The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-1) came into Sunday's matchup with the Miami Dolphins (1-4) with eyes set on a 4-1 start, which was something the team didn't accomplish in 2020.
Thanks to a great defensive effort and a 411-yard, five-touchdown day from Tom Brady, the Bucs cruised to a 45-17 win that kept them atop of the NFC South and allowed them get to 4-1 on the season.
The Buccaneers won the toss, but deferred, so the Dolphins received the ball to start the game.
It looked like Preston Williams came through with a big, 21-yard catch on 2nd and 8 but the play was challenged, and the ruling was reversed. Williams was unable to keep both feet inbounds.
An offside call on the very next 1st and 10 gave the Dolphins a very manageable 1st and 5. Williams came through with a 34-yard catch-and-run two plays later that took Miami down to the Tampa Bay 9. But the defense held strong and forced a 22-yard field goal attempt by Jason Sanders. The kick went through and Miami led, 3-0, with 11:17 to go in the first quarter.
Tampa Bay's first drive started off with an illegal formation druing the Dolphins' kick off, Brady got the offense rolling with a nine-yard completion to O.J. Howard and then a 26-yard completion to Mike Evans on the deep comeback. It took just three plays to move into Miami territory.
A 17-yard run by Leonard Fournette and then a 13-yard reception by Chris Godwin moved the Bucs into the red zone, but they soon faced a 3rd and 6 from the Miami 10. But veteran running back Giovani Bernard made everything OK and came through with a 10-yard reception for the game's first touchdown to give the Bucs a 7-3 lead with 7:04 left in the first quarter.
It took Miami just four plays to move into Tampa Bay territory on the next drive and then a 12-yard defensive pass interference call on cornerback Ross Cockrell placed the Dolphins in field goal range. But Miami didn't need Sanders to come through on this drive because Jacoby Brissett found Myles Gaskin down the left sideline for a 24-yard touchdown pass just a couple of plays later. Sanders' PAT went through the uprights and the Dolphins now led the Bucs, 10-7, with 3:16 to go in the first quarter.
The Bucs offense came out and instantly moved the ball into Miami territory after three plays that involved Antonio Brown, Fournette, and Godwin - in that respective order. The offense soon faced a 3rd and 4, but Brady found Evans again -this time for a 15-yard reception- and the Bucs offense set up shop at the Miami 18.
Brady was sacked back at the Miami 24 on 3rd and 4, which set up a 42-yard field goal attempt by Ryan Succop. The kick went through the uprights and the Bucs tied the game at 10-10 with 14:06 to go in the first half.
Brissett was taken to the Miami locker room with a hamstring ailment during the Bucs' previous drive on offense, but came out onto the field for the Dolphins' next drive.
The Bucs defense came through with their first three-and-out of the game and also forced the game's first punt after Brissett and Co. couldn't overcome a 3rd and 4.
Tampa Bay quickly faced a 3rd and 2 just three plays into the next drive, but Brown erased any and all stress as he took a seven-yard pass and ran 55 more yards into the end zone and Succop's PAT made it a 17-10 game with 11:01 left in the first half.
Mike Gesicki helped the Miami offense avoid a second-straight three-and-out with a 12-yard reception on 3rd and 7, but Cockrell was able to knock the ball away from Jaylen Waddle on the following 3rd and 3 a few plays later, which forced the Dolphins to punt the ball back to a red-hot Tampa Bay offense.
Said offense came out and passed the ball on five of the first six plays, which led to a 1st and 10 at the Miami 45. And the five pass attempts were in consecutive order. Those five straight attempts eventually led to eight straight, which led to the Bucs offense setting up inside the Dolphins' 20 for the third time in the first half.
It looked the Bucs were about to miss out on a chance to convert a 3rd and 3 inside the Miami 10, but a DPI on Eric Rowe gave the Bucs a fresh set of downs at the Miami 3. The DPI came back to bite Rowe and the Dolphins, as Brady hit Brown in the end zone for the second touchdown connection in the first half. Succop nailed the PAT and 17 unanswered points had the Bucs up, 24-10, with 1:48 left in the first half.
The Dolphins offense got off to a great start with a 21-yard completion to Waddle and then a six-yard completion to Gesicki to start the drive. But Shaquil Barrett was able to get the strip-sack on Brissett and Ndamukong Suh fell on the ball to give the Bucs offense one more shot at points with :34 left in the first half.
But the Bucs couldn't get any extra points as Bradley Pinion's 60-yard attempt fell to the left of the uprights. The Bucs went into halftime up, 24-10, with a great shot of extending coming out of halftime.
The Bucs went three-and-out to start the second half, which gave way to the Dolphins offense to narrow the deficit.
A big, 23-yard completion to Gesicki moved the Dolphins into Tampa Bay territory and then a seven-yard completion to Gaskin a few plays later moved the Dolphins into the Bucs' red zone. It looked like the Bucs stopped the Dolphins on a 3rd and 1 from the Tampa Bay 14, but a DPI on Richard Sherman gave Miami a new set of downs from the Bucs' 1.
Miami made Sherman and the Bucs defense pay two plays later when Brissett found a wide-open Gaskin for the one-yard touchdown. Sanders' PAT was money and Tampa Bay's lead was cut to 24-17 with 6:56 left in the third quarter.
It looked like the Bucs offense was about to go three-and-out on the following drive, but Brady found AB over the middle for a 12-yard gain to convert a 3rd and 10. Jaelan Phillips was able to take Brady down on the following first down to put the Bucs in a 2nd and 15, but two straight Godwin receptions overcame the sack and the Bucs were given a new set of downs at the Dolphins' 30.
An impressive 16-yard catch-and-run by Fournette on 2nd a 9 moved the Bucs into the red zone and then he punched the ball in from seven yards out a few plays later on 3rd and 2 to give the Bucs their fourth touchdown of the game. Succop's PAT made it a 31-17 game after Tampa Bay's 13-play, 75-yard drive that took 6:56 off the clock. The Dolphins received the ball with around 14:57 left in the game.
Miami's offense went three-and-out on its next drive, which set Tampa Bay up with a great shot to put the game out of reach early in the fourth quarter.
The Bucs took over at their own 36 and Brady hit Jones for a 15-yard completion that instantly moved the offense into Miami territory. It didn't take long for Brady to hit his fourth passing touchdown of the game as he found Evans down the right sideline for a 34-yard touchdown pass for six points. Succop's PAT was good and the Bucs now had a commanding 38-17 lead with 11:49 left in the game.
Miami's offense tried to make something happen, but a Brissett pass bounced off the hands of Waddle and into the waiting arms of Jamel Dean, who returned the interception to the Miami 41. The Bucs were already in control, but another score on this drive would officially put the game away.
Brady immediately got things going with a 21-yard completion to Tyler Johnson on the first play of the drive. A nine-yard run by Jones set the Bucs up with a 2nd and 1 from the Miami 11, but back-to-back false starts from Donovan Smith and Brown left the Bucs in a 2nd and 11 from the Miami 21. It didn't matter, however, as Brady hit Evans over the middle for a 21-yard catch-and-run that gave Brady his fifth passing touchdown of the game and gave the Bucs a 45-17 lead after Succop's PAT.
With just 8:57 left, Miami was pretty much done at this point, but how the Dolphins chose to attack the Bucs for the duration of the game was still something to pay attention to, even if it would be for naught at the end of the day.
A 21-yard completion to Durham Smythe put the Dolphins on the move, but Vita Vea and Barrett took down Brissett on 3rd and 5 a few plays later to officially kill any hopes of a comeback.
Blaine Gabbert came into the game in relief of Brady, but the offense didn't slow down. He was able put the Bucs in a position to run out the clock and the Bucs would go on to win, 45-17, and move to 4-1 on the year.
Tampa Bay now travels to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles during Thursday Night Football for the next game of the 2021 season. Kickoff is currently set for 8:20PM EST.
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