Fresh off of what was an emotional 19-17 win over the Patriots in Foxborough last Sunday night, the Buccaneers returned to Raymond James Stadium on Sunday afternoon for a Week 5 matchup against the Miami Dolphins.
Tampa Bay came into Sunday’s game without Rob Gronkowski (ribs), Antoine Winfield Jr. (concussion), Sean Murphy-Bunting (elbow), Carlton Davis (quad) and Patrick O’Connor (calf). Not to mention, Giovani Bernard (knee), Jamel Dean (knee) and Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder) all entered the day with the “questionable” designation. Simply put, the Bucs were banged-up heading into this one, but they showed in Week 4 that they could overcome. They were looking to do so again in front of the home fans on Sunday before having to hit the road again on a short week, with a Thursday Night Football matchup in Philadelphia awaiting in Week 6.
Miami, which came into Sunday at 1-3 on the year, has been dealing with its own significant absences. Starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was placed on injured reserve two weeks ago with an injury to his ribs, so this week’s game against the Bucs marked the third consecutive start for former New England Patriot and Indianapolis Colt Jacoby Brissett. To make matters worse, the receiving corps would be without Will Fuller (who is also on injured reserve) and DeVante Parker. The Dolphins were looking to snap a three-game losing streak in this one, as they followed their season-opening win over New England with a 35-0 loss to the Bills, a 31-28 overtime defeat against the Raiders and a 27-17 loss to the Colts last week.
Even with the injury situation they find themselves in, the Bucs were understandably heavy favorites coming into their first 1:00 p.m. contest of the season. They were 11-point favorites, with ESPN’s FPI Matchup Predictor giving them a 75% chance to improve to 4-1 on the year.
The Bucs started fast on offense and slow on defense, but recovered well enough to take a 24-10 lead into the locker room. They clung to a 24-17 lead after three quarters before steamrolling the Dolphins the rest of the way, scoring 21 fourth-quarter points to win 45-17 and improve to 4-1 on the season ahead of a Week 6 trip to Philadelphia.
The Buccaneers won the coin toss and elected to defer to the second half, so after Bradley Pinion delivered a touchback, Jacoby Brissett and the Miami offense opened up their first drive at the 25-yard line. Jaylen Waddle got two yards around the right end on first down, then Brissett found Preston Williams for a 21-yard gain near the sideline on second down after avoiding a Joe Tryon-Shoyinka sack. The Bucs challenged the completed catch, but the call stood after the review. Jason Pierre-Paul was then called for offsides on the next play, getting the Dolphins across midfield.
From there, it didn’t take long for Miami to threaten. After a short throw to Myles Gaskin, Brissett found Williams again, this time for a gain of 34 yards to the Bucs’ 9. The defense stood tall from there, stopping Gaskin twice before an incomplete pass on third down forced a Miami field goal try. Jason Sanders’ attempt from 23 yards out was successful, giving the Dolphins an early 3-0 lead after an eight-play, 70-yard drive that lasted 3:43.
After an illegal formation penalty on the kickoff, the Buccaneer offense started its first drive at the 20-yard line. Leonard Fournette picked up one yard on first down, then Tom Brady got the chains moving with a nine-yard pass to O.J. Howard. The Bucs got across midfield on the very next play, with Mike Evans doing well to come back to a Brady pass for a pickup of 26 yards. Fournette then broke free for a gain of 17 to the Miami 27-yard line, which set up a 13-yard pass from Brady to Chris Godwin off of play-action. And after struggling in the red zone last week, the Tampa Bay offense cashed in on its first trip inside the 20 this week. After a four-yard run by Fournette and an incomplete pass, Brady hung in the pocket on third down and found Giovani Bernard for a 10-yard touchdown. With Ryan Succop’s PAT, the Bucs had a 7-3 lead with 7:04 to go in the first quarter.
Brissett and the Miami offense began their second drive—like their first one—from the 25 after a Pinion touchback. Tampa Bay’s defensive front continued to get solid pressure on the quarterback to open the drive, but Brissett continued to avoid it and find open receivers. After finding Gaskin for nine and 12 yards—with a three-yard run by Gaskin mixed in—the Dolphins were near midfield. A 10-yard completion to Mack Hollins followed by a pass interference penalty on Ross Cockrell got Miami to the 29, then two plays later, Gaskin beat Pierre-Paul in coverage for a 24-yard touchdown catch from Brissett. With Sanders’ PAT, it was a 10-7 Miami lead at the 3:16 mark in the first quarter.
Starting drive No. 2 from the 25-yard line, the Buccaneer offense picked up where it left off. First, Brady linked up with Antonio Brown for a 10-yard pickup. That marked Brown’s 900th career reception, making him the fastest player in NFL history to reach the 900-catch mark.
is now the fastest player to reach 900+ career receptions in NFL history pic.twitter.com/dXWdHnLRWF— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) October 10, 2021
Fournette then picked up eight before Brady and Godwin connected for an 18-yard gain across midfield. After an incomplete pass and a six-yard pass to Fournette, the Bucs converted a 3rd & 4 thanks to a 15-yard pass from Brady to Evans. Ronald Jones II then got his first carry and picked up four yards to the 14-yard line to bring us to the end of the first quarter. After 15 minutes, it was Miami leading 10-7, though the Bucs were threatening to retake the lead.
After an incomplete pass to open the second quarter, Brady was sacked by Jerome Baker for a loss of 10. That brought Succop out for a 42-yard field goal attempt, which he nailed to tie the game at 10 apiece.
Brissett, who had been announced as questionable to return with a hamstring injury minutes prior, remained in the game to start Miami’s third drive. A short pass to Gaskin and a one-yard run by Salvon Ahmed set up a 3rd & 4, which resulted in an incomplete pass. That led to the game’s first punt, which was a 39-yarder by Michael Palardy. That set the Bucs up at their own 30 with another chance to regain the lead.
Jones stayed in the game at running back for the Bucs to start the next possession, getting seven yards on two carries to set up a 3rd & 3. Not only did the offense convert on the next play—they went right ahead and scored. Brady hung in the pocket and delivered a beautiful throw to Brown, who pulled away from Miami defenders and took it the rest of the way for a 62-yard touchdown. With that—plus Succop’s extra point—it was a 17-10 lead for the Bucs.
Brissett and Isaiah Ford connected for three yards to open the Dolphins’ next drive, with Richard Sherman coming up for the stop. An incomplete pass on second down forced a 3rd & 7, but Miami kept the Tampa Bay defense on the field as Brissett and Mike Gesicki linked up for the first time on the afternoon, getting 12 yards and a first down. A couple of short completions then forced another third down and this time, on 3rd & 3, Cockrell came flying across Jaylen Waddle to break up Brissett’s pass. Miami lined up to go for it on 4th & 3—even after the Bucs called a timeout—before eventually taking a delay of game after failing to draw the Bucs offsides. Palardy’s punt was downed at the 23, which was where the Buccaneer offense would take over in an attempt to go up by two scores.
Fournette picked up a hard-fought six yards to open Tampa Bay’s next series, then Brady and Brown connected again for a first down to the 35. After an incomplete pass deep to Evans, Brady found Howard for a first down for the second time on the day. Another miss deep to Brown preceded a completion over the middle to Fournette, who ran over a defender on his way to another first down across midfield. The Bucs continued to look for the deep ball from there, but Brady’s pass was incomplete once again as Godwin fell down during his route. But Tampa Bay got some help from an encroachment penalty, with a free five yards moving the ball to a 2nd & 5 at the 40.
The Bucs kept it moving from the 40, with an 11-yard pass to Fournette and a 12-yarder to Brate getting the ball inside the red zone again. Two plays later, the offense faced a 3rd & 3 at the 10. The two-minute warning hit, so the third-down try would have to come after the break.
Out of the two-minute warning, Brown drew a pass interference call just shy of the goal line, giving the Bucs a first down at the 3-yard line. After Fournette was stopped for no gain on first down, Tampa Bay found the end zone on second. Brady found Brown for a four-yard score and after Succop’s PAT, the Bucs had a 24-10 lead with 1:48 to go in the first half. The touchdown capped a 13-play, 77-yard drive that took 6:19 off the clock.
To avoid giving the Bucs a chance to go up by three scores to start the second half, the Dolphins needed to get moving and score some points on their next drive. Brissett found Waddle for 21 yards to open the possession, then Gaskin caught a six-yard pass before a Tampa Bay injury timeout as Lavonte David was shaken up. Out of the timeout, Miami kept it moving with pickups of 10 and eight yards to the Tampa Bay 30-yard line. But it was then that the Buccaneer defense came up with a huge turnover as Shaquil Barrett forced a Brissett fumble that Ndamukong Suh recovered at the 34-yard line. With that, it was Buccaneer ball with 34 seconds left before halftime.
An incomplete pass and an 11-yard pass from Brady to Evans led to a spike to stop the clock with 12 seconds left, then Brady took off on the next play for a 13-yard run. That set up a 60-yard field goal attempt by Bradley Pinion—yes, Bradley Pinion—that was unsuccessful. With that, the Bucs took a 24-10 lead into the locker room.
After a touchback on the opening kickoff of the second half, the Tampa Bay offense went right back to work. Fournette ran for 13 yards on first down and another three on the next play before Brady and Evans connected for five yards to the 46, bringing up a 3rd & 2. Brady missed on third down, though, leading to a punt from Pinion. After a 41-yarder was caught at the 13 by Waddle, the Miami offense went back to work, down by 14.
The Buccaneer defense took the field without Lavonte David to open the second half, as he was officially ruled out for the remainder of the game with an ankle injury. The Dolphins got moving to start their first possession of the second half, with Gaskin continuing to be the primary threat. He caught a four-yard pass to start the drive before running for a 13-yard gain, then Preston Williams caught a seven-yard pass to the 37-yard line. Gesicki managed to get wide open on the next play, catching a 23-yard pass from Brissett to get the ball down to Tampa Bay’s 40.
An incomplete pass and a four-yard run by Ahmed then brought up a 3rd & 6 that the Dolphins converted as Brissett once again avoided pressure and hit Waddle for a 10-yard pickup. Two plays later, the Bucs had Brissett wrapped up, but he somehow still managed to get the throw off and complete it for seven yards to Gaskin. On the next play, Richard Sherman was called for pass interference in the end zone, setting the Dolphins up with a 1st & Goal at the 1-yard line. It took just two plays from there for Miami to get back within one possession, as Brissett found—who else—Gaskin for a one-yard touchdown. After Sanders’ PAT, the Bucs’ lead was down to 24-17 with 6:56 left in the third quarter.
The Bucs opened up their next drive with back-to-back incompletions from Brady, but the 44-year-old converted on 3rd & 10 with a 12-yard pass to Brown. Fournette followed with a six-yard run, then Godwin took a short pass six more yards for another first down. Brady was sacked for a loss of five on the next play, but the Bucs got those yards—and more—back as he found Godwin for a gain of 14 to bring up a 3rd & 1 at the Miami 42. A well-executed play-action led to another 12-yard gain, with Brady hitting Godwin again, this time to the 30-yard line. Two plays later, Brady threw to Fournette, who forged his way forward for 16 yards to the Miami 13. Jones picked up four yards on the next play and Godwin got four more on the next play, setting up a 3rd & 2 to open the fourth quarter. After three, the Bucs had a 24-17 lead with a chance to add to it early in the fourth.
The Bucs opened the fourth quarter by finding the end zone, with Fournette getting into the end zone from five yards out. After the PAT from Succop, Tampa Bay’s lead was back to two scores at 31-17. The touchdown finished off a 13-play, 75-yard drive that lasted 6:59. It was quite the answer for the Buccaneer offense after Miami had closed the gap with what was almost a six-minute drive of its own.
Gesicki caught a pass for no gain on the opening play of the Dolphins’ next possession, then Brissett threw incomplete for Waddle to bring up a quick 3rd & 10. A deep ball intended for Williams fell incomplete on the next play, getting the Tampa Bay defense right off the field and giving the offense a chance to go up by three scores and put the game away.
Palardy’s punt went for 36 yards to the Bucs’ 39, which was where Brady and the offense took over with 13:59 left. On first down, Brady found Jones out of the backfield for a 15-yard gain before Jones picked up another five on the next play. A seven-yard screen pass to Brown kept the chains moving, with the Bucs getting a first down at the Miami 34. On the next play, Tampa Bay went for the kill, with Brady dropping a dime to Evans for a 34-yard touchdown. The PAT from Succop made it 38-17 with 11:49 to go.
A couple of decent gains by Ahmed quickly went to waste on the next Miami drive, as Brissett had a pass go off of Waddle’s hands and fall into the arms of Jamel Dean for an interception. That gave the ball right back to Tampa Bay at the 41-yard line.
Brady and Tyler Johnson linked up on back-to-back plays to start the next series, with the second-year receiver getting 19 yards and nine to set up a 2nd & 1 at the 12. False starts on Donovan Smith and Antonio Brown backed the offense up to a 2nd & 11 at the 22, but it didn’t matter. On the next play, Brady threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Evans. The greatest of all time’s fifth touchdown pass of the day and Succop’s sixth PAT of the day put the Bucs in front by a score of 45-17 with 8:57 to go.
The Dolphins got the ball near midfield quickly on their next drive thanks to a 21-yard pass from Brissett to Durham Smythe, but the drive stalled there. On 3rd & 5, the Buccaneer front finally got to Brissett, with Shaquil Barrett and Vita Vea splitting a sack. That forced a punt, which gave the ball back to the Buccaneer offense at its 13.
As it was announced that Tom Brady had set a new franchise record for consecutive passes without an interception (200), Blaine Gabbert took over under center. Codey McElroy caught a pass for no gain to open the drive, but a late hit gave the Bucs a free 15 yards. Bernard then ran for 17 and caught a four-yard pass to get the ball near midfield with just over five minutes to go. A Miami penalty and a 14-yard pass to Tyler Johnson set the Bucs up with a 1st & Goal at the 5 on the other side of the two-minute warning.
Rather than go for the 50-burger after the break, Tampa Bay decided to run out the clock. After three straight kneel-downs by Gabbert, the Bucs had officially put the finishing touches on a 45-17 win that got them to 4-1 on the season.
Quick Notes & Stats
- Last week’s win over New England marked Tampa Bay’s 10th 3-1 start in franchise history, and with its win over Miami on Sunday, the 2021 squad became the first Buccaneer team since 2002 to get to 4-1 after a 3-1 start. Of course, that 2002 team went on to win the franchise’s first Super Bowl.
- Tom Brady had a phenomenal day completing 30 of his 41 passes for 411 yards and five touchdowns. He also set a new franchise record for consecutive passes without throwing an interception, breaking his record of 199 that he set in 2020.
- Antonio Brown’s first catch of the day made him the fastest player in NFL history to reach the 900-reception mark, surpassing Marvin Harrison for the record. He went on to have a monster day of his own, catching seven passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns.
- With his second touchdown of the day, Brown tied Reggie Wayne, Anquan Boldin and Jimmy Graham for the 25th-most in NFL history.
- Mike Evans had himself a massive day as well, bringing in six passes for 114 yards and two scores of his own.
- Leonard Fournette continued to be a key cog in Tampa Bay’s offense this week, rushing for 67 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries while catching four passes for 43 yards to put him over 100 total yards for the second straight week.
- Shaquil Barrett was the star of the day for Tampa Bay’s defense, picking up 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble.
- In his return to action, Jamel Dean came up with his fourth career interception and his first of the 2021 season.
- The Bucs dominated the Dolphins in total plays (72-51), total yards (558-301), first downs (33-17) and time of possession (37:07-22:53).
- Tampa Bay was flagged six times for 47 yards in the game, while Miami was penalized five times for 37 yards.
The Buccaneers (4-1) now face a short week, as they will head to Philadelphia for a Thursday Night Football matchup against the Eagles. Kickoff is set for 8:20 p.m.