Aug 24, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman (5) runs up the middle during the second quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defeat Miami Dolphins 17-16, Spence and Leonard Stand Out for Bucs

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers came out ahead on the scoreboard on Saturday evening, winning their first preseason game of 2013 by a score of 17-16.

But they did not come out any more sure of their talent heading into the 2013 season.

Josh Freeman had his ups and downs behind a very shaky offensive line, and the wide receivers had an awful showing featuring multiple drops, as the Buccaneers’ first team offense was held in check all night long. The Buccaneers were able to turn two special teams turnovers into points early in the game, but the offense couldn’t make it from “20 to 20″ on its own.

Aug 24, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Brian Leonard (30) is stopped at the one yard line by Miami Dolphins inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (59) in the first quarter at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

The Buccaneers were without first team running back Doug Martin, but that allowed Brian Leonard to show what he could do. And behind a questionable line, Leonard plowed ahead on several great runs, proving that he’s going to be a great secondary rushing option in 2013. He would score an early touchdown in short yardage, which he set up with a terrific run up the middle, bouncing off tacklers and lunging down inside the one yard line.

But the passing game fell short for the first teamers, with Josh Freeman having his usual ups and downs. The issue on Saturday evening was many of Freeman’s good passes were dropped, stalling out drives before they could even get started.

Freeman would finish with 6 completions on 16 attempts for 59 yards, and by my count, there were 4 dropped passes dragging down his completion percentage. But he coughed up a fumble without being touched, and airmailed a couple of throws that should have been completions.

The defense was not much better, as the front seven struggled to get pressure on the quarterback while the starters were on the field, and the defensive backs were seemingly a step behind the Dolphins’ receivers. But the Bucs’ defense did hold its ground in the red zone twice, and there were certainly bright spots to be found among the starting defenders.

Akeem Spence, the rookie defensive tackle tasked with replacing Roy Miller, was among the bright spots, as he made an error and gave up his gap early in the game, and then rebounded with multiple plays of penetration in the Miami backfield, making tackles for loss and shutting down the Miami running game. Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy were both active on defense, further solidifying their roles as the best player at their respective levels of the defense.

The Buccaneers’ backups didn’t get much of a chance to show what they could do until very late in the game, when William Gholston forced a fumble which was recovered by Sean Baker. Baker ran the ball back into Dolphins’ territory, and the Buccaneers were able to convert yet another turnover into points, as Mike Glennon dropped off a short pass to David Douglas who dove into the end zone to take the lead.

Tampa Bay will complete their preseason next week against the Washington Redskins.

Be sure to stay tuned to The Pewter Plank for more thoughts and coverage of the Buccaneers’ third preseason game.

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