Mon, 26 Sep 2022

Tampa Bay BuccaneersQB Kyle Trask performed well in a preseason opener contested almost exclusively by young players Saturday night, but the Dolphins held on for the two-point win when Jose Borregales’s second-chance kick hit the uprightScott Smith

Jose Borregales's first kick from 49 yards split the uprights with ease. Unfortunately, the Miami Dolphins had called an ice-the-kicker timeout just before the snap and the follow-up by Borregales hit the right upright, sending the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 26-24 loss in their 2022 preseason opener on Saturday night.

Since wins and losses are not particularly relevant in the preseason, the Buccaneers had an upbeat locker room following the loss, content in some strong performances from the likes of second-year quarterback Kyle Trask, wide receivers Tyler Johnson and Jerreth Sterns and pass rushers Anthony Nelson and Cam Gill. Even Borregales had a strong night before his final miss, nailing a go-ahead 55-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter while making all three of his extra points and producing a touchback on a kickoff.

"We had some highs, we had some lows," said Trask. "Really I was just proud of our guys for staying locked in the whole time. It was kind of a roller coaster back and forth, and I thought we did a great job of staying locked in and fighting to the end."

Both teams rested almost all of their starters, creating a 60-minute battle among roster hopefuls and those fighting for key reserve roles. With quarterback Tom Brady excused from the team for most of the next two weeks, his primary understudy of the past two years, Blaine Gabbert got the start and was sharp. He conducted two drives and the second one was an impressive 72-yard march that ended in a go-ahead touchdown. Gabbert completed all five of the passes he threw for 56 yards, capped by a 23-yard post route to second-year WR Jaelon Darden for the score.

Trask, the Buccaneers' second-round pick in 2021 and a potential answer to the long-term quarterback issue, had a mostly strong outing, completing 25 of 33 passes for 258 yards, one touchdown and one interception, compiling a 95.3 passer rating. His interception and lost fumble, returned for a touchdown, turned the tide in the final two minutes of the first half but Bowles was not inclined to blame the young passer.

"I thought he did a good job," said Bowles. "He was put in a lot of situations that we practiced. The two-minute situation was outstanding. He made a good drive in the first half. He had the two turnovers, one of them we have to block better on the fumble from the blind side. The other one was unfortunate but I thought he managed the game well. He handled situations well, he was in the game, he didn't get rattled. Overall, I thought he played well."

Seventh-round rookie QB Skylar Thompson played the whole game for the Dolphins, completing 20 of 28 passes for 218 yards and one score. He threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to WR Lynn Bowden late in the second quarter and had a key 21-yard scramble on the fourth-quarter drive that set up what proved to be Jason Sanders' game-winning 53-yard field goal. The Buccaneers' defense applied a good amount of pressure on Thompson, with Nelson and Gill both recording sacks, along with DL Patrick O'Connor

Several young receivers stepped up wit Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Russell Gage and Julio Jones all taking the night off. Third-year man Tyler Johnson led the team with six catches for 73 yards while undrafted rookies Kaylon Geiger and Jerreth Sterns recorded four catches each for 52 and 51 yards, respectively. Sterns scored on a 19-yard pass from Trask in the third quarter as the Bucs rallied from a nine-point deficit.

"He had a great throw on that," said Bowles of the scoring strike to Sterns. "He had a lot of touch on that ball."

Even with their front-line players sitting it out, the Buccaneers' extraordinary depth at receiver was evident on Saturday night.

"Sterns and Geiger both showed up and Tyler showed up in the first half," said Bowles. "Those guys can play. We've got a lot of tough decisions at receiver. The lights came on, [Sterns] turned it on, Geiger turned it on, Tyler turned it on. It's a lot of good film to watch."

As has become customary around the NFL, the Buccaneers rested virtually all over their starters. The only listed starter who played in the game was left guard Aaron Stinnie, though second-year man Robert Hainsey, the presumptive replacement for injured center Ryan Jensen, also was in the lineup.

Thanks in part to a holding call on Stinnie, the Buccaneers' opening drive went nowhere, leading to a punt by rookie Jake Camarda that Preston Williams caught at midfield and returned to the Bucs' 32. The Dolphins got one first down from there but were kept away from the end zone by Gill's sack, leading to Jason Sanders' 33-yard field goal for the game's first points.

White got his second kickoff return out to the 28. Two plays into the drive, WR Tyler Johnson caught an underneath pass and eluded several tacklers to get the edge and gain 12 yards for a first down. Two players later, Johnson made an impressive leaping catch in traffic to get the ball to the Miami 37 for a gain of 21. After Giovani Bernard barely converted a third-and-two with a run over right guard, Gabbert enjoyed a clean pocket and fired a 23-yard touchdown pass to Darden on a post route of the slot.

The Bucs were already deep into the third level of their depth chart by the end of the first quarter, and rookie ILB J.J. Russell ended Miami's next drive with a third-down hit on rookie QB Skylar Thompson that caused an incompletion near midfield.

Trask came in to helm the next drive as the second quarter began and the Bucs got a first down at the 40 when White took a third-down check-down and beat several defenders to the edge for 13 yards. Two plays later, Johnson caught a pass over the middle, broke a tackle and then reversed field to run around the left end for 22 yards. Consecutive completions of 15 and seven yards to Vaughn got the ball into the red zone and Vaughn got a first down at the 13 with a five-yard run up the gut. After a defensive penalty made it first-and-goal at the six, Vaughn got three straight carries and plunged in on third-and-goal behind a block from rookie TE Ko Kieft.

Miami's next drive started with a big play as Thompson found WR Trent Sherfield wide open down the right seam for a gain of 33 to the Bucs' 41. The Dolphins got a first down at the Bucs' 28 but Nelson got into the backfield for a three-yard TFL on RB Salvon Ahmed. Two plays later, Nelson got around the right edge of Miami's blocking line and dropped Thompson for a 10-yard sack. The Dolphins settled for a 52-yard field goal try, which Sanders converted with a low line drive.

Tampa Bay's next drive ended in the game's first turnover. After two White runs made it third-and-five, Trask threw a pass under pressure to the rookie back and the Dolphins' Elijah Campbell managed to come up with an acrobatic interception he trapped between his legs. On the first play after the change of possession, Thompson found a wide-open Lynn Bowden in the end zone for a 22-yard score. The extra point made it a one-point game with a little less than two minutes left in the first half.

Miami's defense continued its run and gave the visitors the lead before halftime, as two plays into the next drive, LB Darius Hodge came around Trask's back side and swatted the ball from his hand. LB Sam Eguavoen picked up the loose ball and easily ran it back 33 yards for the go-ahead score.

The Dolphins quickly built on their lead after halftime. Jake Camarda's kickoff went out of bounds, putting the ball at the Miami 40-yard line, and Thompson immediately hit Bowden for a gain of 29. Two plays later, RB Myles Gaskin broke free around the left end for 21 yards to the Bucs' six. Tampa Bay's defense held there and the Dolphins brought in Sanders to kick a 33-yard field goal.

The Bucs got into scoring territory on the ensuing drive, with Trask hitting undrafted rookie TE JJ Howland down the right seam for a gain of 29. Trask then converted a third-and-six with a clear-out out rout to Sterns, who was just getting warmed up. On the next snap, Sterns came out of the slot and went vertical to the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown. Borregales made the extra point to put the score at 23-21 midway through the third quarter.

The Bucs' defense followed up with a three-and-out, with rookie ILB Olakunle Fatukasi breaking up Thompson's third-down pass. Trask then led a go-ahead field goal drive in which the big play was an underneath pitch to WR Kaylon Geiger that the rookie got 19 yards on by reversing field and getting around the edge. The drive stalled at Miami's 36 but Borregales, the strong-legged kicker out of the University of Miami, drilled a 54-yard field goal to put the home team up with four minutes left in the third period.

Tampa Bay's defensive reserves stayed hot, forcing another three-and-out. And once again it was Fatukasi who put on the finishing touches, trapping a scrambling Thompson in the open field before he could get to the sticks. After a punt, Trask got the ensuing drive started with a 26-yard strike to Geiger down the right numbers. The drive stalled just across midfield and Camarda popped a fair catch that Bowden could only fair catch at the five-yard line.

A 21-yard scramble by Thompson got the Dolphins into scoring range on the next drive but rookie CB Don Gardner nearly intercepted a pass on the left sideline and DL Patrick O'Connor dropped the QB for a nine-yard sack on third down. Still, Miami was close enough for Sanders to drive a 53-yard field goal and put the Dolphins back on top by two points with seven minutes to play.

Tampa Bay's ensuing drive went nowhere as Trask was sacked on third-and-three for a loss of 12. The Dolphins started their next possession at their own 47 but went nowhere and punted it back with just under four minutes to play. The Bucs ran into a fourth-and-12 situation on the next possession but Trask kept it alive with a 20-yard strike to Sterns at the one-minute mark. Thompkins made a sliding catch at the Dolphins' 31 to convert another third down and the Bucs spiked it with 26 seconds to play and one timeout remaining. The Bucs ran once to kill the rest of the clock and then sent in Borregales.

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