Tampa Bay head coach Raheem Morris has put Sunday's 25-23 loss to Miami behind him, but he continued to take responsibility for the Bucs falling short to the Dolphins during his day-after press conference at One Buccaneer Place on Monday.
Morris was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty with 1:38 remaining in the second quarter of Sunday's contest after Bucs wide receiver Michael Clayton's reception at Tampa Bay's own 15-yard line was ruled an interception after the ball popped up into defensive end Jason Taylor's arms.
Taylor returned the ball to the end zone for a touchdown, but NFL referee Tony Corrente awarded the ball to the Dolphins at the spot of the interception.
Morris was visibly upset with the call since he believed Clayton had caught the pass from rookie quarterback Josh Freeman and was tackled on the ground by Dolphins cornerback Vontae Davis and safety Yeremiah Bell before the ball came loose.
His frustration boiled over, which led to Tampa Bay's head coach drawing the penalty. That infraction moved the Dolphins to the Bucs' 8-yard line. Miami's offense found the end zone two plays later when quarterback Chad Henne threw a touchdown to tight end Kory Sperry, which gave the Dolphins a 16-6 lead at halftime.
Corrente explained his ruling to a pool reporter immediately after Miami defeated Tampa Bay 25-23 on Sunday afternoon.
"The player in question, the player who was possessing the ball in the air, as he started to come down, was hit," said Corrente. "As he is coming down, he is now going to the ground to complete a catch and by rule, if he's going to the ground to complete a catch, he has to maintain possession of the ball completely through the entire process of hitting the ground and thereafter showing control. As he went to the ground, basically right when he went to the ground, the ball popped out, and went right into the arms of the Miami player. The ball had never touched the ground."
Morris said after the game that the loss was solely on his shoulders for the penalty, and reiterated that point Monday.
"Every week you submit your questions to the NFL," said Morris. "For me I just chose to control what I could control, and that's not one of them. I've moved on. I've made my mistake and cost my team a loss. I gave them a penalty and moved them seven yards closer and those guys went in and scored. I'm done with it. I've got to grow from that situation and get better. I can't cuss at an official. Besides the fact that I can't cuss at an official, I've got kids watching, so I have to control my anger in those situations.
"That's out of my control. That's out of our team's hands. That was in the official's hands and they made their call. It is what it is. We're done."
NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira reportedly informed the Bucs late Monday that he agreed with the call. But Morris' players refused to let Morris take the blame for Tampa Bay's eighth loss of the season, which dropped the Bucs' record to 1-8.
"It's no one person's fault," said Bucs rookie wide receiver Sammie Stroughter. "We're a team and we go through it together. That's how we're taking it. Everyone that suited up; it's all our faults. Had we done something different in the game it might have been a whole other outcome. It's never just one person's fault, just like it's never one person that wins a game. This is a team game."
The Bucs were penalized nine times for 77 yards vs. the Dolphins, which supports Stroughter's belief that the team was responsible for Tampa Bay's shortcomings in Miami.
Despite the controversial call that didn't go Tampa Bay's way near the end of the first half, the Bucs fought back to take a 23-22 lead over the Dolphins with 1:10 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Tampa Bay's defense, which surrendered 199 yards rushing to the Dolphins, allowed Miami to engineer a five-play, 77-yard drive to kick the game-winning field goal, which certainly played a significant role in the loss.
"You can't blame it on that one penalty," said Bucs cornerback Elbert Mack. "It's a team effort. I know [Coach Morris] probably feels that way, but we're going to back him just like he's been backing us."
Added Bucs running back Cadillac Williams: "The coaches can only do so much. They put us in the best position possible. It comes down to the players making plays. I definitely wouldn't put the loss on Coach Morris."
Morris, who is the youngest head coach in the NFL at 33, is determined to get something positive out of the negative play and penalty that played a role in Tampa Bay's loss to the Dolphins, but wasn't the only reason why the Bucs came up short in Miami.
"I can't ride the emotional roller coaster," said Morris. "It was just something I disagreed with and it's over. I rode the emotional roller coaster and it's my fault. I have to be big enough and walk away from that guy.
"I don't know how it affects the team, but I know it hurts the team. I can't hurt my football team in any way. I'm not trying to get those guys rallied up by doing that. It can only hurt the football team, and it did. It got them 7 yards closer and they had the ability to go in and score instead of holding them to a field goal, which we might have done."