MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — The Miami Dolphins' first-team offense started strong and finished fast.
The in-between needed work.
Miami mounted a 17-play, 8½-minute scoring drive to start the game, and executed its two-minute offense well to score a touchdown with 10 seconds left in the first half. Those were their highlights Saturday in a 17-16 loss to Tampa Bay.
Miami totaled 15 first downs and 180 yards in the opening half against the Buccaneers' first-team defense. The score could have been lopsided, but the Dolphins needed 17 snaps in the red zone before they reached the end zone, and Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson dropped potential touchdown passes.
With one exhibition game to go, here are five things we learned from the Buccaneers (1-2) and Dolphins (1-3):
1. MIAMI'S OFFENSE REMAINS INCONSISTENT DESPITE SIGNS OF PROGRESS: Second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill went 17 for 27 for 150 yards and a one touchdown, a 4-yard throw to Gibson threaded between two defenders. That was one of 13 passes Tannehill completed to his wideouts, the team's most improved unit this season, and Miami frequently lined up with three wide receivers.
Gibson caught five passes but dropped two. Hartline caught four passes, Mike Wallace three and Marvin McNutt one.
The Dolphins sputtered in the red zone in part because blocking remains shaky at times. The first team netted 38 yards in 15 rushing plays, and Tannehill was knocked to the ground at least four times, including once on a sack by Trevor Scott.
Tannehill threw several times into tight coverage, and Michael Adams dropped a potential interception.
"I can't tell you the rhythm offensively was great," coach Joe Philbin said. "It didn't feel that way to me. It's got to get better."
2. JOSH FREEMAN HAS YET TO LOOK LIKE A QUARTERBACK COMING OFF A 4,000-YARD SEASON: After playing a total of 21 snaps in the first two games, Freeman went 2½ quarters, but struggled to get the Bucs going. He went 6 for 16 for 59 yards, took five sacks and had a passer rating of 48.7. He also lost a fumble at midfield with 1:29 left in the first half and led to Miami's lone touchdown.
"The whole operation was out of sync, and he is part of the operation," coach Greg Schiano said.
Mike Williams was targeted seven times but caught only two passes. The ground game sputtered, too, although Brian Leonard ran for 38 yards and a score in 10 carries.