MIRACLE FINISH

Sure, in the grand scheme of things it was only a preseason game and there were only a bunch of third-string players in the game, but that didn't lessen the drama any Monday night for the Dolphins as they took on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium.

With the Dolphins nine seconds away from getting off to an 0-2 preseason start, quarterback Mike Quinn let go of a Hail Mary pass on the game's final play and saw it answered on the other end when wide receiver Robert Baker managed to reel in the ball in while falling to the ground in the end zone amid a swarm of Bucs jerseys. The 43-yard touchdown pass gave the Dolphins a 17-14 win to square their record at 1-1.

"When I was falling I was trying to get a good jump but I couldn't because the guy was holding on to me a little bit," said Baker. "But I just tried to watch the ball in and it was like the grace of God. It was a miracle, somebody tipped it and it came straight to me, so I couldn't do anything but catch it."

After spending the entire second half clinging to a 10-7 lead, it appeared the Dolphins had blown it by allowing the Bucs to put a 50-yard drive together in the game's final minutes, climaxed by a 6-yard Joe Hamilton-to-Aaron Stecker touchdown pass with 1:09 left in the game.

After Quinn hit a few short passes to push Miami downfield, the ball was on the Bucs 43 with nine seconds left when he dropped back and tossed the game-winner downfield.

Perhaps the most encouraging thing for Dolphins fans in what was an otherwise sloppy game was the impressive play of the Dolphins' first unit. When the first quarter had ended, not only did Miami have a 10-0 lead but the Dolphins had thoroughly dominated the contest, outgaining the Bucs 145-1.

After missing an early 19-yard chip-shot field goal attempt, Olindo Mare made amends minutes later when he gave the Dolphins a 3-0 lead with a 41-yarder.

Later in the first quarter, the Miami defense came up with a big play when Jason Taylor ripped through and jarred the ball loose from quarterback Brad Johnson's hand as he was about to throw. Jermaine Haley fell on the loose ball at the Tampa Bay 1 and three plays later quarterback Ray Lucas snuck over from the 1 with five seconds remaining in the first quarter.

The Bucs finally dented the scoreboard midway through the second quarter when Shaun King led his team on a 11-play, 75-yard drive, culminated when King threw a perfect strike from 8 yards out to Karl Williams.


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