The takeaways for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from Saturday night’s game against the Miami Dolphins are two-fold. The bad news: The Buccaneers fell to 0-2 in the preseason, losing 20-14. The good news: The first-team offense demonstrated the ability to move the ball and get into the end zone, and the stellar defense once again showed why it could be one of the best in the NFL.
Despite dropping the preseason home opener in front of an announced crowd of 50,555, the Bucs gave fans reason for optimism heading into next week's game against the Buffalo Bills. Head coach Lovie Smith saw a host of positives from his young team's performance on Saturday night.
“Every time they keep score, of course, you want to win, but we didn’t do that tonight so that’s the negative,” Smith said, opening his postgame press conference. “The positive is we got better as a football team tonight, kind of as simple as that. I thought we did a better job blocking up front. We talk a lot about taking the ball away. Takeaway. Touchdown. That’s how we want it to happen. We were able to do that tonight.”
“The guard positions held up,” Smith said. “I try not to get too high, too low until we watch the video, but I feel like our quarterbacks had time to throw the ball. We were able to keep them out of the backfield, keep some sense of a running game going and then kept alive when we needed to.”
“It was a tight little pocket in there, but those guys have thrown a lot, Josh [McCown] has thrown a lot of balls. They’ve worked on that an awful lot. You know, in coverage you have to be perfect on it and they were. When you get the ball to Vincent [Jackson] and Mike like that, of course, he is a great player. Good by the line first for giving him time, of course, good throw.”
McCown was pleased with the performance and credited the offensive line on an improved effort.
“I think the way they worked this week and the way (offensive line coach George Warhop) got after them this week, they worked with urgency and they wanted to be better,” McCown said. “(Offensive Coordinator) Jeff (Tedford) did a good job with calling plays tonight and spreading the ball around. I really felt like they battled and got a lot better.”
On defense, team leader Gerald McCoy led a dominating assault, recording three tackles, two of them for losses. He also sacked Ryan Tannehill and forced a fumble that set up the first touchdown of the night.
“There’s a standard that has been set by a bunch of legends in this game,” McCoy said. “When Tampa first brought the Tampa-2 here there were some growing pains. It’s tough to repeat what they did, but they set a standard and Coach [Lovie] Smith has set a standard. We’re getting closer but we’re not there yet.”
Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin took note of the Bucs' aggressive defense.
“Penetration. Lot of penetration,” he said. “They had guys in the backfield. We didn’t establish an edge. They established an edge on us, got upfield on us a couple times. Penetration and they got in our backfield way too much."
When asked how the team will know when the defense is complete, McCoy said, “When we bring a Super Bowl trophy home. Until then, and even then, you can improve. But, until we host that Lombardi (Trophy) we’re not there yet.”
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