Jam time for big tackle Penn
Bucs LT Donald Penn will tell you about his basketball skills as an all-state player in high school coming out of Los Angeles. And Penn showed off his dunking ability Monday during his celebration of his second career touchdown catch. Penn, a 6-foot-5, 340-pound tackle making his 101st consecutive start, reported eligible on a third-and-goal play from the 1-yard line on the Bucs' opening drive. After QB Mike Glennon faked a handoff to RB Brian Leonard, he found Penn all alone on the left side of the end zone. He caught the pass and dunked the ball over the crossbar with his left hand. "I've been lobbying for it all season," Penn said of the play. "They finally put it back in. I was a little nervous because they showed me on the big screen right before they called it." Penn also had a TD catch in 2010 against the 49ers. It was the Bucs' first touchdown on an opening drive this season.
. The Bucs converted a stellar special-teams plan into the team's first safety in more than two years, as LB Lavonte David dropped Dolphins RB Daniel Thomas in the end zone for a 12-0 lead in the second quarter.
The Bucs had driven to the Miami 35, but a holding penalty on G Jamon Meredith took Tampa Bay out of field-goal range. P Michael Koenen's kick from the 45-yard line was downed by Bucs CB Michael Adams at the 2-yard line.
From there, the Bucs dropped FB Charles Clay for a 1-yard loss at the 1-yard line, then on the next play, David tackled Thomas in the end zone for the safety, their first since October 2011. "It was a blitz," David said of the safety. "Fortunately the gap opened up and I had a free lane. Nobody touched me."
The Bucs converted the free kick into points as well, as QB Mike Glennon hit RB Brian Leonard for a 14-yard gain, then converted a third and 9 with a 17-yard pass to WR Tiquan Underwood. Facing a fourth and 1 at the Miami 17, the Bucs settled for a 35-yard field goal by Rian Lindell for a 15-0 lead.
The Bucs were dealt another potentially big blow Monday when RB Mike James left the game on a cart during the opening drive with a broken right ankle.
James, 22, the emerging rookie who rushed for 158 yards against Seattle last week, had 41 yards on five carries during the first possession against the Dolphins. But, less than five minutes in, James appeared to land awkwardly during a 3-yard gain to the 1-yard line. He came back to the huddle, only to fall to the ground, writhing in pain. James, a sixth-round pick from Miami making his third start, was taken off on a motorized cart and did not return. He left the stadium on crutches and declined comment. The injury comes just a few days after the Bucs placed Pro Bowl RB Doug Martin on injured reserve, ending his season with plans for surgery on his left shoulder. Veteran RB Brian Leonard stepped in for James on Monday and finished with 57 yards on 20 carries, and Bobby Rainey, claimed off waivers from the Browns last month, had 45 yards on eight carries.
. With starting RB Mike James sidelined with an ankle injury on the opening drive, the Bucs got a spark in the fourth quarter from backup Bobby Rainey, who broke loose for a 31-yard run to the 1-yard line to set up his go-ahead touchdown.
The Bucs had seen a 15-0 lead turn into a 19-15 deficit, but Rainey, spelling backup Brian Leonard, came through with a huge run from the 32-yard line. He again took a sweep to the left side for his first career touchdown, putting the Bucs ahead 22-19 with 10:19 to play. "I think we run the ball (well) every week, to be honest," Rainey said. "Today, when we needed it, we got it done."
Rainey, who starred for current USF coach Willie Taggart while at Western Kentucky, doubled his career NFL rushing numbers on Monday night. He didn't have a carry in winning a Super Bowl ring last year with the Ravens, and totaled 34 yards in six games with the Browns this season. He was cut last month and picked up on waivers by the Bucs on Oct. 21, but he didn't have any carries until Monday. After his touchdown, he had five carries for 37 yards, including a rare second-half touchdown for the Bucs offense.
The Dolphins have had trouble all season protecting QB Ryan Tannehill, who entered Monday having been sacked a league-high 35 times, just 18 off the franchise record. Plus, Miami was without LG Richie Incognito (suspended) and LT Jonathan Martin (illness), who are part of the alleged bullying scandal that has hovered over the team the past couple of weeks. The Bucs did pick up two sacks, and they were big ones, coming on back-to-back plays to thwart the Dolphins' final drive. On first and 10 from their 33, Tannehill was sacked by DE Da'Quan Bowers and rookie DE William Gholston for an 8-yard loss. "Coach said to go get him," Bowers said of the sack. "And that's what we did." On the next play, DT Gerald McCoy sacked Tannehill for a 10-yard loss, making it third and 27. "It was mandatory," McCoy said of the final defensive stand. "We had to." Added Gholston: "It's not how you start, it's how you finish. And we finished pretty well."