With the Buccaneers leading 20-13 with 23 seconds left in the game Miami quarterback Sage Rosenfels connected with fullback Obafemi Ayanbadejo on a two-yard touchdown pass to bring the Dolphins to within one point. Miami head coach Dave Wannstedt decided to go for the win however linebacker Ryan Nece preserved a Buccaneer victory when he deflected the attempted two-point conversion pass in the end zone. "I thought Nece's game-saving play was the story of the night," said head coach Jon Gruden.
Nece who is undoubtedly in a dogfight for playing time between Nate Webster and Justin Smith had one on one coverage and dove barely getting a piece of the ball making his already great play that much better.
The Bucs took the lead in the opening quarter when Buccaneer cornerback Brian Kelly jarred the ball loose from Miami tight end Randy McMichael. The ball was recovered by the ever-opportunistic safety Dwight Smith. Brad Johnson wasted no time in capitalizing on the good field position connecting with running back Michael Pittman on an out an up pattern for 17 yards moving the Bucs into the red zone. The drive was capped off when Pittman darted into the end zone from eight yards out giving the Bucs a 7-0 lead. Johnson attempted just six passes completing three of them for 41 yards.
The Buccaneer defense allowed a mere 11 yards in the opening quarter while the Bucs offense gained 126 yards. In the second quarter Shaun King continued his efficient play. On a third and seven from the Bucs yard line King scrambled for 11 yards to sustain a drive that would ultimately lead to a five-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Joe Jurevicius. The extra point was missed however the Bucs still had a 13-0 lead. Aaron Stecker also chipped in with a big play when he gained 15 yards on a shovel pass from King. King completed eight of 12 passes for 72 yards and a touchdown.
The Buccaneer second team defense played the entire second quarter and yielded only two field goals which brought the Dolphins to within seven at the half.
Quarterback Chris Simms played the second half and was primarily used to hand the ball off. He did lead the Bucs on a touchdown drive in the third quarter but most of the work came from wide receiver Jacquez Green who bolted 25 yards downfield on an end around play.
Thomas Jones ended the drive with a one-yard scamper giving the Bucs a 20-6 lead. Although he scored a touchdown Jones compiled only 28 yards on his 11 carries.
Simms completed 4-of-10 passes for 36 yards while also throwing an interception. The Dolphins would come back on two fourth quarter touchdown passes from Sage Rosenfels but in the end Buc linebacker Ryan Nece would prevent a Miami comeback with his stellar play in the end zone after the second touchdown pass.
Buccaneer bright spots: Aaron Stecker played extremely well against Miami. He had limited opportunities against the Jets in Japan in the first pre-season game but looked anything but rusty against the Dolphins accumulating 27 yards on six carries. Stecker also added another 38 yards on three receptions. Depth at the running back position is clearly evident on this team.
Defensive end DeWayne White was very active in the game recording five tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. He also had multiple quarterback pressures and showed signs of why he was the Bucs first selection in the draft.
Obviously Ryan Nece played well. Besides preserving the victory Nece also recorded a sack and five tackles.
The Buccaneer offensive line played extremely well against a very good defense. In fact even the second string lineman were fundamentally sound. In total the Bucs ran for over 150 yards in the game averaging over four yards a carry.
Rookie cornerback Torrie Cox sustained a left knee sprain while running back Earnest Graham has a right shoulder injury. The extent of both injuries will be evaluated with MRIs Saturday.
Although the Bucs only lost one fumble they put the ball on the ground four times. They also committed nine penalties. Jon Gruden will most certainly address those issues as the continuing pursuit to refine their well-polished football team continues.
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