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Buccaneers overcome inconsistencies to top Dolphins

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers gutted out a last-second 30-20 victory against the Miami Dolphins, improving to 4-6 despite giving up huge chunks of yardage on defense throughout the game -- 448 yards to be exact -- and allowing the Dolphins to score 13 unanswered points in the second half. It is the Buccaneers' second straight win with backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm. It is also their first road win of the year.

"That's really all that matters -- having more [points] than they got at the end," said head coach Dirk Koetter. "You're always going to have some adversity on the road. We've had more than our share today. At the end of the day, when things are going bad, you've got to rise up and do something, and we were able to pull it out."

What it means: The explosive plays given up by the Bucs' defense and their inability to score consistently on offense have and will continue to hold them back in 2017. They just couldn't be more like Jekyll and Hyde. They limited the Dolphins to 0-for-3 on third-down conversions in the first half and 6-for-10 in the second with Matt Moore at quarterback.

They left a lot of scoring opportunities on the field on offense but managed 17 points off takeaways -- 23 if you count the special teams' fumble recovery at the end. That's the brand of complementary football the coaching staff has been calling for all year and something they really have started to show the last two weeks.

"I think you see a team that is feeding off each other on both sides of the ball," Fitzpatrick said. "We needed that win, and I thought our defense really stepped up this week and last week, as well. They stepped up in that Jets game and almost took it upon themselves to make sure that game was going to be in hand."

What I liked: The Bucs had four of their five takeaways in the first half, including three interceptions of Jay Cutler. The first Bucs interception came from rookie safety Justin Evans in the end zone on a third-down pass intended for wide receiver DeVante Parker. The second, also on third down, came from linebacker Kwon Alexander, who jumped a route on a pass intended for Jarvis Landry. Then, there was nickelback Robert McClain, who caught a pass that bounced out of Parker's hands. Smith got the fourth takeaway, recovering a Landry fumble at the Miami 37.

"You shouldn't have to win it like that, when it's five to zero in the turnover margin, but a win is a win is a win in the NFL and you never apologize for it," Koetter said. "Our D, they did a similar thing last year, [when] they got hot."

In the fourth quarter, when the Dolphins crept within one score, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy came up big on second-and-9, sacking Moore and then forcing an incomplete pass on the next play. On the next drive, defensive tackle Chris Baker and linebacker Lavonte David made a critical stop on fourth-and-1 on a run by Damien Williams with 7:03 to go.

What I didn't like: The Bucs' offense was held scoreless in the second half and allowed the Dolphins to tie the game 20-20 on Jarvis Landry's 61-yard touchdown reception with 3:09 to go in the fourth quarter. The Bucs struggled significantly against Moore, who replaced Cutler and completed 17-of-28 passes for 282 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions in two quarters of football.

"We had a lot of opportunities to break it wide open in the first [half]. The second half, we just couldn't get off the field on third down, and we couldn't make any first downs on offense," Koetter said. "That third quarter, we just didn't have the ball very much. But we hung in there."

Fantasy fallout: Tight end O.J. Howard caught three passes for 52 yards and a touchdown, his fourth of the season. He'd been limited to just three catches the past three weeks, almost appearing as an afterthought rather than a first-round draft pick. Wide receiver Mike Evans had five catches for 92 yards after missing last week with a suspension. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson had two catches for 28 yards and a touchdown.

Special teams is the difference-maker: Kicker Patrick Murray nailed two 30-yard field goals and a game-winning 35-yard kick. He did, however, have a miss from 42 yards, just his second missed field goal this season.

"I take every kick the same, doesn't matter the situation of the game, and going out on that field after Fitz and the offense drove down there and they did a terrific job, I knew I was going to make it," Murray said. "I knew it was going to go right down the middle. I just had a feeling and it was right."

The Bucs also got a special-teams touchdown on the final play of the game, with linebacker Adarius Glanton recovering a Jakeem Grant fumble in the Miami end zone.

What's next: The Bucs are back on the road next week against the Atlanta Falcons for the second of three straight road games. At 0-2 in the NFC South, the Bucs have an opportunity to gain some ground in the division against a 5-4 Falcons team. The real question is who will be starting at quarterback as Jameis Winston continues to heal from his shoulder injury. The Bucs' original timeline for him was two weeks.