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Dolphins Watch


November 15, 2009 1:28 AM

Dolphins try to get back on track

The Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers don't face each other very often, although they are just 280 miles apart. In fact, Sunday's game marks the only ninth time the two teams have met in the regular season, with the all-time series even at 4-4.

The Bucs' season-long quest for a victory ended last week, as they turned back the clock to Bucco Bruce and the old creamsicle uniforms, and the combination worked in a 38-28 upset win over Green Bay.

Even more impressive was rookie quarterback Josh Freeman, who in his first career start completed 14-of-31 passes for 205 yards and three TDs, and looked like a seasoned pro.

Freeman is big (6-foot-6), mobile and has a strong throwing arm. But he will be without one of his main weapons, as wide receiver Antonio Bryant is doubtful with a knee injury.FREEMAN.bmp


The Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers don't face each other very often, although they are just 280 miles apart. In fact, Sunday's game marks only the ninth time the two teams have met in the regular season, with the all-time series even at 4-4.

The Bucs' season-long quest for a victory ended last week, as they turned back the clock to Bucco Bruce and the old creamsicle uniforms, and the combination worked in a 38-28 upset win over Green Bay.

Even more impressive was rookie quarterback Josh Freeman, who in his first career start completed 14-of-31 passes for 205 yards and three TDs, and looked like a seasoned pro.

Freeman is big (6-foot-6), mobile and has a strong throwing arm. But he will be without one of his main weapons, as wide receiver Antonio Bryant is doubtful with a knee injury.

But Freeman still has former University of Miami star Kellen Winslow at tight end.

Winslow led the Bucs with four catches for 57 yards and a TD last week, and he has 35 catches for 352 yards and five TDs on the season.

He joins the list of other big tight ends the Dolphins have faced, and the defense's lack of success against those players has been well-documented.

After Tom Brady stafed the Fins for 332 yards passing in last week's loss to the Patriots, Miami slid to 28th against the pass.

The Bucs running attack ranks just 25th in the league, but they do have options in Cadillac Williams and Earnest Graham.

Still, for Tampa Bay to win, you'd figure Freeman and Winslow will have to have huge efforts.

Defensively, the Bucs will be without defensive end and sack leader Stylez G. White, who is doubtful with a shoulder injury.

That hurts a Tampa defense that has just 17 sacks on the season.

The secondary has also struggled, allowing a 94.2 rating to opposing quarterbacks, and the run defense has been one of the worst in the league, allowing 1,307 rushing yards and a 4.8-yard average per carry.

That should be just the tonic for a Dolphins running game that has struggled to get going in recent weeks, falling from first to fourth overall in the NFL.

And facing Tampa may be what the doctor ordered for quarterback Chad Henne, who completed only 19-of-34 passes for 219 yards and no TDs last week.

Of course, he's getting little help from his receivers, who are averaging the fewest yards after catch (4.1) in the league.

And a receiver doesn't even lead the team in that category, as Ricky Williams has 171 YAC yards.

Defensively, the Dolphins will be without linebacker Jory Porter once again, as he is a coach's decision and will not play. The decision has nothing to do with Porter's shoulder injury, so it could be that the winds of discontent are blowing for a player who has been unable to put much pressure on the passer this season.

Middle linebacker Channing Crowder returns, as does nose tackle Jason Ferguson, who are both vital parts of Miami's run defense.

The Dolphins should be able to confuse Freeman with coverage schemes, and though he might burn them for a couple of big plays, his lack of weapons and the Bucs' problems on defense make this as close to a sure thing as the Dolphins can get.

Dolphins 24, Bucs 14. 

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