Thursday, January 18, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Special teams boosts Bucs vs. Dolphins

MIAMI — In a first half in which few things went right for the Bucs, a pair of special teams plays — both made by linebacker Adam Hayward — led to all 10 of their points at halftime in Saturday night's 17-16 preseason win against the Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium.

When the Bucs' opening drive stalled at their 36-yard line, a punt by Michael Koenen caromed off Miami's Nolan Carroll, who was blocking the Bucs' Michael Adams. Hayward picked up the ball, setting the Bucs up at the Miami 23. That led to a Brian Leonard 1-yard touchdown run.

The Bucs' next punt was just as successful.

Miami's Marcus Thigpen fielded the punt, and Bucs tight end Tom Crabtree got a hand on the ball, forcing a fumble that again was recovered by Hayward, this time at the Miami 41. The Bucs converted that into a 38-yard field goal by newly signed kicker Rian Lindell.

So in a half in which the offense mustered 63 yards total, two special teams plays allowed the Bucs to lead until the final 10 seconds of the half.

Hayward, a seventh-year pro from Portland State, has never had more than 32 tackles in a season, but he stays on the roster by making such key plays on special teams.

The turnovers came in a half in which Koenen averaged 51 yards on his three punts. It's a more promising special teams showing under first-year assistant Dave Wannstedt than what the Bucs showed two weeks ago, when they had a blocked punt, muffed a return and allowed a 58-yard kickoff return in a loss to the Ravens.

There were still concerns Saturday, such as a 38-yard punt return given up to Miami's Thigpen, which set up a Dolphins field goal.

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