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Washington defensive coordinator Greg Williams sent a plethora of blitzes at Tampa Bay’s offense, and Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson didn’t fare well against the Redskins as a result of the tremendous pressure. Johnson did, however, have time to hit receivers, but he seemed to be uncomfortable in the pocket. He didn’t display much patience, which resulted in him dumping the ball off for short gains and pass attempts, which just didn’t get the job done on Sunday. Tampa Bay’s offense was so bad that it didn’t even get its first third-down conversion of the game until there was 7:36 remaining in the second quarter. Had kick returner Frank Murphy not come up with a huge return to Washington’s 35-yard line and cornerback Ronde Barber returned a Redskins fumble nine yards for a touchdown, the Bucs would’ve been blanked in this contest.
Not only did the Bucs offense not score points, but it gave some up. Redskins safety Matt Bowen got by fullback Mike Alstott and sacked Johnson in the first quarter, which caused a fumble and allowed the ‘Skins to recover the ball on Tampa Bay’s 35-yard line. That turnover led to kicker John Hall’s 20-yard field goal. In the fourth quarter, Johnson threw an ill-advised interception right into the hands of linebacker Antonio Pierce, which killed the Bucs’ momentum and gave the ‘Skins the ball on Tampa Bay’s 39-yard line. That turnover also led to a field goal and gave the Redskins a 13-10 lead.
Johnson was sacked four times Sunday by Washington’s defense, but not all of those quarterback takedowns were the offensive line’s fault. Johnson could have done a better job of recognizing the blitz and getting rid of the ball sooner. Even if they weren’t completed, some deep passes would’ve helped to keep Washington’s safeties and cornerbacks back in the secondary instead of up in the box. Speaking of deep passes, Johnson’s best pass of the game came in the first quarter when he threw a perfect 30-yard strike in the end zone to wide receiver Joey Galloway, who dropped the pass and left the game with what is believed to be a serious groin injury. Losing Galloway and having absolutely no running game definitely hindered Johnson and the Bucs offense on Sunday.
Johnson was 24-of-37 (64.8 percent) for 169 yards and tossed one interception.
*Tampa Bay converted just 3-of-13 (23 percent) third down attempts against Washington.
Tampa Bay’s ground game didn’t exist Sunday. In defense of tailback Charlie Garner, who rushed 11 times for 25 yards (2.3 avg.) and fullback Mike Alstott, who carried the ball four times for five yards (1.3 avg.), the offensive line didn’t open up any holes for Tampa Bay’s ball carriers.
Both Garner and Alstott struggled to pick up Washington’s linebacker and defensive back blitzes, which proved to be costly. In the first quarter, Alstott failed to block Redskins blitzing safety Matt Bowen, who then sacked QB Brad Johnson and forced a fumble, which the Redskins recovered on Tampa Bay’s 35-yard line. That turnover eventually resulted in a ‘Skins field goal, which gave Washington a 10-0 lead.
Alstott did, however, make some tough runs in short-yardage and goal line situations to pick up a few first downs. He also hauled in three passes for 17 yards, including a pass thrown in the flat that went for Tampa Bay’s first third-down conversion of the game midway through the second quarter. Garner had one catch for four yards and dropped a pass thrown by Johnson. He also had a nice blitz pickup on TE Rickey Dudley’s 24-yard reception off a play-action pass in the third quarter.
*The Bucs rushed 15 times for 30 yards (2.0 avg.) against the Redskins.
Tampa Bay’s wide receivers weren’t very effective against Washington’s secondary. Bucs wide receiver Joey Galloway, who likely would have played a big part in stretching Washington’s defense Sunday, left the game in the first quarter with what is believed to be a severe groin injury. Galloway re-injured his groin on a play where QB Brad Johnson threw a perfect strike into the end zone intended for the wide receiver, but Galloway dropped the pass and collapsed in pain.
Bucs WR Tim Brown displayed good hands and a knack for finding soft spots in zone coverage, but he simply wasn’t fast enough to get enough separation from defenders. He finished the game with four catches for 23 yards. Brown was the intended receiver on Johnson’s interception in the fourth quarter.
Rookie WR Michael Clayton might have been Tampa Bay’s most solid receiver. He hauled in a team-high seven catches for 53 yards, including a 12-yarder. Clayton did, however, drop a pass from Johnson in the first half that would’ve given the Bucs offense their first first down of the game.
Backup WR Bill Schroeder recorded two catches for 26 yards, including a 19-yarder.
Tampa Bay’s offense featured some two-tight-end sets on Sunday, but neither Ken Dilger nor Rickey Dudley could help open holes for the Bucs’ running backs. While both Dilger and Dudley were on the receiving end of several of Johnson’s passes, neither player was special on Sunday. Dilger caught three passes for 12 yards, and Dudley hauled in two passes for 31 yards, including a 24-yarder in the third quarter.
Tampa Bay’s offensive line will likely be heavily criticized for the Bucs’ loss to the Redskins, but it wasn’t all of their fault, especially in pass protection. The Bucs offensive line, consisting of left tackle Derrick Deese, left guard Matt Stinchcomb, center John Wade, right guard Cosey Coleman and right tackle Todd Steussie, actually provided quarterback Brad Johnson with decent time to hit receivers in the first half. However, for some reason, Johnson appeared to be uncomfortable throwing out of the pocket, checked down too quickly and didn’t give his receivers enough time to get separation.
This unit was not able to open up any holes in the running game and was pushed around in the trenches too often. Deese was flagged for a false start in the third quarter, which took the Bucs out of field goal range, and Steussie allowed Redskins defensive end and Ron Warner to sack Johnson in the fourth quarter. That play put the Bucs in a third-and-14 situation.
While Johnson was sacked a total of four times Sunday, only one of those quarterback takedowns came against a member of Tampa Bay’s offensive line (Steussie). Two sacks were notched by ‘Skins safety Matt Bowen and one came on the last play of the game when linebacker LaVar Arrington blitzed and brought Johnson down to secure the win.
However, much of Tampa Bay’s offensive woes resulted from the offensive line’s inability to open up holes in the running game. That left the Bucs offense one-dimensional and Johnson, who is not mobile, vulnerable on pass plays.
Tampa Bay’s defensive line failed to generate a potent pass rush and allowed Washington tailback Clinton Portis to control the game. Portis took his first carry as a Redskin 64 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, which was not the start the Bucs wanted to get off to, especially on the road. Being “undersized” had nothing to do with Tampa Bay’s inability to stop Portis on that run. On that particular run play, Portis ran a counter and when he cut from the left to the right, there wasn’t a single Bucs defender standing between he and the end zone. Portis rushed 29 times for 148 yards (5.1 avg.) and scored one touchdown. Backup RB Ladell Betts rushed for 17 yards on five carries (3.4 avg.).
Tampa Bay’s starting defensive linemen — defensive ends Simeon Rice and Greg Spires, and defensive tackles Anthony McFarland and Chartric Darby — didn’t do a good job of putting pressure on Washington quarterback Mark Brunell. In fact, the Bucs didn’t record one sack and their defensive line was getting blown off the ball throughout the first half by an average Washington offensive line.
However, reserve DT Ellis Wyms, who played at both under and nose tackle on Sunday, lit a fire under his defensive teammates by absolutely leveling Brunell on two different pass plays. Wyms, who notched three tackles, also did a nice job against the run, as did the rest of the defense after Portis’ big 64-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. However, the Bucs defense failed to keep Portis from picking up some big first downs late in the game, which kept the ball out of the hands of Tampa Bay’s offense.
Rice, who was handled by ‘Skins left tackle Chris Samuels, notched three tackles. Spires recorded five tackles. Darby had three tackles, and McFarland had a very quiet game and finished the contest with just one tackle.
Bucs backup DT Damian Gregory recorded one tackle and was called for holding on Portis’ 10-yard run in the first half.
*Washington rushed 40 times for 166 yards (4.2 avg.) against Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay’s linebackers had a very active game. Middle LB Shelton Quarles, who missed all four of the Bucs’ preseason contests with a wrist fracture, notched a team-high 13 tackles on Sunday. However, Quarles appeared to one of several players to overpursue on RB Clinton Portis’ 64-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, which proved to be costly.
Weakside LB Derrick Brooks recorded six tackles, but he missed a few tackles in the first half after attempting to bring down Portis and WR Laveranues Coles with arm-tackling technique. Several other Bucs players did the same thing on Sunday, which resulted in some big runs and pass plays for the Redskins. Brooks also was called for a 15-yard facemask penalty late in the fourth quarter on a third-down play.
Strongside LB Ian Gold was pretty impressive in his debut. He notched four tackles, but he missed a tackle on Portis late in the fourth quarter that would have forced a fourth down for the Redskins. Instead, the ‘Skins got a fresh set of downs, ran more time off the clock and eventually kicked a field goal to give Washington a 16-10 lead.
*Washington was 6-of-17 (35 percent) on third down attempts Sunday.
Despite not having a potent pass rush delivered by its defensive line, Tampa Bay’s secondary played well Sunday and only allowed Washington QB Mark Brunell to compete 13 of 24 passes (54 percent) for 125 yards.
Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber had a strong game. He came close to picking Brunell off twice, but his pass breakups were still big and impressive plays. Late in the third quarter, Barber recovered a quarterback-running back exchange and returned the ball nine yards for a touchdown, which tied the game at 10-10. Barber finished the game with two tackles.
Barber’s partner in crime, CB Brian Kelly, recorded three tackles and played well.
Strong safety Dwight Smith spent a lot of time in the box in an effort to slow down Washington’s ground attack in the first half. Smith was effective there and in pass coverage, where he broke up a pass intended for Redskins tight end Walter Rasby in the second quarter. However, Smith also appeared to be caught out of position on RB Clinton Portis’ counter run that resulted in a 64-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Smith finished the game with five tackles.
Free safety Jermaine Phillips had a quiet game and didn’t record a tackle.
One of the reasons Tampa Bay’s secondary fared well without a consistent pass rush was because of the upgrade made at the nickel corner position. Mario Edwards played well and recorded three tackles on Sunday.
Tampa Bay received outstanding play from kicker returner Frank Murphy, who returned four kickoffs for 125 yards (31.3 avg.) against Washington. Murphy even returned a kickoff 71 yards in the first quarter, but a holding infraction by rookie S Will Allen negated the great return. He returned a kickoff 54 yards later in the first quarter to Washington’s 34-yard line, and that one counted. It set up kicker Martin Gramatica’s 47-yard field goal. Had Murphy’s 71-yard kickoff return stood, he would have averaged 41 yards per return. Needless to say, Murphy was outstanding Sunday.
While Gramatica drilled his only field goal attempt of the afternoon, his kickoffs were inconsistent. One was even fielded at the 30-yard line, which was obviously well short of the end zone.
Punter Josh Bidwell, who got plenty of work in, was a bit inconsistent as well. He punted nine times and averaged 40.1 yards per attempt. Three of his punts went inside the 20-yard line, but his 28-yard punt in the first quarter gave Washington great field position.
With WR Joey Galloway sidelined with a groin injury, Bill Schroeder handled punt returns and had a 13-yard return.
Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden didn’t have an answer for Washington defensive coordinator Greg Williams’ blitz packages until the start of the second half. The Bucs had three straight three-and-outs and a fumble to start the game, which obviously put the offense in a hole. However, Gruden got the Bucs to move the ball on offense in the second half by calling some play-action plays. This helped to keep Washington’s defensive backs and linebackers out of Tampa Bay’s offensive backfield. But with no legitimate ground attack, the play-action plays could only be called a few times and weren’t as effective as they could have been with a potent ground game. Word has it that Gruden planned to test Washington’s secondary early and often with WR Joey Galloway, but he re-injured his groin in the first quarter, which left the Bucs without their speedy deep threat.
Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin did a nice job of getting his players to settle down after RB Clinton Portis’ big 64-yard run in the first quarter, but he’s still got to be a bit concerned with the lack of pass rush and the amount of success Washington had running on his group. Teams will continue to follow this blueprint until the Bucs defense can once again show that they are capable of stopping the run and dominating in the trenches.
Special teams coach Richard Bisaccia’s troops are already 10 times better than last year. Frank Murphy gives the Bucs a real chance of finally returning a kickoff for a touchdown, but in the meantime, he’ll likely continue to get the Bucs offense good field position. They’re apparently going to need it.
*Tampa Bay was outgained by Washington on offense, 291-180 yards.
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