Breaking down the game

There will be a tremendous amount of focus on running back Ricky Williams Sunday when the Dolphins take on the Tampa Bay Bucs at Raymond James Stadium, but the bigger issue for Miami is finding a way to get off to a quicker start on the road after what happened against the Jets and Bills.

The Dolphins could get nothing going early in either of their first two road games and wound up losing both, even though they had chances after overcoming their slow starts.

In Tampa Bay, the Dolphins will run into a team that doesn't appear to be anywhere as good as its 4-1 record.

The Bucs have forged that mark on the strength of a defense that is ranked No. 1 in the NFL and the running of rookie Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, who now finds himself slowed by injuries.

In fact, there's no guarantee that Williams will be able to play Sunday, and the much-anticipated showdown between Williams and fellow Auburn rookie Ronnie Brown might get sacked.

If Williams does play, the Dolphins appear well equipped to slow him down. The Dolphins are ranked second -- behind Tampa Bay -- in run defense so far this defense, but they lead the league in allowing opponents only 2.8 yards per rushing attempt.

The Dolphins already had contained Mike Anderson, Curtis Martin, Stephen Davis and Willis McGahee so far this season, so it's difficult to envision Tampa Bay running for a lot of yards.

With Brian Griese at quarterback, the Bucs passing game is mostly dink-and-dunk, which will put a lot of pressure on the linebackers and defensive backs to limit the yards after catch.

When Griese has gone deep this season, it has been to veteran Joey Galloway, who burned Detroit a couple of weeks ago.

But the Bucs are not an explosive offense and don't figure to score that many points.

Scoring on them has been difficult, however.

This isn't quite the same defense that drove Tampa Bay to the Super Bowl title in 2002, but there is certainly plenty of talent on board, led by linebacker Derrick Brooks, end Simeon Rice and cornerback Ronde Barber.

The run defense has been bolstered by the return to health this season of former first-round pick Anthony "Booger" McFarland and the arrival of longtime Vikings defensive tackle Chris Hovan.

The Dolphins will try to establish their running game and figure to make full use of both Brown and Ricky Williams, who sometimes will line up together in the same backfield.

Perhaps the biggest concern against the Tampa Bay defense is turnovers. This is a unit that's always been good at taking the ball away.

Of course, avoiding the avalanche of penalties they had last week would help the Dolphins, and one would think this could be the week the penalties finally are kept to a reasonable number.

Neither team has gotten big returns on special teams this season, but the Dolphins would appear to have the edge in the placekicking with Olindo Mare.

This doesn't figure to be a high-scoring affair and it's definitely a game the Dolphins can win. They have been close in the first two road games, and maybe this is the week they get over the hump.


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