Grading the Miami Dolphins for their 30-20 loss to the Tampa Bay Bucs

Tampa Bay Buccaneers middle linebacker Kwon Alexander (58) intercepts a pass and is grabbed by the facemask by Dolphins guard Ted Larsen, who was penalized on the play. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)


MIAMI GARDENS — The losing streak is now at four.

Next up is a trip to frigid Foxborough (snow forecast) to face the Patriots.

Keeping up with this run of good news for the Miami Dolphins, here’s a report card for their 30-20 loss to the Tampa Bay Bucs on Sunday:

The whole team

Before breaking this down, a word is in order for the Dolphins and their discipline. Or lack thereof. With about five minutes left, Ndamukong Suh was called for a holding penalty on a Bucs run up the middle. How a defensive lineman holds in that situation is a question worth asking most of the time, but maybe not on a day when the Dolphins managed to draw penalties every which way. The team record entering the game was 18, and the Dolphins seemed hell-bent on breaking that record, coming up one shy.

Grade: Unforgivable


Matt Moore came in after Jay Cutler suffered a concussion and had a strong second half, culminated by that 61-yard touchdown bomb perfectly thrown to Kenny Stills to force a 20-all tie. You’d have to think that Cutler will remain Adam Gase’s guy if he’s healthy enough next week vs. New England. Cutler had two interceptions in the first three series that handed the Bucs 10 points. His second pick, thrown while off balance across the middle, was a throw you’d scold a rookie for unloading. A veteran? C’mon. At least his third INT was off a deflection and not his fault.

Grade: B-minus

Running backs

Damien Williams started with a 69-yard run. After that, the running game disappeared. What stung the most was a fourth-and-1 plunge on the Bucs’ 34 by Williams with 6:50 left. He was stopped for no gain.

Grade: C-minus


Kenny Stills had a monster day with 180 receiving yards, but that can’t mask an up-and-down effort by the trio. A pass glanced off DeVante Parker’s hands and resulted in an interception. Jarvis Landry made an uncharacteristic fumble. It was one of four turnovers by Miami in the first half, resulting in a touchdown. Landry did have a touchdown catch, a one-handed catch and drew a taunting penalty against safety T.J. Ward. He had 95 yards.

Grade: B

Offensive line

Laremy Tunsil was called for holding, pushing Dolphins back to their 15 and a false start in the red zone, one of several penalties by the Dolphins to wreck potential touchdown drives. Another example: Mike Pouncey was called for a critical false start on third-and-goal at the 3. Jermon Bushrod was man-handled by Gerald McCoy (no crime there) for a 6-yard loss by Kenyan Drake. Two plays later, he was called for holding to wipe out 48-yard pass to Jarvis Landry. Later, it was a false start on Matt Moore’s first snap.

Grade: D

Defensive line

The line was called out by Cameron Wake on Friday for not living up to its name. Sunday was no different — at least until Jordan Phillips was robbed of what should have been a sack for a safety. Overall, however, not enough plays by this high-priced unit.

Grade: C-minus


How would the unit do following the release of Rey Maualuga? That was the question. The Dolphins chose to start Chase Allen over Mike Hull, and Allen made his presence felt with a big hit early. But once again, Kiko Alonso remained in his slump. The Bucs victimized him early by throwing to tight end O.J. Howard, then inexplicably decided to ignore Howard.

Grade: D

Defensive backs

Much-maligned Xavien Howard rebounded from a tough day against Carolina. The Dolphins were pitching a second-half shutout before allowing the Bucs to drive from their own 25 with three minutes remaining and the score 20-20, resulting in the winning field goal and avoiding overtime that the Dolphins didn’t deserve anyway.

Grade: C

Special teams

With the Dolphins fighting to get back in it in the third quarter, Alerraun Verner was called for a costly holding penalty on a punt, forcing Miami to start on its 5. Matt Haack and Walt Aikens combined to down a punt on the Bucs’ 2, flipping the field to give the Dolphins a chance. Michael Thomas was hit with a holding penalty on a punt return with 8:48 left.

Grade: C-minus

Photo gallery for Dolphins vs. Bucs