Turnovers, poor execution and a lack of offensive firepower led to Tampa Bay digging itself a 17-point hole before halftime at Washington on Thursday night. Little was working well for Buccaneers backups through the first 30 minutes of football against Washington's starters, but Tampa Bay came out making plays in the second half before eventually falling to the Redskins, 29-24.
The Bucs rallied with a 21-point second half, after only mustering a 42-yard Connor Barth field goal with 22 seconds left in the first, and managed to take a 24-23 lead with RB Armando Allen, Jr.’s 20-yard catch-and-run touchdown from QB Jonathan Crompton's screen pass at the 2:07 mark in the fourth quarter. Rather than settling for a 23-23 tie, Tampa Bay went for two and succeeded on Crompton’s completion to WR Ed Gant.
The lead would prove to be a short-lived one, though. Washington third-string quarterback Kellen Clemens guided the Redskins offense 74 yards to the end zone in six plays, capped by his 41-yard hookup with WR Dante’ Stallworth. Washington’s two-point attempt failed, leaving the score 29-24.
Crompton attempted to replicate Clemens’ effectiveness with only 1:07 showing on the clock and starting from the Bucs’ own 17, but the night came to an end when the fourth-stringer was sacked by LB Edgar Jones before getting off a Hail Mary attempt.
The loss drops Tampa Bay’s preseason record to 2-2 before opening up the regular season next Sunday at home against the Detroit Lions.
No Buccaneers starter on either side of the ball saw playing time and the preseason finale was used primarily as a final exam for backups and players jockeying for position on the 53-man roster. All NFL teams must get rosters down to that number by 4 p.m. Saturday afternoon.
The Redskins took a slightly different tack, running out an array of starters on offense and defense. Washington’s entire starting offensive line began the game, as did QB John Beck, CB Josh Wilson and DE Adam Carriker. Beck is in competition with Rex Grossman for the first-string spot. Starting punt and kick returner Brandon Banks also was lining up deep and made his speedy presence felt by taking a punt 95 yards to the house with 12:15 left in the second quarter.
Conditions for Thursday’s game at FedEx Field were listed as 82 degrees and partly cloudy with a 5 mile-per-hour south-southeastern wind. Paid attendance was announced as 58,937 and the game last 3 hours and 23 minutes.
The Bucs defensive starters were as follows: LE Da’Quan Bowers, DT John McCargo, DT Brian Price, RE Tim Crowder, WLB Adam Hayward, SLB Simoni Lawrence, MLB Tyrone McKenzie, LCB Myron Lewis, RCB Elbert Mack, FS Larry Asante and SS Corey Lynch.
Tampa Bay lined up offensively with: WR Sammie Stroughter, LT James Lee, LG Marc Dile, C Matt Allen, RG Derek Hardman, RT Demar Dotson, TE Ryan Purvis, WR Dezmon Briscoe, QB Rudy Carpenter, RB Kregg Lumpkin and TE Derek Hardy.
After forcing a Washington turnover on the second overall play from scrimmage, things were quickly looking up for Tampa Bay. But it was virtually all Redskins from there on out in the first half. Defensive tackle John McCargo was in on jarring the ball loose from running back Evan Royster and DE Da’Quan Bowers was there for the recovery. Tampa Bay took over at the Washington 19 after Bowers was hit with a 5-yard illegal forward pass on the return.
Carpenter led the Bucs down to the Redskins 1-yard line, but the drive stalled out as Tampa Bay attempted to stick it in on fourth down. The offensive line and FB Erik Lorig failed to open any space in the middle and Lumpkin, battling for the team’s third-down back position, had nowhere to run.
Failing to either create running lanes or effectively hit them has plagued Tampa Bay throughout the preseason and the trend continued Thursday night in Washington. While the Buccaneers outgained the Redskins 396-335 in total offense, only 76 of those yards came on the ground. Tampa Bay did receive a strong, late-game effort from RB Mossis Madu, finishing with an eight-carry, 41-yard night that included a 25-yard burst that became the team’s longest rushing play from scrimmage this preseason.
Another black cloud that followed Tampa Bay up to Washington was its preseason problem with penalties. The Bucs hit triple-digits in infraction yardage for the second-straight week, penalized 14 times for 125 yards. They were hit 15 times for 135 yards last week against Miami and 12 times for 95 yards a week prior to that against New England.
Tampa Bay fell into its initial hole by giving the Redskins possession at the Bucs 2-yard line with 1:23 left in the opening period when Carpenter fumbled on a blindside sack from DE Rob Jackson on first down and outside linebacker Markus White recovered. The defense nearly held, but RB Evan Royster crossed the goal line with a 1-yard carry up the middle on third-and-goal.
The Bucs’ first-half deficit increased to 14-0 early in the second quarter after Crompton and the offense failed to convert on third-and-12 from the Tampa Bay 38. Banks’ aforementioned 95-yard touchdown return came on this Jacob Rogers punt.
None of the offense’s seven third-down possessions in the first half of play moved the chains. Carpenter threw an incompletion on third-and-7 with 3:27 left in the first, but the Bucs received a first down because of an unnecessary roughness flag thrown during the play on the Redskins free safety DeJon Gomes.
Washington’s lead grew to 17-0 just over three minutes later after Crompton’s first play of the ensuing drive was a pass intended for WR Micheal Spurlock that was instead picked off by Redskins cornerback Josh Wilson. Starting with a short field at the Tampa Bay 23, Beck moved Washington to the 4-yard line. The Buccaneers' red zone defense stiffened up, though, and limited the damage to a 22-yard Graham Gano field goal with 9:25 left in the half.
Tampa Bay went three-and-out on its next two drives of the half before Carpenter was able to engineer a 56-yard drive in seven plays and 35 seconds that set up Barth’s 42-yard field goal.
The teams traded field goals midway through the third (a 49-yarder from Rogers and 27-yarder from Gano) to make the score 20-6 before Tampa Bay finally found the end zone on the long Carpenter-to-Gant strike at the end of the period. Carpenter’s pass to Gant, running a slant from the right side, was thrown slightly behind the receiver but split defensive backs Reggie Jones and Keiland Williams. Gant made the catch, spun and was off to the races for the 96-yard score to bring the Bucs within a touchdown at 20-13.
The Redskins increased their lead to 23-13 with 9:16 remaining on Gano’s 35-yard field goal. The score was set up after Tampa Bay’s defense held Washington to a three-and-out, but punt returner Armando Allen, Jr. muffed the fair catch and it was recovered by Keiland Williams at the Tampa Bay 24. The Bucs defense again held its ground in the red zone and stopped Washington’s progress at the 17.
Tampa Bay got the three points back on its next drive with Rogers’ 21-yard field goal and then forced a Redskins three-and-out leading up to the previously described final sequences. The 81-yard field goal drive stalled out at the Washington 3-yard line and was highlighted by Mossis Madu’s 25-yard run, TE Ryan Purvis’s 28-yard catch and another Gant grab for 25. Gant’s two catches allowed him to lead all receivers with 121 yards.
That 25-yard reception by Gant was also Tampa Bay’s only third-down conversion on the night. The Bucs finished 1-for-14 in that category. On the game’s final drive, Crompton did convert a fourth-and-10 with a 14-yard completion to Maurice Price. Overall, Tampa Bay matched Washington with 19 total first downs.
The majority of the night’s positive highlights for Tampa Bay came in the second half, aside from cornerback D.J. Johnson’s interception in the end zone and the early fumble recovery. Safety Devin Holland got in the turnover action with a third-quarter, red-zone interception of his own in the end zone.
Tampa Bay surrendered 123 rushing yards Thursday night to the Redskins, but only a 3.8-yard average. Washington entered the game with the league’s top-ranked ground attack, averaging 152.3 yards per game.
Carpenter (9-of-18 for 211 yards and a touchdown) and Crompton (12-of-22 for 149 yards, a touchdown and an interception) combined for 360 yards through the air. Ten different Buccaneers recorded receptions, with Price, Spurlock and Madu each pulling in three.
The Bucs leading tacklers Thursday night were LB Simoni Lawrence (10), CB Elbert Mack (nine) and LB Tyrone McKenzie (seven).
Tampa Bay will now have nine days off to first slim down its roster and then prepare for Week 1 and the Detroit Lions. The home game at Raymond James Stadium will kickoff at 1:00 p.m.