Buccaneers outlast turnover-plagued Dolphins
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers waited more than two months for a chance to play the Miami Dolphins.
The wait proved to be well worth it.
Patrick Murray drilled a 35-yard field goal with seven seconds left and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ended up with a 30-20 win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium.
Miami attempted two laterals and a handoff on the kickoff after Murray’s field goal. Tampa Bay’s Adarius Glanton recovered a fumble on the handoff in the end zone for the final margin.
The game was originally scheduled as the season opener for both teams on Sept. 10, but the league postponed it to Week 11 in preparation for Hurricane Irma as the storm was tracking through the Caribbean.
“That’s really all that matters. That’s really all that matters, is having more than they got at the end,” Tampa Bay head coach Dirk Koetter said of the team’s first win on the road this season.
“Had a lot of opportunities to break it wide open in the first (half), and in the second half we just couldn’t get off the field on third down, and we couldn’t make any first downs on offense. That third quarter, we just didn’t have the ball very much, but we hung in there.”
Tampa Bay (4-6) dropped five straight games from Oct. 5 to Nov. 5 before beating the New York Jets last week.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick led Tampa Bay on a nine-play, 58-yard drive in the last three minutes to set up Murray’s winning kick with the score tied at 20 after the Dolphins had run off 13 consecutive points to tie the score.
“Games are going to have those ebbs and flows. I was proud of -- even before we kicked the field goal when it was 20-20 -- standing in that huddle. It was a good feeling,” Fitzpatrick said.
“I think everybody knew we were going to get it done, and we went out there and followed up by getting it done, so that was nice.”
However, it was the defense in the first half that put the Buccaneers in position to leave south Florida and head up the state’s west coast riding a two-game winning streak.
The Buccaneers forced three interceptions of Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler and a key fumble inside the two-minute warning in the first half to build a 20-7 halftime lead.
The Tampa Bay defense stopped Miami on its first series after the Dolphins moved down to the Buccaneers’ 9-yard line when cornerback Justin Evans intercepted Cutler in the end zone.
Murray connected on the next drive on a 30-yard field goal with 7:13 remaining for the game’s first score.
Miami (4-6) pulled ahead 7-3 when Cutler tossed a 2-yard score to Jarvis Landry with 4:23 left.
However, Murray added another 30-yarder to make it 7-6 with 14:10 left in the second quarter.
Fitzpatrick later tossed two touchdown passes -- 6 yards to tight end O.J. Howard with 12:14 remaining in the second quarter and 4 yards to DeSean Jackson with 45 seconds left in the half.
Linebacker Kwon Alexander’s interception of Cutler set up the scoring pass to Howard. Jackson’s touchdown was a result of cornerback Ryan Smith’s forced fumble and recovery.
“We’ve got to catch the ball. We’ve got to hold onto the ball. Penalties, pre-snap stuff -- it’s just ridiculous,” Miami head coach Adam Gase said.
“That’s something that we made a big emphasis on this week on both sides of the ball. Obviously, we didn’t handle it very good on offense.”
Fitzpatrick finished 22 of 37 for 275 yards and two touchdowns.
Cornerback Robert McClain also intercepted Cutler, who appeared to be shaken up while being tackled on a scramble late in the first half.
Miami started the second half by putting in Matt Moore to replace Cutler, who was evaluated for a concussion.
Moore went 17 of 28 for 282 yards, including a 61-yard scoring pass to Kenny Stills to tie the score at 20 with 3:00 left.
“It’s hard to win games when you have that many penalties, turnovers. We played pretty well in the second half. No one likes losing, so we got to figure out a way to get a W,” Stills said.
Cutler finished 6 of 12 for 83 yards to go along with the passing touchdown and three interceptions.
Cody Parkey kicked two field goals in the third quarter for Miami, which suffered its fourth straight loss.
NOTES: Among Tampa Bay’s seven inactives were QB Jameis Winston, CB Vernon Hargreaves III and DE William Gholston. They were replaced by QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, CB Ryan Smith and DE Darryl Tapp, respectively. ... The Buccaneers improved to 1-4 on the road. ... Undrafted rookie free agent Chase Allen made his first NFL start at linebacker for Miami. Allen played into the third quarter, but was taken out and evaluated for a concussion. He replaced starter Rey Maualuga, who was arrested early Saturday morning on a battery charge and waived later that day by the Dolphins. ... Miami promoted former Michigan RB De‘Veon Smith from the practice squad to replace Maualuga and made him inactive.