WASHINGTON – Rookie receiver Mike Evans turned in a near record-setting day and the Tampa Bay defense delivered its best all-around performance of the season as the Buccaneers traveled to Washington and dismantled the Redskins, 27-7.
The victory put an end to Tampa Bay’s five-game losing streak and bumped its overall record up to 2-8. Because of widespread ineptitude in the NFC South, the Bucs remarkably still find themselves only two games out of first place behind division-leaders Atlanta and New Orleans. Both teams are currently 4-6 and Carolina is in third at 3-7-1.
“I feel like we’ve been getting better,” Bucs head coach Lovie Smith said. “We haven’t been able to finish games, but we’ve seen progress. At times we’ve looked like a pretty good football team [but] breaks have gone against us. Coming in we saw an opportunity for us. We needed to finish the game and play 60 [minutes], and they did that.”
Evans continued to live up to his selection at No. 7 in this past spring’s NFL Draft on Sunday by torching the Redskins for 209 yards and two touchdowns on seven receptions. The rookie’s career day came seven yards shy of matching Vincent Jackson’s single-game franchise record of 216 set in a 2012 home loss against New Orleans. He’s also the first rookie wideout since 2003 to go for 200 yards and two touchdowns and the first rookie to get three 100-yard games since Randy Moss.
“It means a lot,” Evans said of his big day and the accolades. “Starting the week our goal was to go 1-0 and we did that; we played Buc football. The defense was flying around, playing fast and the offense was making plays.
“The win’s more important,” he continued. “But those things as an individual and as a kid looking up to guys like Randy Moss – being in the same category as him is great. Last night I watched ‘Rand University,’ Randy Moss’s [ESPN] 30 for 30 and it inspired me.”
Smith took time for the third straight week to speak about Evans’ continued development.
“As a rookie there is just so much you have to learn about being in the NFL,” Smith said of Evans. “Rookies don’t sit in first class. They’re in the back. They’re at the bottom of the pole on a lot of things. You’re an afterthought. Mike has been working in practice. [We’re] seeing his development as a receiver, running routes, catching and blocking – just kind of buying in.”
Both of Evans’ touchdowns came on deep-route hookups from quarterback Josh McCown. The first was a wide-open, 36-yarder in the third quarter that put Tampa Bay up 20-7. Evans took advantage of a mismatch on the next one early in the fourth when linebacker Perry Riley, Jr. couldn’t keep up and surrendered a 56-yarder that was the final score of the day.
“It’s a great pleasure to throw to Mike,” McCown said of Evans. “He’s already started to become a good player. The main reason why it’s a pleasure is because it helped us win the ball game. That’s what it’s about right now. When you’re 1-8 you just want to win.”
Tampa Bay did the majority of its offensive damage through the air, as McCown threw for 288 yards on 15 of 23 passing. The Bucs ran the ball 21 times but picked up just 48 yards. Recently activated rookie Charles Sims struggled to get going for the second straight week, picking up just 36 yards on 13 carries and Bobby Rainey was a non-factor with 4 yards on five attempts.
“For Josh, he had an injury early on and we never got a chance to see and look at what he can do,” Smith said of his veteran quarterback. “He’s come back strong – thought he played well last week. He’s the leader of our group. [I] thought he made great decisions in terms of knowing when to pull it down and making all of the right throws. Great ball by him today.”
It was the Bucs defense, though, that got things going Sunday at FedExField.
The very first play from scrimmage ended with linebacker Danny Lansanah picking off a deflected pass from Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III. Tampa Bay had to settle for a 32-yard Patrick Murray field goal, but the game’s tone was set.
“Coach Lovie Smith, he preaches to us every week, ‘turnovers, turnovers, turnovers,’ ” said defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, who finished with four tackles, a sack and two quarterback hits. “And that’s the difference between the games we won and the games we lost, we were getting turnovers early. That’s the type of team we have to be the rest of the season. That’s how we have to show up each and every game.”
Tampa Bay entered Sunday minus-7 in turnover margin and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier spoke at length this week about generating more turnovers by taking advantage of situations that present themselves. His players responded to that call immediately in Washington with two interceptions of Griffin in the first quarter. The Redskins third drive of the opening quarter ended with cornerback Johnthan Banks snatching another deflected pass and returning it 19 yards for the team’s third pick-6 of the season.
“I quick-jumped the guy,” Banks said of grabbing his third interception of the season. “He went inside and when I turned around the ball was in the air. It was a gift, a gift from God. I just ran under, got out in front with a couple of blockers and took it to the end zone.”
Bucs defenders also recovered one of Washington’s four fumbles and eventual won the turnover battle 3-1.
Tampa Bay’s lone loss of possession came early in the second quarter when return man Marcus Thigpen muffed a punt after waving for a fair catch. Despite giving Washington the ball at Tampa Bay’s own 17, the Bucs came out unscathed thanks to back-to-back sacks by defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and defensive end Jacquies Smith that pushed the Redskins back to the 29. Kicker Kai Forbath then pushed his 47-yard field goal wide right, setting up Tampa Bay’s next scoring drive that ended with Murray booting a 38-yarder for a 13-0 advantage.
The sacks were two of Tampa Bay’s season-high six on the day. A previously non-existent pass rush suddenly began harassing Griffin from start to finish Sunday. Jacquies Smith led the way with two sacks and the Bucs registered 11 quarterback hits.
Washington’s lone score of the day came late in the first half when a Bucs blitz left it exposed to Griffin’s screen pass to running back Roy Helu that went for a 30-yard touchdown. That cut Tampa Bay’s lead to 13-7 but the Redskins never got any closer than the Bucs 32 early in the third quarter – and that ended with Forbath’s 50-yard, wide-right miss.
“There were a few situations where they had the momentum and our defense kind of stepped up and made plays,” Lovie Smith said. “That’s what they’re supposed to do. That’s our kind of ball.”
Tampa Bay limited Griffin to 207 yards through the air on 23 of 32 passing and 41 yards rushing on six attempts. Running back Alfred Morris led Washington’s 155-yard rushing day with 96 yards on 20 carries.
Weakside linebacker and tackling machine Lavonte David paced Tampa Bay with 12 total tackles, followed by safety Major Wright’s nine. McCoy, linebacker Mason Foster and safety Dashon Goldson each had five.
“Even through the disappointing season we’ve had, Lavonte David has been the same way,” Lovie Smith said. “The best outside linebacker in the game every time he’s on the field.”
Tampa Bay hits the road again next week and will travel for a 1 p.m. game at Soldier Field to take on the Chicago Bears (4-6).
Sunday’s temperature at kickoff was 45 degrees, skies were sunny and the announced paid attendance at FedExField was 77,442.
Buccaneers reported defensive starters: LE William Gholston, DT Gerald McCoy, DT Clinton McDonald, RE Michael Johnson, SLB Danny Lansanah, MLB Mason Foster, WLB Lavonte David, CB Crezdon Butler, CB Johnthan Banks, S Dashon Goldson and S Major Wright.
Buccaneers reported offensive starters: WR Vincent Jackson, LT Anthony Collins, LG Logan Mankins, C Evan Dietrich-Smith, RG Patrick Omameh, RT Demar Dotson, FB Jorvorskie Lane, WR Mike Evans, QB Josh McCown, RB Bobby Rainey and TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
The only active Bucs players not to enter Sunday’s game were QB Mike Glennon and RB Mike James.
Tampa Bay’s inactives were RB Doug Martin, WR Robert Herron, TE Luke Stocker, T Kevin Pamphile, CB Alterraun Verner, CB C.J. Wilson and DE Da’Quan Bowers.
Congrats to my Bucs! This feels great. Win as many as you can and we’ll let the chips fall where they may come draft time. Go Bucs!
Absolutely fantastic! Pewter Report you were correct about McCown and I am so glad I was wrong! I’ve been seeing improvement here and there, but we couldn’t get it together until today. Go Bucs!
Very nice to recall what winning feels like – I managed to take this one in in-person, so a little extra satisfying for me. Evans was excellent, the pass rush finally showed up, and most impressive to me was the OLine holding up against a decent DLine. Washington is awful though – let’s not let this one go to our heads…if RGIII could hit wide open WRs and their kicker could hit field goals, we would have been in OT. Still, great that we took it to them in their own stadium and did well in the cold. Go Bucs!
It will be a good week in Tampa. Great win for Bucs. Though we are only 2-8 we can anticipate less gloom and doom and more optimism.we should have a fighting chance in Chicago . Great game Mike Evans!. Go Bucs….
In the words of that old cologne commercial, “Thanks, I needed that.”
I’m stationed up here in ‘skins country and this win will make it a whole lot easier to walk into the office this morning!!! That and those bets I made, thanks TBay!
Enjoy the win, will it be the last one, or is it 1996 all over again? Did it cost us a shot at a blue chip player come April? I hope we win out. I hope Arroyo is called a boy genius by season’s end. The rest of the way just got interesting. By the way, how does a defense with the best D end in college football, Gregory, Nebraska, get blown out so bad?
Nice win and congratulations to the Bucs. As a long time fan I needed that. I can only imagine how much the coaches and players needed it too. Go Bucs!
I thought they would start to gel soon. Nice. I don’t expect a lot of wins the remainder of the season, but it is nice to get one.
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