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DEFENSIVE LINE Tampa Bay's defense ranked 31st in the NFL heading into Sunday's contest vs. Washington, but you wouldn't have known it by the way this unit play against the Redskins, especially in the first half. The Bucs defense set the tone early. On Washington's first four possessions, the Redskins produced just 26 yards, and the Bucs recorded two sacks and two turnovers in the first quarter alone.
The Bucs defensive line played with a chip on its shoulder and was led by defensive end Gaines Adams. On the second play of the game, Adams recorded his first sack of the season by beating Redskins left tackle Chris Samuels to bring down quarterback Jason Campbell. One play later, Adams rushed well from the left side, forcing Campbell to move up in the pocket, which allowed defensive tackle Jimmy Wilkerson to record the sack and force a fumble. Adams recovered the loose ball at Washington's 15-yard line. That turnover led to a touchdown for the Bucs offense, which put the team up 7-0 early.
Adams, who entered Sunday's game with a groin injury, continued to impress on the second drive of the game. On third-and-7, Adams was stopped in his tracks on a pass rush attempt, but wisely jumped up to deflect Campbell's pass at the line of scrimmage to force the incompletion and punt. Midway through the second quarter, Adams did a great job of shedding a block at right end and penetrating the offensive backfield to stuff Redskins running back Clinton Portis for a 1-yard loss.
Washington finished the first half with 99 yards of offense and three turnovers. But the offense's inability to sustain drives caused the Bucs defense to go through a tough third quarter.
A fatigued Bucs defense allowed Washington's offense to engineer all three of its scoring drives in the third quarter. The first came off a Bucs QB Josh Johnson interception. That led to a 42-yard field goal by the Redskins after an 18-yard drive. But the next two drives ended with Campbell throwing touchdown passes to tight end Chris Cooley and wide receiver Santana Moss. It took the Redskins just 11 plays to go 128 yards for two touchdowns on those particular drives.
Portis also found success running the football in the second half. He finished the game with 98 yards on 25 carries (3.9 avg.) with a long of 10. Washington produced 125 yards rushing on 35 carries (3.6 avg.) vs. Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay's pass rush was its best of the season in the first half, but this unit didn't have enough pressure on Campbell in the second half.
The Bucs were extremely active and much more physical in the trenches. Adams led Tampa Bay's defensive linemen with five tackles, one sack, two tackles for a loss, one fumble recovery and one pass defensed. Defensive tackles Ryan Sims and Chris Hovan had five and one tackles, respectively. Wilkerson notched three tackles, one sack and one forced fumbles. Reserve D-linemen Tim Crowder and Stylez G. White had four and two tackles, respectively. Rookie DT Roy Miller contributed three tackles.
The Bucs held the Redskins to just 277 yards of offense on Sunday. In addition, Washington converted just 4-of-14 (29 percent) of its third down attempts vs. Tampa Bay.
LINEBACKERS The speed of the Bucs linebackers gave the Redskins some trouble Sunday. On the second drive of the game, Bucs second-year LB Geno Hayes worked his way into the backfield and stuffed RB Ladell Betts for a 1-yard loss. On the next drive, Hayes showcased his speed and form tackling again, this time bursting into the offensive backfield from the left side and tackling Mike Sellers for a 1-yard loss. Hayes finished the game with seven tackles, two for a loss and one pass defensed.
Bucs LB Quincy Black contributed as well. Late in the second quarter on third-and-10, Black brought down a scrambling QB Jason Campbell for a sack, which took the ‘Skins out of field goal range and forced a punt. Black recorded eight tackles, one sack, two tackles for a loss and one quarterback hurry on Sunday.
Bucs middle linebacker Barrett Ruud quietly led the team in tackles with nine and was effective against the run as most of Washington's success via the ground game came along the perimeter.
Campbell's mobility gave the Bucs defense some problems. He rushed seven times for 20 yards, including a long of 13.
SECONDARY Bucs second-year cornerback Aqib Talib had an interception sail through his hands in Tampa Bay's 24-0 loss to New York last Sunday. Against the Redskins, Talib appeared to be determined to not let that happen again.
In the second quarter with Washington driving in Tampa Bay territory, the Redskins elected to go for it on fourth down. Redskins QB Jason Campbell's pass to WR Malcolm Kelly was intercepted by Talib, who returned the ball to Tampa Bay's 47-yard line. In the same quarter with Washington facing a third-and-2 situation, Campbell attempted to test Tampa Bay deep by launching a pass to Kelly, but Talib showcased his athleticism by notching his second interception of the game and season. He also returned the ball 31 yards to Tampa Bay's 43.
But Talib wasn't perfect. He was involved in Tampa Bay's defensive woes in the third quarter. On the first play of Washington's drive, Campbell dropped back and threw a deep pass down the right sideline to WR Santana Moss, who beat Talib for a 59-yard touchdown, which put the ‘Skins up over the Bucs, 16-10. On the next series, Talib responded well. Campbell attempted to test Talib again by pump-faking and throwing deep down the right sideline for Moss, but this time Talib had perfect coverage and leaped up in the air to haul in his third interception of the game. Talib also returned the ball to near midfield. Talib held Moss to two catches and finished the game with four tackles and three interceptions.
Talib wasn't the only Bucs defender that made some plays in the secondary Sunday. Tampa Bay CB Ronde Barber had three tackles and two passes defensed. Bucs safety Sabby Piscitelli defended a pass to tight end Chris Cooley on a third-and-13 play late in the first quarter. On the next series, Campbell's pass to WR Santana Moss on a third-and-4 play was nearly intercepted by S Will Allen. Piscitelli almost came up with an interception late in the second quarter when Campbell's pass across the middle hit the official's head and hung in the air for a few seconds, but Piscitelli couldn't come away with the pick. Piscitelli finished the game with four tackles and one pass defensed.
The Bucs had some trouble containing Cooley in the third quarter. Cooley's fifth catch of the game was a 17-yard touchdown reception from Campbell, which made the score 10-9. Cooley beat Allen across the middle of the field on the scoring play. Cooley finished the game with five receptions for 65 yards and one score. Allen finished the contest with one tackle and one pass defensed.
Tampa Bay's defense allowed Washington to hit the TD strikes to Cooley and Moss, but Campbell completed just 12-of-22 (54.5 percent) passes for 170 yards and threw three interceptions. The Redskins also converted just 4-of-12 (29 percent) of their third down attempts.
SPECIAL TEAMS Tampa Bay dominated the first half of Sunday's game in Washington. However, the Bucs failed to build a big lead vs. the ‘Skins due to kicker Mike Nugent's woes. Nugent, who was 0-of-2 heading into this contest, missed his first two field goal attempts vs. Washington. His first miss was from 49 yards out. His second miss was from 48 yards out. Both misses were off to the right, with the second bouncing off the upright. With just two seconds remaining in the first half, Nugent's 37-yard field goal attempt appeared to go wide right again, but it snuck inside the upright for three points, which put the Bucs up 10-0 at halftime. Late in fourth quarter, Nugent drilled a 22-yard field goal to make the score 16-13 in favor of Washington. However, his two missed field goals proved to be quite costly in the Redskins' 16-13 win over the Bucs.
In first quarter, Dirk Johnson pinned the Redskins on their own 5-yard line. Johnson had a good game, averaging 43.4 yards per punt on five attempts. He had a long of 51.
Bucs return specialist Clifton Smith averaged just 4.5 yards per punt return on two attempts. He was better on kickoff returns, averaging 31 yards per attempt in that department.
Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber blocked Washington's extra point attempt in the third quarter to keep the score at 10-9 in favor of the Bucs. Barber came in free off the left side to block the kick.
Wide receiver Maurice Stovall recorded three tackles on special teams. Bucs linebacker Quincy Black was called for holding on Smith's kickoff return in the third quarter.
COACHING The winless Bucs looked much improved Sunday, but against a bad Redskins team. Tampa Bay put itself in great position to win this contest by jumping out to a 10-0 lead in the first half. The Bucs defense notched three sacks, four turnovers and held the Redskins to 277 yards and 29 percent on third downs, which should have been good enough to win.
But Tampa Bay's offense struggled mightily with second-year QB Josh Johnson making his first career start. The Bucs had just 229 yards and converted 2-of-13 (15 percent) of their third downs. Tampa Bay's only touchdown of the game came on a possession that started on Washington's 15-yard line thanks to a turnover.
The Bucs were called for five penalties for 40 yards, but a few of those infractions really cost the offense. The defense struggled in the third quarter, allowing the ‘Skins to score all 16 of their points. Defensive coordinator Jim Bates should have been more aggressive in terms of calling blitzes as the front four didn't get to Campbell enough in the second half. Bucs offensive coordinator Greg Olson should have dialed up more running plays for RB Cadillac Williams, who rushed for 77 yards (4.8 avg.) in this game.
But perhaps the biggest mistake the coaching staff made came late in the fourth quarter. With Tampa Bay trailing Washington 16-10, the Bucs offense faced a fourth-and-goal situation from the ‘Skins' 4-yard line. The Bucs had timeouts and the two-minute warning at their disposal, but head coach Raheem Morris elected to have Nugent kick a 22-yard field goal to make the score 16-13. Tampa Bay's defense forced Washington's offense to punt, but the Bucs got the ball back at their own 19-yard line with 1:52 remaining in the game. The Bucs' hopes of winning the game ended when RB Clifton Smith fumbled the ball on a third-and-1 carry, which allowed the ‘Skins to secure the ball and win. Critics will naturally second-guess Morris' decision to kick the field goal instead of going for the touchdown.