There were all kinds of factors that went into what would be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Week 11 game against the Miami Dolphins. For one, this game was suppose to be played in Week 1, but thanks to Hurricane Irma, both teams were forced to give up their bye weeks and reschedule to this particular Sunday.
Inside the game, the Buccaneers were without their starting quarterback Jameis Winston, and the Dolphins were without who would have been their No. 1 offensive weapons, Jay Ajayi, had this game been played in Week 1.
The weather was perfect, but not much else was in an ugly game that included 26 penalties and five turnovers between both teams, all that resulted in a 30-20 victory for Tampa Bay.
Miami won the toss and deferred to the second half which meant a Ryan Fitzpatrick-led Buccaneers offense would get the ball first. After a 16-yard catch to start the game from Fitzpatrick to wide receiver Mike Evans, the Bucs were forced to punt on their next series of downs.
The Dolphins didn’t waste any time getting down the field, as running back Damien Williams took his first carry of the game 69-yard and into the red zone. The Bucs defense held firm after that, though, and eventually got a interception in the end zone, snagged by rookie Justin Evans.
After the turnover, the Bucs orchestrated a 7-play, 63-yard drive which included back-to-back first down catches to tight end O.J. Howard at distances of 22 and 24 yards. The Bucs weren’t able to turn that drive into a touchdown, but did get three points out of it from the foot of Tampa Bay kicker Patrick Murray.
After the Bucs got on the board, Miami quarterback Jay Cutler and the Dolphins offense got to work with a 7-play, 90-yard drive. The highlights of that drive included a 24-yard catch by running back Damien Williams and a 26-yard pass to wide receiver Kenny Stills. After a 12-yard pass to wide receiver Jarvis Landry got the Dolphins in striking distance, Landry and Cutler connected again for the game’s first touchdown. The Dolphins took their first lead of the game at 7-3.
After taking the ball back from being down, the Bucs had another long drive, this time for 11-plays, 59-yard that ended in another field goal.
With the game at a one-point difference, the Bucs defense started to get to Cutler. After two sub-par runs from running back Kenyan Drake, Cutler dropped back to pass and his throw was intercepted by Buccaneer linebacker Kwon Alexander on third down.
After the interception, all it took was two plays and five yards for the Buccaneers to get the ball into the hands of tight end Howard – who turned 23 years old on this game day – for a touchdown, his fourth of the year.
As if one turnover on their own side of the field wasn’t enough, just two plays later, Cutler once again turned the ball over, this time to Buccaneers cornerback Robert McClain. However, the Dolphins defense held much stronger that time around, as the Bucs drive would go just one yard in four plays and Murray would miss the 42-yard field goal. The score remained 13-7 Tampa Bay.
Following the missed field goal, we had a series of punts for both teams. When the Dolphins received the ball for a second time, a fumble by Miami receiver Landry gave the Bucs the ball with time running down in the field half. Fitzpatrick and the Bucs proceeded to go 37-yards in four plays, capped off by a DeSean Jackson touchdown. 20-7 is how the game went into the half thanks to four turnovers by the Dolphins.
The Dolphins opened up the second half with a switch at quarterback as Matt Moore came in for Jay Cutler, who was reported to have a concussion and did not return. On his first drive of the second half, Moore drove the ball 90 yards in seven plays, which was engineered by a 49-yard bomb pass to Landry. Though Miami got within the 10-yard line, they had to settle for just a field goal, and the score became 20-10.
Following a Buccaneers punt after just four play, Moore once again drove the Dolphins down the field, this time at the tune of an 11-play, 66-yard drive which included a 13-yard pass to Landry and an 11-yard catch by tight end Julius Thomas. This drive also ended in just three points, but brought the game to a one-possession contest and dwindled the Buccaneers lead to 20-13.
After consecutive punts by the Buccaneers and the Dolphins, Tampa Bay took over at their own three-yard line thanks to some good punt coverage by Miami. After three plays, the Bucs had their backs against the wall and Fitzpatrick was inches away from being taken down for a safety. However, the refs ruled that he was just outside of the end zone, and Tampa Bay got a punt away with the score remaining the same.
On Miami’s next possession, with good field position starting from the Tampa Bay 43-yard line, Matt Moore was stuffed on a quarterback scramble by linebacker Alexander. The Dolphins opted to go for it on 4th down with one yard to gain, as opposed to kicking a 53-yard field goal, and the Bucs defense held strong with Bucs defensive tackle Chris Baker and linebacker Lavonte David stonewalling Miami running back Williams for a turnover on downs.
After the Bucs punted on their next drive, the Dolphins took over at their own 26-yard line. After a quick first down, the Dolphins found themselves in a 3rd-and-10 situation with the game basically on the line for them, down a touchdown. With it, Moore delivered a strike to an open Still over the middle and to the sideline for a 61-yard touchdown that tied the game at 20-20.
On the Bucs final drive of the second half, they finally woke up. Fitzpatrick connected with rookie receiver Chris Godwin on two big catches, one for 14 yards and one for 24 yards.
That made the score 23-20.
The game would end with a whacky special teams try by the Dolphins, which the Bucs recovered in the end zone, which made the final score 30-20.
Ryan Fitzpatrick finished the game 22-for-37 for 275 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Mike Evans finished the game with the most receiving yards on the team with 92 on five catches. O.J. Howard was next with 52 yards on three catches with a touchdown, and Chris Godwin was third with 38 yards on his two catches late in the game. Doug Martin led the Bucs in carries with 19 but only had 38 yards.
Kicker Patrick Murray was the hero of the day, going 3-for-4, including the game winner.
Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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