, a 22-19 Buccaneer victory at Raymond James Stadium in 2013.
The drama in the series began right away, as the Buccaneers welcomed the Dolphins to Tampa Stadium midway through Tampa Bay's inaugural 1976 season. The Bucs finished that campaign without a victory, but they came very close to getting one against a Miami team that was coming off six straight seasons of 10 wins or more. WR Morris Owens caught three touchdown passes for the Buccaneers, two from QB Steve Spurrier in relief of Parnell Dickinson. A failed extra point on one of those scores meant the game was tied at 20-20 late in the fourth quarter before Garo Yepremian won it for Miami with a 29-yard field goal with less than a minute to play.
The Bucs evened the series at one apiece six years later, in the process getting their first-ever Monday Night Football win. After opening the season with three losses, the third one coming after a lengthy interruption by a players' strike, the Bucs started a late-season surge with a 23-17 win keyed by another Owens, in this case RB James. Owens ran 18 times for 82 yards and defensive backs Mike Washington and Neal Colzie each picked off a pair of passes.
Morris Owens' three receiving touchdowns in the aforementioned 1976 game remained a Buccaneer record until the third Bucs-Dolphins meeting, a wild 41-38 shootout victory for Miami at home in 1985. It remains one of the most memorable contests in Tampa Bay's team history, with tight end Jimmie Giles catching four touchdown passes from QB Steve DeBerg. Those four receiving scores remain an unmatched franchise record, but they weren't enough at the time to counteract five scores from five different Dolphins, with QB Dan Marino's 302 passing yards leading the way. The Bucs tied it with 43 seconds left but that left Marino enough time to maneuver his team into position for Fuad Reveiz's game-winning 43-yard field goal.
The Dolphins won the next two games as well, though 38-year-old quarterback Joe Ferguson essentially matched Marino's performance in a 17-14 decision in Tampa in 1988. Marino was 27 of 46 for 266 yards and two touchdowns while Ferguson was 26 of 37 for 291 and two scores, though Ferguson did throw the game's only interception. The Bucs had the ball with two minutes left and got to Miami's 39-yard line but Ferguson threw incomplete on fourth down and the Dolphins ran out the clock. The 1991 rematch in Miami was less exciting, with Marino eclipsing 300 yards passing and leading the home team to a 33-14 blowout. That's the largest margin of victory for either team in the series.
After that it was another six years before the two teams met again, and by 1997 the Buccaneers were in the midst of a franchise revival. Tampa Bay opened that season with a five-game winning streak, of which a 31-21 win over the Dolphins in a TNT Sunday night affair was the fourth outing. FB Mike Alstott ran in two touchdowns and RB Warrick Dunn iced it with a 58-yard TD catch-and-run in the fourth quarter. The Bucs won again in Miami in 2000 in a 16-13 game played mostly under a heavy rain. Four different Bucs picked off passes, with LB Jamie Duncan returning his for the visitors' only touchdown, and Martin Gramatica hit 30 and 46-yarders in the rain to win it in the fourth quarter.
The Buccaneers tied the series back up in 2005, which was a good season for both clubs. Tampa Bay finished 11-5 and won the NFC South on a tiebreaker; Miami put together a 9-7 record but lost out on the AFC East title by one game. It might have been the other way around if the Buccaneers hadn't taken their October meeting in Tampa by a 27-13 score. Michael Pittman needed just 15 carries to rack up 127 yards, including a 57-yard TD run, and Joey Galloway had nine catches for 96 yards and a score. Safety Will Allen clinched it in the third quarter with a 33-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
Miami got back on top in the series with a 25-23 in 2009 keyed by Ricky Williams' 100-yard game. The Buccaneers rallied impressively from a 19-6 halftime deficit to take a 23-22 lead with 1:14 left in the game on Cadillac Williams' one-yard touchdown run. However, Chad Henne hit Davone Bess for gains of 25 and 16 yards and Williams ripped of a 27-yard run to set up Dan Carpenter's 25-yard game-winner.
The most recent meeting – as mentioned, on Monday Night Football in 2013 – knotted the series up yet again. The Buccaneers came into the game with an 0-8 record but quickly jumped out to a 15-0 lead in a somewhat unusual fashion. The first score was a tackle-eligible pass to Donald Penn for a one-yard score, and Lavonte David later added two points by tackling Daniel Thomas in the end zone for a safety. Rian Lindell followed each of those scores with a field goal. However, the Dolphins recorded the next four scores of the game and too a 19-15 lead in the third quarter. Bobby Rainey took it back with a one-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, right after he had dashed 31 yards to the shadow of the goal line, and Darrelle Revis sealed the game with an interception on Ryan Tannehill's fourth-and-28 prayer.
Bucs' Game-by-Game Record vs. the Dolphins:
- Overall Season Series: Tied, 5-5
- Bucs' Home Record: 4-2
- Bucs' Road Record: 1-3
- Current Streak: Win 1 (2013)
- Buccaneers' Longest Winning Streak: 3 (1997-2005)
- Dolphins' Longest Winning Streak: 3 (1985-91)
- Regular Season Point Total: Buccaneers 228, Dolphins 222
- Most Points in a Game, Buccaneers: Dolphins, 41-38 (1985)
- Most Points in a Game, Dolphins: Dolphins, 41-38 (1985)
- Most Points, both teams: Dolphins, 41-38 (1985)
- Fewest Points in a Game, Buccaneers: Dolphins 33-14 (1991)
- Fewest Points in a Game, Dolphins: Buccaneers 27-13 (2005)
- Fewest Points in a Game, both teams: Buccaneers 16-13 (2000)