Grading Tampa Bay’s 30-20 victory
Tom Jones, Tampa Bay Times, published 20 November 2017

That was one ugly football game. The Bucs had a bad game. The Dolphins had a really bad game. And who had the worst game of all? The officials.

In fact, the best part of Sunday’s game was before the game even started, thanks to a stirring rendition of the national anthem by J Rome, a U.S. Air Force veteran and winner of the ABC show Duets. Toss in a giant flag that covered the entire football field and a flyover by two F-35s from the 388th Fighter Wing Hill Air Force Base Utah and we were ready for a great day of football. Instead, the "great" never happened. Oh well. Here’s the grades from Sunday’s 30-20 Bucs victory against Miami.

We’re coming up on the fifth anniversary of the Mark Sanchez infamous Butt Fumble. On Sunday, we should’ve had a Butt Safety. Bucs quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was stuck in his end zone and ran into the big behind of one of his linemen. He then was sacked for what appeared to be a safety. Replays clearly showed he was the end zone.

But replay officials confirmed the call on the field that Fitzpatrick’s forward progress was just outside the end zone. "I had no idea what they were going to call," Fitzpatrick said. "I tried to step up and stay out of there. I’ve got to do a better job of not even putting us close to that situation. I’m glad they called it the way they did." Bottom line: terrible call. The Bucs caught a huge break. But the ugliness of that play was actually so delicious that there’s only one grade to give. GRADE: A.

Speaking of a blown call, the officials did not have a great day. First off, way too many penalties. They threw so many flags that I expect several of them to visit Dr. James Andrews this week. They just inserted themselves way too much into this game. They called 17 penalties on the Dolphins for 123 yards. They called nine on the Bucs for 92 yards. Many of them wiped out huge plays, even a touchdown for Tampa Bay. Some calls absolutely needed to be made, but far too many were borderline-at-best calls. GRADE: D.

That last play of the game turned out to be a doozy and might have ruined a few nights. The Bucs led 23-20 and were kicking off with four seconds left. The Dolphins were looking for one of those 18-lateral, the Stanford-band-is-on-the-field plays for a miracle finish. It ended up with Miami fumbling into its own end zone and Tampa Bay recovering for a touchdown and final of 30-20. For starters, it ruined my on-the-money prediction of a 23-20 Bucs victory. Others had it worse. Some oddsmakers had the over-under at 44, meaning the final touchdown took the final total points from 43 to 50. Call it B for Bad Beat. GRADE: B.

Who thought Jay Cutler coming out of retirement was a good idea? Sounded like a mess at the time and it looks even worse for Miami now. Cutler was awful on Sunday. He complete half as many passes to the Bucs as he did to his Dolphin teammates. He was 6 for 12 for 83 yards with three interceptions before leaving at halftime with a possible concussion. Meantime, his replacement Matt Moore (not the former Rays pitcher) was 17 for 28 for 282 yards. Chalk it up to Jay Cutler doing Jay Cutler things. GRADE: C.

Everywhere you look on the internet says O.J. Howard’s birthday was Sunday. But the Bucs rookie tight end, 23, said it was Saturday. Well, he should go ahead and sip Bacardi like it’s his birthday and, you know, we don’t give a darn that it’s not his birthday. He played like it was with three catches for 52 yards and a touchdown. And he had another TD called back on an iffy block-in-the-back penalty. Happy birthday, O.J., whenever it was. GRADE: A.