Attempting to bounce back from two straight losses for the first time this season, Tampa Bay reverted back to a formula that had worked so well as the team raced out to a 7-3 start. The Bucs used a near second-half shutout by the defense and a fourth quarter rally by second-year quarterback Josh Freeman to overcome the Redskins in rainy Washington, 17-16.
After quarterback Donovan McNabb hit wide receiver Santana Moss on a quick slant on fourth-and-goal from the Tampa Bay 6 to pull the Redskins to within an extra point of sending the game to overtime, Washington long snapper Nick Sundberg had a high snap to holder Hunter Smith and the PAT was aborted after cornerback E.J. Biggers and free safety Corey Lynch teamed to retrieve the loose ball. That gave the Bucs their eighth win of the year, which signaled that Tampa Bay wouldn’t have a losing season after finishing 3-13 last year.
“Obviously, a big win for our football team,” said Bucs head coach Raheem Morris. “It helps us in our race to 10. Eight certainly gets us closer.”
After trailing 10-3 at halftime and having little success in stopping running back Ryan Torain, who torched Tampa Bay’s defense for 158 yards on 18 carries (8.8 avg.) in the first half, the Bucs held him to just 14 yards on six carries and watched Freeman come alive in the second half.
“I know [the media] wants to talk about stats right now and how we weren’t able to stop the run,” Morris said. “But I know I lost [our] premier position – the three technique [tackle] – on the third play of the game and these guys found a way to win that game in an ugly fashion. We are not going to be apologetic for any forms of wins.”
Freeman, who recorded his seventh fourth quarter/overtime comeback victory in his career and fifth one this season, finished the game completing 15-of-25 passes (60 percent) for 266 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions, but started the game 3-of-7 for 28 yards until connecting with rookie receiver Arrelious Benn on a season-long 64 yards to key Tampa Bay’s second quarter field goal drive. Benn, a native of Washington D.C., also had a 43-yard catch in the fourth quarter and finished the game with four catches for 122 yards in what was his best game in the NFL.
“Arrelious Benn and his homecoming to D.C., what did he have 122 [yards receiving]?” Freeman said. “It was a tremendous effort by him. He stepped up big time.”
But it was Freeman’s fourth quarter touchdown pass to tight end Kellen Winslow down the middle of the field that finally put Tampa Bay out in front, 15-10. Following the touchdown, the Bucs went for two and Freeman executed a quarterback draw from three yards out, bowling over middle linebacker London Fletcher and defensive lineman Vonnie Holiday.
“We talked about it earlier in the drive and everybody has their chart about when it says ‘Go for two’ when you are up in those situations,” Morris said. “We wanted to make it so that they had to get a touchdown. We were able to do that and they were unable to execute their extra point. That certainly ended up helping us out big time.”
Aside from the botched extra point attempt, the Redskins had several opportunities to win this contest. Field goal kicker Graham Gano missed two first half field goals inside of 36 yards, cornerback DeAngelo Hall dropped a pick-six, and the Redskins had poor clock management on their final drive of the first half.
After the game, Morris refused to look at the victory as one that was gift-wrapped by the Redskins. Instead, he credited his team for playing 60 minutes and capitalizing on its opportunities.
“No, I don’t feel lucky,” Morris said. “Did you ask Atlanta if they felt lucky last week? No, we don’t feel lucky.”
Tampa Bay’s eighth win of the season didn’t come without a price. After losing starting cornerback Aqib Talib and starting center Jeff Faine to season-ending injuries last week against Atlanta and having to place starting right guard Davin Joseph on injured reserve two weeks ago after a loss at Baltimore, the Bucs will likely lose defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and strongside linebacker Quincy Black to I.R. following the win in Washington.
“We lost McCoy with a torn biceps. It could be for the season. We’ll have to see. We also lost Quincy Black with a broken forearm – potentially down for the season, too. But it certainly speaks volumes for the guys stepping in and stepping up.”
Losses by Green Bay and Chicago kept both of these teams with eight wins at 8-5, which is the same surprising record Tampa Bay finds itself with after 13 games and with three contests remaining. The 8-4 New York Giants had their game against Minnesota postponed until Monday and moved to Detroit due to a blizzard that collapsed the roof at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. Victories by Atlanta (11-2) and New Orleans (10-3) on Sunday kept those two teams firmly entrenched as the favorites to win the NFC South division and earn one of two wild card playoff games, but the Bucs remain alive for the final wild card spot.
Washington’s first drive featured a season-long 54-yard run by Torain to set up the Redskins deep into Tampa Bay territory. But after the drive stalled at the Bucs’ 16-yard line, Gano missed a 34-yard field goal when the ball bounced off the left upright with 9:38 left in the first quarter.
Gano missed another field goal in the first quarter, this one wide left from 24 yards out, but Washington did manage to score a touchdown following a fumble by running back LeGarrette Blount, who rushed for 68 yards on 15 carries (4.5 avg.), at the Washington 46. McNabb hit Moss with back-to-back pass plays of 22 and 21 yards down to the Tampa Bay 6. On fourth-and-goal from the 1, McNabb hit tight end Logan Paulsen with a touchdown pass off play-action. With 4:51 left in the second quarter, Washington took a 7-0 lead.
Tampa Bay answered with a field goal drive thanks in large part to a big play in the passing game. Freeman hit rookie wide receiver Arrelious Benn with a 64-yard gain down to the Washington 11. But on third-and-6 from the Redskins’ 7, Freeman’s pass to Mike Williams was incomplete. Connor Barth, who was three-of-three verus Washington, was brought out to attempt a 25-yard field goal, which was good. With 2:22 left in the second quarter, Washington’s lead was cut to 7-3.
The Redskins added to their lead before halftime with a field goal drive. Torain started the drive with a 19-yard run out to the Tampa Bay 41. Keiland Williams had a 36-yard catch on a screen pass down to the Tampa Bay 5. But a 5-yard delay of game penalty on third-and-goal from the Bucs’ 2 proved costly for the Redskins as McNabb’s pass to Williams was incomplete on third-and-7. Gano made his first field goal of the day, a 25-yarder, with 11 seconds left in the first half to give Washington a 10-3 lead at halftime.
Bucs linebacker Adam Hayward recovered a fumbled kickoff return to start the second half at the Washington 34. But on third-and-11 from the 35, Freeman’s pass to Cadillac Williams only picked up nine yards. On fourth-and-2 from the Washington 26, Barth nailed a 44-yard field goal. With 11:48 left in the third quarter, the Redskins’ lead was trimmed to 10-6.
Tampa Bay added another field goal after a 10-play, 44-yard drive that began with a 17-yard end around by Benn. On third-and-11 from the Washington 34, Freeman’s 11-yard pass to Winslow picked up a first down. But Freeman’s pass on third-and-4 from the Washington 17 was incomplete, which forced Tampa Bay to try another field goal. Barth’s 35-yard field goal was good and with 4:11 left in the third quarter, Washington’s lead was cut to 10-9.
The Bucs had a great chance to take the lead early in the fourth quarter after a 43-yard catch by Benn set Tampa Bay up with a first-and-goal at the 1-yard line. But Freeman fumbled the ball after the snap when right guard Derek Hardman, who was starting in place of Joseph, pulled on the play and accidentally forced a fumble. Linebacker London Fletcher recovered in the end zone for a touchback.
But that didn’t deter Tampa Bay, which finally claimed the lead two possessions later. Blount ripped off a 10-yard gain on first down and tight end John Gilmore caught a 15-yard pass on a tight end screen on the next play. On third-and-7, Freeman hit Williams with a 7-yard catch to the Washington 41. Two plays later, Freeman hit Winslow with a 41-yard touchdown pass. Winslow eluded linebacker Rocky McIntosh and safety Reed Doughty. Freeman ran for a two-point conversion and with 3:47 left in the fourth quarter, Tampa Bay led 17-10 before McNabb’s last-second rally attempt came up a point short.STATS THAT COUNT
Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman threw his 17th touchdown pass of the season and the 27th of his career, which places him eighth in team history ahead of Shaun King (1999-2003) for the most TD passes in team history. … Tampa Bay rookie wide receiver Arrelious Benn recorded his first 100-yard game in the NFL, catching four passes for 122 yards, including a 64-yarder that was the Bucs’ longest offensive play of the year. . … Bucs rookie Derek Hardman started his first NFL game at right guard. … Tampa Bay middle linebacker Quincy Black recorded his second sack of the season when he dropped Donovan McNabb in the first quarter. … Bucs linebacker Geno Hayes recorded his first sack of the season midway through the fourth quarter. … The Redskins out-gained the Bucs 399-365 yards on Sunday. … Tampa Bay only had two penalties for 14 yards on Sunday at Washington. ... Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber led the team in tackles with 10. … Tampa Bay linebacker Adam Hayward recovered a fumble on special teams.SUNDAY’S STARTING LINEUPS
The announced Tampa Bay starting lineup for Sunday’s game was as follows:BUCS STARTING OFFENSE
WR Mike Williams
LT Donald Penn
LG Ted Larsen
C Jeremy Zuttah
RG Derek Hardman
RT James Lee
TE Kellen Winslow
WR Arrelious Benn
RB LeGarrette Blount
FB Earnest Graham
QB Josh FreemanBUCS STARTING DEFENSE
LE Tim Crowder
DT Gerald McCoy
DT Roy Miller
RE Stylez G. White
WLB Geno Hayes
MLB Barrett Ruud
SLB Quincy Black
LCB E.J. Biggers
RCB Ronde Barber
FS Corey Lynch
SS Sean JonesBUCS’ GAMEDAY INACTIVES
Here is a list of Tampa Bay players that did play in Sunday’s game:
QB Rudy Carpenter
FB Erik Lorig
WR Dezmon Briscoe
OT Will Barker
G Brandon Carter
DT Frank Okam
CB D.J. Johnson
SS Larry AsanteBUCS IN-GAME INJURIES
Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy left the game in the first quarter with a left biceps injury. He was replaced by defensive tackle Al Woods and Michael Bennett. He is likely out for the season.
Bucs linebacker Quincy Black suffered a broken forearm in Sunday’s game and is likely out for the season. He was replaced in the lineup by Adam Hayward and Dekoda Watson.KICKOFF CONDITIONS
The announced attendance for the Buccaneers vs. Redskins game at FedEx Field was 66,124 The game was played under cloudy skies with rainy conditions and a kickoff temperature of 45 degrees with 93 percent humidity.UP NEXT
The Buccaneers (8-5) return home to Raymond James Stadium to face the Detroit Lions (3-10) on Sunday, December 19. Kickoff is set for 1:00 p.m. ET and the game will be blacked out locally.
Copyright © 2011 Pewter Report, PewterReport.com and Pewter Insider. All rights reserved. PewterReport.com, the official site of Pewter Report, is an independent source of news and commentary and is not affiliated with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the NFL.