The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the visiting Miami Dolphins Friday night at Raymond James Stadium, 16-14, when rookie kicker Matt Gay nailed a 48-yard field goal with 10 seconds to go. It was a water-logged and often plodding game between two teams working through their 90-man depth charts, but Tampa Bay's youngest players came up big when it mattered the most.
"[It's] extremely important," said Gay. "We have preseason for a reason, to get us going into the season. So to have that situation in a game that still feels like it matters, it means everything, is…you can't even put a price on it. It's priceless to be able to get that situation before you go into the regular season."
The Buccaneers secured the victory with a five-play, 45-yard drive that set up Gay's decisive kick. All 45 yards came on two catches by first-year tight end Tanner Hudson, who also caught a fourth-down touchdown pass last week in Pittsburgh. Third-string quarterback Ryan Griffin, who threw that pass to Hudson against the Steelers, had a second consecutive strong finish, setting up Gay for the second of his two field goals.
The Buccaneers and Dolphins spent two days practicing together at the AdventHealth Training Center before Friday's game, and that joint work included a lot of specific game situations.
"We've done that 34-second one with two timeouts before and I thought Griff executed it to perfection and obviously Matty hit the field goal so it was a big win," said Buccaneers Head Coach Bruce Arians.
Griffin and Hudson also hooked up for the touchdown that gave Tampa Bay a 13-6 lead with three-and-a-half minutes to play in regulation. The two had connected for a 31-yard play earlier in the drive, which was kept alive when Arians challenged a non-call on a play that had initially been flagged for pass interference. Upon review, it was clear that Miami cornerback Tyler Patmon had interfered with Bucs wide receiver Justin Watson on a deep pass near the Dolphins' goal line.
Most of the game's fireworks game in the last 10 minutes. After a Cairo Santos 23-yard field goal tied the game at 6-6, Miami drove down into the Bucs' red zone behind third-string passer Jake Rudock. However, rookie cornerback Jamel Dean intercepted a pass intended for wide receiver Saeed Blacknell in the end zone, setting up the drive that led to Hudson's touchdown. That play happened not long after Dean had dropped what could have been a game-clinching turnover.
"When I dropped it, I knew it was a pick-six that could've been a game-changing moment," said Dean, who made his NFL debut after sitting out last week's game with a minor injury. "Ever since I dropped it I was on the sideline kicking myself about it, but I made up for it so I feel a lot better."
Rudock and the Dolphins answered Hudson's touchdown with a 51-yard drive ending in Rudock's eight-yard touchdown pass to running back Patrick Laird. Rudock's successful two-point pass to Trenton Irwin seemed likely to give Miami the win, but Griffin and company succeeded in a game situation that the Bucs have been working on diligently in training camp.
The game was scoreless into the second quarter and neither team scored a touchdown until the final period. Jameis Winston and the Bucs' starting offense took their only drive into field goal territory but ended up punting after a third-down sack. The Buccaneers' starting defense got one three-and-out and then kept the game scoreless with a goal-line stand late in the first quarter.
"I thought running the ball in the first quarter was really good, and stopping the run," said Arians. "I think our top 20 guys on both sides played really well."
The Bucs got the ball first and marched effectively into Miami territory, though the drive ultimately came up empty. Winston got the ball moving with a precise 16-yard pass on a crossing route to TE O.J. Howard, and later moved the sticks with a heady scramble after barely escaping what seemed like a sure sack. RB Ronald Jones also added a 10-yard run to get the ball down to the Miami 27, but the line moved backward from there on a three-yard Jones loss on a sweep and a third-down sack of Winston by DE Charles Harris. The Bucs ended up punting from the Miami 41 and the ball went into the end zone for a touchback.
The Bucs' defense opened the game with a three-and-out, leading to a punt that Bobo Wilson fair caught at Tampa Bay's 33. Blaine Gabbert and a host of reserves came on to replace the starting offense and the game's first turnover occurred three plays later. On third-and-three, Gabbert checked it down to RB Andre Ellington, who caught the ball short of the sticks and was fighting for yardage when he lost the ball. It was recovered by Miami's Eric Rowe at the Bucs' 34.
An unnecessary roughness penalty on Vernon Hargreaves helped Miami take it from there to a first-and-goal at the five-yard line, but the Bucs' defense held. A big tackle-for-loss of RB Mark Walton by DL William Gholston led to a third-and-goal at the nine, and the ensuing third-down pass to TE Mike Gesicki gained seven yards to the two. QB Josh Rosen tried to hit WR Isaiah Ford just over the goal line on fourth down but Ford couldn't haul it in and the ball was turned over on downs.
A 10-yard run by RB Dare Ogunbowale off left guard got the Bucs out of the shadow of their own end zone but that was about it for the drive and a punt followed from the 15-yard line. A good kick-coverage tackle by M.J. Stewart pushed Miami back to its own 38 to start its next drive.
Miami took it from there to the game's first score. A defensive holding penalty on Patrick O'Connor erased a potentially drive-killing sack by Kevin Minter, and Rosen converted a third-down with a nine-yard pass to Kenny Stills to the Bucs' 32. CB Ryan Smith ended the forward progress with a hard third-down hit on WR Preston Williams, forcing Miami to settle for Jason Sanders' 45-yard field goal three minutes into the second quarter.
The two teams exchanged punts after that, with Shaq Barrett and Patrick O'Connor getting back-to-back sacks of Rosen to end Miami's drive and force a punt that was downed at midfield. The Bucs used that good field position to set up the game-tying score with 2:33 left in the half. The big play was a short pass to Bobo Wilson that the first-year receiver took 30 yards down to the 15, helped by a downfield block from rookie WR Anthony Johnson. TE Tanner Hudson fought to get just short of the sticks on a short third-down pass from the 16, and the Bucs rushed up to the line to set up Ogunbowale's fourth-down conversion. However, the drive stalled there and the Bucs settled for Matt Gay's 32-yard field goal.
Miami got to midfield on the ensuing drive but a near-interception by Dean on third down forced a punt that went into the end zone with less than a minute to play. Miami's defense was able to force a quick punt with 39 seconds to play in the half and Miami got one more shot from the Bucs' 45. It was a short drive, with Devante Bond getting a big second-down sack, but Sanders was able to finish it with a 49-yard field goal.
The Dolphins got the ball first to start the second half and former Buccaneers QB Ryan Fitzpatrick came on to relieve Josh Rosen. The first drive went nowhere, however…or so it seemed, until a 12-men-on-the-field penalty against the Bucs on the fourth-down punt extended the possession for Miami. It was a temporary reprieve, however, as a near-pick by Kevin Minter and a Demone Harris sack forced another punt.
Ryan Griffin came on to lead the offense in the second half and the Bucs got two quick first downs on four Ogunbowale plays, including a nine-yard run and a five-yard reception. Ogunbowale also turned a screen pass into a very long gain into Dolphins territory but it was erased by a holding penalty and the Bucs eventually had to punt. Fitzpatrick's second drive went nowhere despite a third-down roughing-the-passer call when Harris swiped his helmet in passing, and the Bucs got the ball back at their own 19 with four minutes left in the third quarter.
A 13-yard run by Ellington got the ensuing drive off to a good start but it died short of midfield and the Bucs punted again. A penalty on the return pushed Miami back to its own 10. The Dolphins immediately got out of trouble when RB Kenneth Farrow broke free on the right edge for a 34-yard gain. That drive ended in a punt, too, when Bond made a leaping breakup of a third-down pass on a rush off the edge.
The Bucs got the ball back on their own 29 and got the ball into Miami territory when Griffin escaped pressure and threw a 23-yard strike to Justin Watson on third-and-11. A screen pass to Ogunbowale worked to perfection, gaining 41 yards down to the Miami eight. The Bucs couldn't punch it in from there but Cairo Santos tied it with a 23-yard field goal with 10 minutes to play.
View photos of the Bucs arriving for their Preseason Week 2 game against the Miami Dolphins.
The Dolphins took their next drive into scoring territory thanks to a Patrick Laird 22-yard run and two roughing the passer penalties. However, on third down from the 13, third-string QB Jake Rudock tried to hit TE Clive Walford in the end zone and Dean picked it off, ending the scoring threat and leading to a touchback.
Griffin then proceeded to lead the game's first touchdown drive. He fired an 18-yard strike to Wilson and found Hudson on a 31-yard gain. The drive turned on a replay review, however. Griffin tried to hit Watson on a deep throw down the right sideline but it was incomplete, with a flag coming out for what was presumably pass interference. The officials convened and chose to pick up the flag, but Arians challenged the play and it was determined that Miami CB Tyler Patmon was indeed guilty of pass interference. That made it first down at the four and Griffin found Hudson for the four-yard touchdown on the next play.
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