MIAMI — Josh Freeman swears he hasn't heard the criticism. He says he is deaf to his detractors and, maybe, does march to the beat of his own eardrums.
But Saturday, he did nothing to quiet the concerns.
Playing into the third quarter against the Dolphins, Freeman went 6-of-16 for 59 yards. He didn't get much help from his teammates. He was sacked five times among nine series, and his receivers dropped four of his passes.
But his slapstick, blooper-like fumble of a wet ball during a pass attempt late in the first half led to a Dolphins touchdown and will provide plenty of fodder for the Fran Tarkentons, Ronde Barbers and Ron Jaworskis of the world.
Oh, and gentlemen, start you quarterback controversies. Rookie Mike Glennon fired a 12-yard touchdown to David Douglas with 1:03 remaining in the game for a 17-16 win.
In truth, Glennon hadn't done much until Bucs safety Sean Baker returned a fumble by former Florida running back Mike Gillislee 55 yards to the Miami 25. Rookie end William Gholston caused the turnover when he stripped Gillislee after a 5-yard run.
Safety Keith Tandy's interception of Pat Devlin with 10 seconds left sealed the win.
The Bucs offense has created cause for pause. It had only 160 yards of offense Saturday, 70 passing and 90 rushing. In fact, the final 25-yard touchdown drive was their longest of the game.
But there was a lot to like on Saturday. They allowed only one touchdown on Miami's four red zone opportunities. There was an opportunistic special teams led by Adam Hayward, who recovered two fumbles. Trevor Scott, who last played for the Patriots and signed earlier this week, had two of the Bucs' three sacks. Rookie nose tackle Akeem Spence had two tackles-for-loss and another for no gain.
The Bucs also saw the debut of right guard Davin Joseph, who played the first quarter a year after sustaining a season-ending torn patellar tendon in his right knee.
Cornerback Darrelle Revis (torn left ACL in 2012) and running back Doug Martin (knee to the head last week against the Patriots) did not play.
Freeman was 4-of-11 for 51 yards in the first half with three drops, two by Vincent Jackson. He never looked comfortable in the pocket and was sacked three times. In 13 series this preseason, he has been sacked nine times.
His fumble when the ball slipped out of his hand during a pass with 1:28 left led to the Dolphins' only touchdown.
Miami's Ryan Tannehill, who went 17-of-27 for 150 yards in the first half, drilled a 4-yard pass to Brandon Gibson to give Miami a 13-10 lead.
The Bucs played the run well. Lavonte David recorded his second sack of the preseason, and he and fellow linebacker Mason Foster were all over the field.
Hayward's recovery of punt returns led to the Bucs' 10 first-half points.
On the first, with Marcus Thigpen signaling for a fair catch, defensive back Michael Adams tossed Miami's Nolan Carroll into Thigpen. The ball hit Carroll in the back, and Hayward recovered at the Dolphins 23.
A 17-yard pass interference on cornerback Brent Grimes, who held Jackson, led to a 1-yard touchdown run by Brian Leonard.
Hayward was in the right place again when tight end Tom Crabtree stripped Thigpen and Hayward recovered at the Dolphins 41. That led to a 38-yard field goal by Rian Lindell, who signed last week, the same day Lawrence Tynes had surgery on his toe for a MRSA infection.
Rick Stroud can be reached at [email protected]