Thank God for the Bucs cheerleaders. They kept us going all game long.
That said, here's the game notes.
1) The win may feel good, especially after the nightmare of the 0-8 start the fans had to cope with, but the win does not excuse or explain away a lot of the problems the Bucs had all game long. Making the same mistakes they'd made in previous games, failing to make adjustments on offense or defense same as before.
The best thing going for the Bucs tonight was that the Dolphins team they faced had key issue of their own, not just the ongoing distraction of the Incognito Affair, but lacking talent at spots on defense and having issues getting their running offense working on all cylinders.
1a) That said, the Bucs are NOT going to be playing the Dolphins every week from now on. The Bucs are going to be facing focused, talented teams that are not going to let them stick around into 4th quarters. And the Bucs are not showing that they've improved that much to make the 4th quarters work for them.
1b) The rest of the way we're facing Detroit, Carolina again, New Orleans again, a frustrated Altanta team, the 49ers playing for a playoff spot... If we even get to 5-11 we'll be lucky to do so.
And a 5-11 season is no reason to keep a bad coach like Schiano.
STILL FIRE SCHIANO.
2) Player of the game. It was hard to see it at times, but other times you could see DT Gerald McCoy being a beast on defense. For all the problems the defense had trying to get pressure all game long (and more on that later), McCoy never stopped, was part of a stifling rush defense with 3 tackles-for-loss, and finally secured a sack.
2a) Lavonte David was under the spotlight for most of the game. He showed off an All-Pro performance with a lot of key tackles and one incredible tackle-for-loss that was a full-out safety in the second quarter and was part of a great period of time early in the game when the Bucs could do little wrong.
2b) For the briefest of moments RB Mike James was having a great night, opening drive running wild and close to making a TD run, and then went out with a major ankle injury (he's probably out for the rest of the year). He deserves a game ball for at least getting the offense rushing out the gate.
2c) The back-ups to the backup, RB Brian Leonard and Bobby Rainey added major run plays of their own, Rainey making serious effort in the Fourth that got the Bucs their late-game TD and lead for the win. Bucs ended with 140 total rushing yards. It may be running back by committee right now, but both RBs look good so the offense doesn't look like they'll lose much step.
2d) OT Donald Penn. All he does is catch touchdowns. It makes sense in context.
2e) Mark Barron seemed to be invisible for much of the game, but he stepped up in the Fourth to stop the Dolphins from making any time-killing drives or scoring attempts.
3) For all that the players did well, there were still a lot of bone-headed moves, terrible play-calls, and inexcusable personal foul penalties that nearly killed the game for the Bucs (yet again). The consistent INconsistency, where the fans KNEW and saw it happening where the bad plays and stupid plays piled up during the Second Half, is why the Bucs only have one win instead of four or five.
4) Stats of the game. Two rushing yards. The Dolphins could only garner two yards on the ground. It was a combination of the Bucs' very good rush defense and the Phins very poor rush offense. While the Dolphins could call on their passing attack to keep them in the game, not having a serious threat with running made them rely on receptions which are statistically harder to ensure.
It didn't help the Dolphins that Tannehill, for all his potential as a young QB, is still pretty raw and was pressured into a good number of overthrows and bad decisions during the First Half.
4a) Two sacks. While it's nice to see those stats, especially for the D-line struggling to get them, they ONLY came on the last drive where the Dolphins were in pass-mode exclusively and the defense could pin their ears back and apply pressure. What made it work that one drive was that the Bucs came with a 4-man, 5-man pressure rather than a weak 3-man stunt. On all other drives, however, the Bucs D did NOT play like that. So it makes you wonder why the coaches don't go with that more often...
4b) Third-down efficiency: neither team did well. Bucs 3-of-12, Dolphins 4-of-12. Very sloppy game.
5) P Michael Koenen had a bad night. He's been having a bad season. I BLAME SCHIANO.
6) In other NFL news, Jacksonville won their first game of the season. Shocking but true. Even teams suffering lack of talent can win once in awhile. For one day, the Bucs ruled the Draft Board for 2014. With this win, however, Jacksonville goes back to #1 based on the tie-breakers.
6a) This is what losing a good QB looks like: The Packers are not expected to win another game for the rest of the year with Rodgers out.
6b) Whose bright idea was it to let St. Louis beat Indy?
6c) It's still looking like a Denver - Seattle Super Bowl in the frozen tundra of the New Jersey swamp.
7) In hockey news, the Tampa Bay Lightning has been on a huge win streak... just ended today when Stamkos broke a leg on a goalpost. Damn it all...
8) In baseball news, Wil Myers wins the AL Rookie of the Year award! YES GO RAYS. Now, get a damn haircut you hippie.
9) In Thanksgiving news, the turkeys are planning a counterattack. Be ready with the hot gravy and serving spoons.
10) Next up: Playing a damaged Atlanta Falcons team. I don't have much hopes up for this one.