Dolphins 13

(1-1, 1-0 away)

Buccaneers 10

(1-1, 1-1 home)

7:30 PM ET, August 19, 2006

Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL 

1 2 3 4 T
MIA 0 10 3 013
TB 3 0 0 710

Culpepper's comeback on track as Dolphins trip Bucs

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Daunte Culpepper was more than ready for the next logical step on his comeback trail.

The Miami quarterback took the first real hit since undergoing knee surgery, then absorbed a second and a third while helping the Dolphins to a 13-10 preseason victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday night.

"It was beautiful to finally get a hit because everybody was kind of waiting to see what would happen, what would be my reaction," Culpepper said. "I think I handled it pretty well."

The eighth-year pro played into the second quarter, completing 7 of 9 passes for 86 yards and leading a nine-minute touchdown drive after producing little offense on his team's first three possessions.

Culpepper played one series in Miami's preseason opener against Jacksonville, completing one pass for 2 yards. This appearance lasted 23 plays, 14 of them on the 70-yard march that Sammy Morris finished with a 2-yard TD run.

Equally encouraging for the Dolphins (1-1) was the way Culpepper got through the first true contact work he's had since tearing three ligaments in his right knee while playing for the Minnesota Vikings last season.

"I wasn't even worried about it. I'm worried about the next play and what we've got to do to be successful," Culpepper said.

"I told myself that I was going to push myself as hard as I possibly could before training camp even started so at the time when I do start taking some hits I'd be ready for them physically."

Tampa Bay's Barrett Ruud and Anthony McFarland sacked Culpepper on consecutive plays in the first quarter, with the first hit causing a fumble that Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown recovered at the Miami 18.

Ruud later tested the quarterback's mobility, chasing him out of the pocket and forcing Culpepper to throw a pass that was ruled intentional grounding when the ball failed to get back to the line of scrimmage.

"I play the game a certain way -- to make plays, some with my legs. Sometimes you get hit. That's football," Culpepper said. "My knee's fine. I just thank God that everything's holding up. I'm continuing to get stronger every day."

Chris Simms started at quarterback for Tampa Bay (1-1) and led a field goal drive, followed by two three-and-outs. He completed 2 of 7 passes for 27 yards and was sacked twice, once by Dan Wilkinson, the much-traveled defensive tackle who signed with Miami last Monday.

Wilkinson wasn't surprised that he was able to contribute despite being in training camp for less than a week.

"I've been healthy, and I have been in good shape pretty much my entire career," Wilkinson said. "I knew coming out here I was ready to roll."

Joey Harrington, another of the Dolphins' newcomers, followed Culpepper and was 8-of-15 for 81 yards. He led a pair of field goal drives before being replaced by Cleo Lemon at the start of the fourth quarter.

The Bucs made it close in the fourth when rookie Bruce Gradkowski threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to Edell Shepherd, who slipped behind Dolphins first-round draft pick Jason Allen to trim Miami's lead to 13-10.

Gradkowski had the Bucs on the move again, but a poorly thrown pass glanced off Shepherd's hand and was intercepted by safety Jack Hunt with just under 2 minutes to go.

"It went pretty well, but we didn't get the 'W,' and that's the most important thing," Gradkowski said. "It's hard to swallow not winning. We have to learn from it, build for next time and see what happens."

Several Tampa Bay starters, including running back Carnell "Cadillac" Williams and receiver Joey Galloway on offense and linebackers Derrick Brooks and Shelton Quarles and end Simeon Rice on defense, sat out.

Defensive end Jason Taylor started for Miami after sitting out last week's game with a back injury.

Game notes

Gradkowski, a sixth-round draft pick from Toledo, was 11-of-14 for 193 yards. He's thrown three TD passes in two games. ... Brown led Miami with 32 yards rushing on 7 carries. ... Shepherd finished with three receptions for 93 yards.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Scoring Summary

tbFG7:36Matt Bryant 25 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 11 plays, 45 yds, 5:11
miaTD5:24Sammy Morris, 1 yd run (Olindo Mare kick is good)
Drive info: 16 plays, 69 yds, 9:27
miaFG0:05Olindo Mare 33 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 13 plays, 59 yds, 7:03
miaFG3:06Olindo Mare 44 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 8 plays, 49 yds, 2:59
tbTD7:07Edell Shepherd, 48 yd pass from Bruce Gradkowski (Xavier Beitia kick is good)
Drive info: 5 plays, 71 yds, 2:39