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Dolphins Fall to Bucs 31-28 in Preseason

A few tasty sprinkles were added to what has been a vanilla offense for the Miami Dolphins in Saturday night’s 31-28 preseason loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

With all of his starters in on both sides of the ball for the first time, Head Coach Cam Cameron gave the paid crowd of 65,660 a sneak peek into some of the tricks he will have up his sleeve this season. The highlight was a “Statue of Liberty” play that resulted in Miami’s second touchdown of the game and a 14-7 lead.

The 28 points put up by the Dolphins were the most of the three preseason games and one point less than the total scored against Jacksonville and Kansas City. Rookie quarterback John Beck engineered two scoring drives in the second half, something he has done three weeks in a row.

But what Cameron had to like in the first half was how quarterback Trent Green and the first-team offense rebounded from a disastrous first drive to tie the game. Green, who threw an interception to Bucs linebacker Cato June on his second play of the game that was returned two yards for a touchdown, drove the Dolphins 73 yards on 18 plays.

“It just helps us a lot with our confidence,” Green said. “When we stepped in the huddle after the turnover we all challenged each other. We’re going to have adversity during the season; we’re going to have adversity during games. How do you respond to those kinds of things? … Do you think you’re going to have an 18-play drive? No. But you like to respond in a positive way and I think that says a lot about the character of the men in that huddle.”

The 14-year veteran went 7-for-9 for 42 yards on the drive, finishing it off with a 1-yard pass to tight end David Martin in the back of the end zone.

Cameron stole a page out of the Boise State playbook a little over a minute later after defensive end Matt Roth intercepted Jeff Garcia at the Tampa Bay 23 and returned it 11 yards to the 12. On 3rd-and-9 from the 11, Green faked a throw to his right and hid the ball on his left hip, where Jesse Chatman took it from him and ran in for the touchdown.

“A good idea is a good idea – youth football, college football. We’re stealing ideas from each other,” Cameron said. “It is nice when it works and I thought our line did a good job executing it.”

Garcia answered with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Joey Galloway early in the second quarter on his last series of the game to tie the game at 14-14. Galloway beat safety Travares Tillman on the play.

Miami’s second turnover of the game, a fumble by running back Patrick Cobbs after he caught a six-yard pass from backup quarterback Cleo Lemon, led to a 26-yard field goal by Bucs kicker Matt Bryant with 48 seconds left in the first half.

Jay Feely had a chance to tie it as time expired from 54 yards but his kick hit the left upright. Cameron admitted he miscounted when he sent out 10 players, but he also said Feely told him he should have made the kick.

The second half featured lots of offense and not much defense, as Beck got things started with a 79-yard drive on seven plays that ended with his 51-yard touchdown pass to P.K. Sam. The ball was thrown into triple coverage but he somehow found a little opening as the defensive backs collided with each other, allowing Sam to waltz into the end zone and give Miami a 21-17 lead.

After the two teams traded punts twice, Bruce Gradkowski put the Bucs ahead, 24-21, on a six-yard touchdown pass to running back Earnest Graham.

Beck responded with 76-yard scoring drive in just eight plays, capping it off with a 31-yard touchdown pass to Derek Hagan in the right corner of the end zone for a 28-24 lead.

“Those first two touchdowns were great, that’s what you’re supposed to do in this game,” said Beck, who was 11-of-22 for 162 yards. “It felt good to be able to go out there, execute well, the line did well, the receivers did well, the backs did their job, so that thing culminated the way it was supposed to, which is to be able to put the ball in the end zone.”

But Gradkowski got the last word, finding Paris Warren in the back of the end zone from a yard out. Warren leaped to take the ball away from Dolphins cornerback Jason Allen.

That made it 31-28 in favor of Tampa, and after Beck’s fourth-down pass for Hagan fell incomplete, Gradkowski killed some clock before Bryant faked a field goal and pooch kicked the ball down to the Miami 11.

Beck had one last chance to try and take his team 89 yards in 1 minute and 48 seconds but ran out of downs and Miami fell to 2-1 on the preseason. The fourth and final exhibition is at New Orleans this Thursday night.

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