Bucs finally win one, for old times' sake

November, 12, 2013
11/12/13
1:52
AM ET

TAMPA, Fla. -- As he went onto the field for pregame warmups, Tampa Bay Buccaneers left tackle Donald Penn ran into a man who has given grief to plenty of offensive linemen through the years.

That man was Hall of Famer Warren Sapp, who was having his No. 99 retired and being inducted into the Buccaneers' Ring of Honor at halftime. Sapp, a former defensive tackle who never has been at a loss for words, had a firm message for Penn.

"He told me before the game, 'You guys cannot lose on my day,'" Penn said.

The Buccaneers didn't lose Monday night. They defeated the Miami Dolphins 22-19 to earn their first victory of the season.

For one night anyway, glory returned to a franchise that hasn't won a postseason game since its Super Bowl victory more than a decade ago. Many of the stars of that era -- including John Lynch, Ronde Barber, Derrick Brooks and Mike Alstott -- returned to salute Sapp on Monday. Raymond James Stadium was sold out (a rare event) and the crowd was firmly in the game.

Just like the good old days?

"We've got a lot of wins to get that back here," Bucs coach Greg Schiano said.

Schiano is right. The Bucs have a long way to get back to anything approaching the Sapp era.

What the Bucs did Monday night was run into a team that's more dysfunctional than they are. They ran into a Miami team that is reeling from whatever took place between Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin.

The Dolphins (4-5) have dominated the news in recent weeks, and Monday night was no exception. Prior to the game, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross held a news conference in the media dining room to address the Incognito-Martin situation for the first time.

The Bucs seemed to have cornered the Florida market on controversy until the Dolphins took over. Miami opened the game like a team in disarray. The Bucs jumped out to a 15-0 lead in the second quarter and seemed on the verge of blowing out the Dolphins.

But that's when the Bucs, who entered the game with an 0-8 record, started looking like the same team that squandered leads early in the season and blew a 21-0 edge against Seattle last week.

"It had that same feel going down the stretch," Schiano said. "But our guys bowed up."

After falling behind 19-15 late in the third quarter, the Bucs did the one thing they hadn't been able to this season. They finished.

[+] EnlargeDonald Penn
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsThe Bucs struck first with Donald Penn's TD catch.
It happened with recently signed running back Bobby Rainey playing a huge role in the fourth quarter. He broke off a 31-yard run to set up his game-winning 1-yard touchdown run. Rainey was playing only because the Bucs already had put Doug Martin and Jeff Demps on injured reserve. Rookie Mike James got the start against the Dolphins, but fractured his ankle early in the first quarter.

James' injury was the biggest downer of the night. But Rainey and the defense held off the Dolphins when it mattered most. The defense did its job all night. The Dolphins finished with only 2 net rushing yards (the previous Tampa Bay record was 10 yards against Carolina last season).

"A win cures everything," cornerback Darrelle Revis said.

I'm not so sure about everything. But there were smiles in the Tampa Bay locker room for the first time this season.

"Y'all don't know how tough it's been," Penn said.

Maybe not. But the fans have a pretty good idea how tough it has been.

So what if it was a win against the reeling Dolphins? At least for one night, Tampa Bay was a winner -- just like in the old days.

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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