Black tallies big day
Bucs LB Quincy Black had quite a day, finishing with seven tackles, including one for a loss, an interception and a pass deflection. His interception could have been the decisive play, coming at the Dolphins 26 with the Bucs trailing by six. The turnover led to the Bucs' go-ahead touchdown with 1:14 left in the game.
Leading 22-16 with less than two minutes to play, the Dolphins would be expected to run to wind down the clock. Instead, they made a curious decision to throw on third and 7 from their 25, and the call backfired.
Black stepped in front of the pass intended for WR Brian Hartline in the right flat at the 29. RB Cadillac Williams scored four plays later.
"We tried to be aggressive and win the football game," Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said. "Ended up making a poor decision."
It was Black's first career interception.
A controversial call
In a wild sequence of events late in the second quarter, the Bucs were on the wrong end of a much-debated call that paved the way to a pivotal Dolphins touchdown. By the time it was done, coach Raheem Morris was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct after exchanging words with officials and the Dolphins had first and goal at the Bucs 8.
"I hope they saw something that we didn't see because, for me, from what I saw, it was pitiful," Bucs WR Michael Clayton said of the call. "There's no reason for that in any league. That's just a routine catch. I hope they got it right. I would hate for a game to come down to that. For a game to be taken away on a call like that, that hurts."
In a nutshell, Clayton appeared to make an 11-yard reception at the Bucs 15 with 1:43 left in the first half. He went up, appeared to catch the ball with two hands then was taken to the ground by S Yeremiah Bell. After Clayton's body made contact with the ground, the ball squirted out and into the hands of OLB Jason Taylor, who ran into the end zone for what one official ruled a touchdown.
After a few minutes of consultation, officials changed the call to an incomplete pass. But after a booth review, it was ruled that Clayton didn't maintain possession after he hit the ground and Taylor indeed intercepted the ball. The touchdown was disallowed because the ruling on the field was an incomplete pass, and according to replay rules, the Dolphins could not advance it on a reversed call.
The problem area for the Bucs was their belief that Clayton established possession and was down by contact. Referee Tony Corrente, asked by a reporter after the game, disagreed.
"The player in question … as he started to come down, was hit," Corrente said. "As he is coming down, he is now going to the ground to complete a catch and, by rule, if he's going to the ground to complete a catch, he has to maintain possession of the ball completely through the entire process of hitting the ground and thereafter, showing control."
Clayton continued to stand his ground.
"I know it was a catch. One hundred percent," he said. "I do hope that I'm wrong. That hurts to see that happen, to see something taken from you. I just hope that they got it right.
"They didn't give us an explanation for it. That's the sad part about it; you can't even give an explanation. I think every (official) on that field deserves to give a head coach an explanation for what just happened, especially under those circumstances. In return, we get a penalty? I think that that's sad. I don't think it's called for."
Bucs TE Kellen Winslow, a former Miami Hurricane, finished with seven catches for 102 yards, including a 37-yard catch-and-run that featured a nifty open-field cut. But Winslow's day included a drop on third down that would have resulted in a first down and an unsportsmanlike penalty after the Bucs' final touchdown that threatened to give the Dolphins excellent field position on the ensuing drive. Of his penalty, Winslow said, "A guy pushed me after the play. I was talking to the ref. I guess he didn't agree with me and threw a flag on me. I can't worry about that." But the negatives aside, Winslow has been the Bucs' most consistent offensive weapon, and he was again. Now, he's beginning to develop a chemistry with rookie QB Josh Freeman that will serve the Bucs well. "I think we're getting there," Winslow said of his relationship with Freeman. "It just takes time. He's only been back there for two, three weeks." Sunday marked Winslow's second 100-yard receiving game of the season and the sixth of his career. He has led or tied for the team lead in receptions in seven of nine games this year.
A kicker — finally
The Bucs are on kicker No. 3 this season after releasing Mike Nugent and Shane Andrus for poor performance. So, the bar wasn't that high for Connor Barth. Yet all he did was leave his team stunned Sunday with an NFL-record-tying performance, converting three field goals of 50 yards or longer. In nailing field goals from 50, 51 and 54 yards, Barth tied Morten Andersen, Kris Brown and Neil Rackers as kickers to accomplish the feat in one game. Barth has been on the roster less than a month, and he was not accurate in practice last week, something that could have given coach Raheem Morris reason to pause when sending him out for such ambitious attempts. "I had a tough week in practice," Barth said. "It means a lot when he has the confidence in me to (let me) go out there and bang it through. As a kicker, you see those wide receivers and linemen and quarterbacks getting down there, and you want to put it through for those guys." Barth should know they appreciate it. "Our special teams were fantastic," C Jeff Faine said. "I don't even know (Barth's) d--- name yet. He stepped in and did a great job for us." Barth was particularly valuable because of the offense's early struggles. When drives stalled and the Bucs faced long fourth downs, Barth made the coaches' decisions easy. "You have to give credit to the offense," Barth said. "They put me in position. As a kicker, that's your job. You're kind of the finisher. That's how I see it. They dig, they bleed. They bust their (butt). It feels good when you put it through for them. It's a team game."
For the second week in a row, QB Josh Freeman and C Jeff Faine, left, had exchange issues as the ball was being snapped. Freeman fumbled while under center on one occasion and said noise contributed to that miscue. "The first one was just the crowd was kind of loud and the defense shifted (in response to) our motion," he said. "(The Dolphins) yelled something like 'shift set,' and Faine thought I was saying, 'Set, hut.' So, he snapped before I even started my second half of the cadence." Of course, most coaches maintain that getting the snap is the primary job of the quarterback, who must be always at the ready. The fumble was recovered by LB Akin Ayodele. Later, Freeman lined up in the shotgun and received a snap that was wide to his right. It slipped through his hands, and he recovered it for a 13-yard loss. "I just dropped it," Freeman said. The rookie had two other fumbles, both while being stripped of the ball from behind, but the Bucs recovered both. His ball security will surely become a topic of discussion among coaches.
• After the Dolphins scored a touchdown to take a 6-3 lead, T Donald Penn recorded Tampa Bay's second blocked PAT of the season and the first of his career. Penn later recovered a Josh Freeman fumble.
• Bucs RB Cadillac Williams moved to sixth on the team's all-time rushing touchdown list (with 17) on his 1-yard scoring run with 1:14 left in the game, passing RB Ricky Bell (16 in 1977-81).