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Dolphins Rally Past Bucs 14-13

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are sputtering, and they're not sure why.

The Bucs' first-team offense struggled for the third game in a row Thursday, a 14-13 loss to the Miami Dolphins.

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  • Tampa Bay's starters managed only a field goal in the opening half, and they've produced three fields and no touchdowns in three games. Trent Dilfer missed his first eight passes, several by a wide margin, and finished 1-for-12.

    "We're in a funk," Dilfer said. "I can't explain it any other way. It's hard to get out of it sometimes, but it's part of our job description."

    "I'm going to go back and do some self-examination. A lot of guys are going to do some self-examination."

    Arena league refugee Oronde Gadsden caught a 30-yard touchdown pass and a 2-point conversion from Damon Huard with 1:13 remaining to help the Dolphins rally. Gadsden, bidding for a roster spot, was signed by Miami on Aug. 3 after scoring 38 touchdowns this year in the Arena League.

    "You can see at the end of the game what he has been showing in practice," coach Jimmy Johnson said. "He's a big receiver, 228 pounds, and he can make plays. That's the nice thing about preseason -- you can evaluate these guys."

    Miami improved to 2-0. Tampa Bay is 1-2.

    Third-string quarterback Scott Milanovich sparked Tampa Bay's offense, directing a 95-yard drive that was capped by a 17-yard pass to Brice Hunter with nine minutes remaining. That gave the Bucs a 13-6 lead.

    Milanovich has thrown four scoring passes during the preseason.

    Miami's Dan Marino played in just the opening series and looked sharp for the second game in a row, completing all five of his attempts for 48 yards. This preseason he has completed 11 of 12 passes, and his lone incompletion was dropped.

    Marino led the Dolhins to a score on their opening possession for the second consecutive game. They recovered an onside kick -- one of three they tried in the first quarter -- and drove 56 yards in 11 plays for a field goal.

    "We were trying to be sharp, and I think we continued that tonight on our first drive," Marino said.

    Bucs running back Rabid Abdullah sprained his neck in the fourth quarter and was taken off the field on a stretcher as a precaution. He had movement in all of his extremities.

    The game was nearly 18 minutes old before the Bucs made a first down. Dilfer's lone completion with 5:30 left in the first half was to Reidel Anthony for 10 yards.

    Dilfer is 5-for-23 for 25 yards in the preseason for Tampa Bay, which ranked last in the NFL in passing yardage in 1997.

    Warrick Dunn provided the only spark for the Bucs' first-team offense, gaining 62 yards in nine carries.

    "Very ragged," coach Tony Dungy said of his team's performance. "Not very sharp at all. There weren't too many bright spots. It's frustrating for all of us, because we're not doing the things we can do."

    Bucs top draft pick Jacquez Green had two long punt returns negated by holding penalties -- an 81-yarder for a touchdown and a 41-yarder in the fourth quarter. He ran 24 yards on a reverse to set up Tampa Bay's touchdown.

    The Bucs' starting defense was stingy after Marino left the game. Safety John Lynch made an interception and forced a fumble, and Donnie Abraham had an interception. Miami's running game, which looked strong in the exhibition opener, managed just 44 yards in 18 carries against Tampa Bay's first team.

    Olindo Mare kicked field goals of 22 and 39 yards for Miami, and he's 6-for-6 in the preseason.

    Michael Husted hit a 27-yard field goal for Tampa Bay, and Peter Elezovic tied the game with a 51-yarder in the third quarter.

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