Bobby Rainey’s one-yard touchdown run 4 1/2 minutes into the fourth quarter put the Buccaneers ahead for good after they blew a 15-0 first-half lead last night in Tampa, Florida. The Buccaneers had entered the game as the NFL’s lone winless team at 0-8, their worst start since opening 0-9 in 1985.
The Dolphins fell to 4-5 and the loss was the latest setback for a franchise beset by controversy after offensive lineman Jonathan Martin left the team and said he was harassed by teammates throughout his 1 1/2 seasons in Miami. The Dolphins suspended fellow offensive lineman Richie Incognito for conduct detrimental to the team after an expletive-filled voice message he sent to Martin became public, while the NFL has opened an investigation into the situation.
“I thought our concentration was good,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said at his postgame news conference. “I don’t think we came out there and were very, very sloppy. Our tempo wasn’t very good at the beginning of the game, but I don’t think it was because of our preparation.”
Without two of their offensive line starters, Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill was sacked twice for a loss of 18 yards on the team’s final drive. The Buccaneers clinched the win when Tannehill’s desperation pass on a 4th-and-28 play with one minute, 35 seconds left was intercepted.
“Yes, we faced a lot of distractions, but before the game, leading up to this game the past couple of days, I’d had a good feeling the guys were ready to play,” Tannehill said.
The Dolphins held a news conference before the game in which owner Stephen Ross said he was “appalled” by the voicemail message Incognito left for Martin that contained racist and sexual slurs along with threats of violence. Ross also said he plans to meet with Martin tomorrow.
Miami struggled in the first half last night, falling behind 15-0 midway through the second quarter as Buccaneers offensive tackle Donald Penn scored on a one-yard reception and Rian Lindell kicked two field goals. The Dolphins had no rushing yards at halftime and the Buccaneers got a safety when they tackled running back Daniel Thomas in the end zone.
“They played better than us out of the gate,” Philbin said. “You don’t want to go on the road and dig yourself in a 15-0 hole.”
Tannehill threw a six-yard touchdown pass to Rishard Matthews with 32 seconds left in the first half and then helped Miami score 12 straight points in the third quarter to take a 19-15 lead. Matthews also had a 19-yard touchdown reception.
The Buccaneers, who in their previous game blew a 21-0 first-half lead against the Seattle Seahawks and lost 27-24 in overtime, answered by driving 80 yards in nine plays for the go-ahead touchdown. Rainey, signed on Oct. 21, had a 31-yard run to the Miami one-yard line to set up the winning score.
“We had lost quite a few close games coming down to the end -- some field goals, penalties, turnovers late in the games kept us from winning,” Buccaneers receiver Vincent Jackson said in a televised interview. “Tonight, we wanted to play four quarters of complete football.”
The Dolphins, who have lost five of six games after a 3-0 start, totaled a franchise-low two rushing yards to 140 for the Buccaneers. It was the lowest rushing total by an NFL team since 2007, according to the NFL Network.
“Not everyone deals with a situation like this, but you have to be able to face it,” Tannehill said. “The old adage, ‘As many times as a horse knocks you off, you get back on,’ that’s the mentality I have, that’s the mentality this team has. We just have to keep going.”
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