Thursday night was supposed to be a wrap up of everything we've seen in camp thus far. The excitement of the first home game with new coaches, getting to see the players for the first time, and settling the position battles heading into the last week of preseason. Only a few of those things were accomplished. The much publicized battles for certain positions were in full swing, but no one seemed to take control.
The game opened up and finished in some rain, with heavier rain falling in the 2nd quarter and the game even being delayed about 45 minutes due to lightning. And to be honest, the two lightining strikes were just about more exciting than anything the Bucs did on Thursday night.
The Bucs first string offense would take the field and after a nice drive to about midfield, they were stopped. Out came the punting team. Only this time, we were struck with some good fortune. The punt was blocked, but as the Fins recovered it, the Bucs were able to strip the ball and recover, giving them a new set of downs. They'd make it count, somewhat, as the drive stalled inside the 20 and led to a Nugent field goal.
The first team defense did a fantastic job of shutting down the Dolphins attack, holding them to a three and out before taking over on offense. The offense again would make their way down the field, converting some 3rd and longs to cash in another field goal to make it 6-0 Bucs.
The teams would trade punts, and Leftwich would give way to McCown after the lightning delay. McCown would get the team in field goal range, but take two sacks to knock them out of field goal range.
The only other scoring play of the half would come in the two minute drill as the Dolphins marched down the field and netted three points just before half, brining the score to 6-3 Bucs.
The first drive of the second half saw all the scoring it would take to win the game. The Dolphins would receive the kick and picking on Torrie Cox made their way down to the two yard line. The Bucs had their second string defense in at this point, but on a sandlot play, Pennington droppd back, spun around, reversed fields and found Anthony Fasano wide open in the end zone on a busted play with busted coverage. 10-6 Dolphins.
The Bucs offense tried to get in gear, but their next drive ended in a missed field goal by Nugent. He had two shots at it, made the first called back by penalty and missed the second. A third miss in three games isn't gonna bode well for Nugent.
The action slowed considerably until the 4th quarter when the back up Tampa defense forced two turnovers. Kyle Moore forced a fumble and Chris Bradwell intercepted a Chad Henne pass. The offense would slow and as Freeman tried to gain a foothold on a possibly starting job, he wasn't able to get it done. His drives were filled with misfired passes, bad protection and scrambling attempts.
The game was still within reach at 10-6 but on the Bucs last drive, Freeman went no huddle and though he moved the ball, couldnt convert a 4th and 10 to extend the drive.
A night that had the potential to set the team up for the long run ended up posing more questions than answers. The Bucs fall to 1-2 on the preseason and will have a full week of practice as they prepare for their final preseason game.
The Good - The running game. Cadillac and Graham looked great, while Ward struggled a bit. This is a huge luxury the Bucs have and it played out well last night.
The Bad - Failing to cash in on several red zone opportunities. Field goals wont get it done.
The Ugly - The quarterback battle. No one stepped up. There were no winners last night, only degrees of failure. It will be interesting to see how Morris and company approach this.