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Tampa Bay Bucs lose to Miami Dolphins on late field goal

MIAMI — After further review, the Bucs blew it.

Replaying Tampa Bay's 25-23 loss to the Dolphins in his mind Sunday, cornerback Ronde Barber could conclude only that.

The evidence was conclusive.

Dressing at his locker at Land Shark Stadium, Barber quickly recalled the images.

There was Josh Freeman, the kid quarterback who overcame a bad first half to produce another cardiac comeback in the fourth quarter in his first road start.

There was kicker Connor Barth, who set a club record and became the fourth player in NFL history to kick three field goals of more than 50 yards in a game.

There was linebacker Quincy Black, who intercepted Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne to set up Cadillac Williams' go-ahead touchdown on a 1-yard run with 1:14 remaining in the game.

There was overcoming a controversial instant replay review near the end of the first half, when referee Tony Corrente overturned a ruling of an incomplete pass and said the Freeman pass to Michael Clayton was actually an interception by linebacker Jason Taylor. That led to a Miami touchdown.

But in 64 seconds, less time than it takes to microwave popcorn, the Bucs (1-8) blew it after Williams gave them a 23-22 lead.

With one timeout and the ball on Miami's 16-yard line, Henne needed five plays to drive the 77 yards in 1:04 — setting up Dan Carpenter's winning 25-yard field goal with 10 seconds left.

"If you put all those factors together at the end of the game and say we lost, I would've slapped you. But that's who we are right now," Barber said.

"We've got issues. It's just little things that kill us. I can't tell you, man. Just believe me. … Somebody's got to make a play. We did not. That's the name of the game for our 2009 season."

Coach Raheem Morris took the blame because of his unsportsmanlike conduct penalty at the end of the first half.

Morris was penalized after arguing Corrente's instant replay reversal, which set up Kory Sperry's 5-yard touchdown reception with 1:25 left in the half to give Miami a 16-6 lead.

Corrente reversed the ruling after watching replays, saying that Clayton did not maintain possession through the completion of the play and, because the ball never hit the ground, ruled the pass was intercepted by Taylor, who appeared to score on the play. But by the rules of instant replay, the ball could not be advanced after the reversal.

The penalty on Morris was 7 yards — half the distance to the goal. Sperry scored two plays later.

"This loss is solely on me," Morris said. "At the end of the half, getting a personal foul is totally unacceptable. I'm taking those points, that's on me, that's how much we lost by. I should be given all the blame for that. That's a discipline issue on my part, and I didn't do the right thing. That's a great lesson for me as a young coach, that's a great lesson for my team.

"I used the wrong type of language to the official. It was a little bit of a taunt deal. But I used the wrong type of language. I'm completely guilty. It's my fault."

The Bucs rallied, with Williams' touchdown setting off a sideline celebration.

"We get into the end zone, fight back, an emotional high," Williams said. "I felt like we were going to win. There was no way we would lose. Then the impossible happens."

With the Bucs reverting to a Tampa 2 scheme, Henne began by hitting receiver Davone Bess for a 25-yard gain. On the next play, linebacker Geno Hayes was called for interference on tight end Joey Haynos, a 9-yard penalty that moved the ball to midfield.

The Bucs went back to a matchup defense, and Henne hit Bess for a 16-yard gain to the 34, then spiked the ball with 23 seconds left.

From there, it would've been about a 51-yard field goal for Carpenter, who had been perfect on three attempts, including one from 49 yards. But on the next play, Ricky Williams burst off the right side for a 27-yard run, turning Carpenter's attempt into a 25-yarder.

Freeman did a poor job of protecting the football in the first half. He lost a snap under center, let another shotgun snap go through his hands and was stripped twice on sacks by linebacker Charlie Anderson. He passed for just 33 yards in the first half, but he finished 16-of-28 for 196 yards with a touchdown to Maurice Stovall and the controversial interception.

"I know it's a dark day for us, but man, with that guy at the helm, the future is bright for this organization," Williams said.

Perhaps, but it didn't feel that way in the locker room. Defensive coordinator Jim Bates sat for several minutes staring at the floor in the coaches' dressing room.

"It's really disappointing to have a hard-fought effort like that and the way we came from behind and don't close the deal," Bates said.

Instead, the Bucs will be replaying that final drive in their heads the rest of the season.

Why a key call went against Bucs

Referee Tony Corrente, on reversing an incompletion call to an interception:

"As (Michael Clayton) is coming down, he is now going to the ground to complete a catch and, by rule … he has to maintain possession of the ball completely through the entire process of hitting the ground and thereafter, showing control. As he went to the ground … the ball popped out, and went right into the arms of the Miami player."

Tampa Bay Bucs lose to Miami Dolphins on late field goal 11/15/09 [Last modified: Monday, November 16, 2009 9:04am]
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