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DEFENSIVE LINE Rushing from the left side of the line on Washington’s second third down situation, defensive end Dewayne White, who started in place of the injured Simeon Rice, pressured quarterback Jason Campbell and nearly forced a fumble. The result was Washington was forced to punt, though. White did sack Campbell in the fourth quarter on second-and-10 to set up third-and-14. The Redskins fumbled on the next play. In addition to the sack, White recorded three tackles and one pass defensed and was credited with two quarterback hurries.
Greg Spires recorded half a sack in the first half and came close to getting to Campbell a couple of times. Spires finished with four tackles.
Under tackle Jovan Haye took out Juran Bolden’s left knee with some friendly fire midway through the fourth quarter. Haye finished with one tackle, backing up Jon Bradley. Bradley, who was starting at under tackle in place of the injured Ellis Wyms, recorded four tackles and had one quarterback hurry.
Nose tackle Chris Hovan was solid in rush defense with three tackles. He also provided a pretty good interior push in the passing game and recorded two quarterback hurries.
Rookie defensive ends Julian Jenkins and Charles Bennett saw extensive action in the second half and played reasonably well. Bennett was credited with a quarterback hurry and Jenkins almost got in on the sack that Spires and cornerback Ronde Barber shared.
Tampa Bay’s defensive line aided the shutdown of Washington’s running game and put decent pressure on Campbell.
LINEBACKERS Ryan Nece gave up a touchdown pass to tight end Chris Cooley in the third quarter. Cooley scored against zone defense when Nece was trailing him and Derrick Brooks slid too far to the left to create a passing lane. Nece had one tackle, one pass defensed and did a good reasonably fair job on Cooley, holding him to 58 yards on five catches. His pass breakup was in the end zone on a pass intended for tight end Todd Yoder.
Brooks led the team with eight tackles, including seven solo stops, but dropped a potential interception on Washington’s last drive. The Redskins scored a touchdown on the next play. Brooks and middle linebacker Barrett Ruud blew the coverage on Yoder, who caught a 4-yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone to pull Washington to 20-17.
Ruud, who was filling in for injured starter Shelton Quarles, finished with six tackles and played the run rather well. Washington rushed for 64 yards on 20 carries (3.2 avg.). Ruud’s speed and ability to make plays sideline to sideline is an improvement over Quarles, who has been slowed by injuries this season. Ruud has now put two solid back-to-back games together.
Tampa Bay’s linebackers helped do a good job of shutting down the run, but gave up two touchdowns to tight ends.
DEFENSIVE BACKS Cornerback Ronde Barber split a sack with Spires on third down to force Washington to settle for a 43-yard field goal. But Barber’s coverage, especially in the second and fourth quarters, was not up to his standards and was a bit lax. In addition to his half sack, Barber had eight tackles, which tied Brooks for the team lead, one QB hurry and one pass defensed.
Cornerback Torrie Cox had an illegal hands to the face call in the second half and had his struggles, but did make a nice pass breakup of Brandon Lloyd late in the third quarter on third down to force a punt. His coverage was better than it was a week ago, but Washington’s receiving corps of Lloyd, James Thrash and Antwaan Randle El isn’t exactly a collection of Pro Bowlers. Cox had three tackles in addition to his pass breakup.
Cornerback Juran Bolden was flagged for a holding call on Washington’s third-quarter touchdown, but made up for his gaffe by recovering a fumble in the fourth quarter that was forced by strong safety Jermaine Phillips before leaving midway through the fourth quarter with a bad left knee injury. Bolden was carted off the field with 9:00 left and finished with one tackle and one fumble recovery.
In the first quarter, Phillips missed an easy sack on Jason Campbell, who danced around Phillips and made a big throw to pick up a first down. However, this may have been Phillips’ best game of the year as he finished with six tackles, three passes defensed, one quarterback hurry and that key forced fumble.
Bucs safety Will Allen had three tackles and wasn’t too aggressive in zone coverage or run support.
The concentration level of Tampa Bay’s secondary seemed to drift at times, and allowed rookie quarterback Jason Campbell to complete 19-of-34 passes (55.8 percent) for 196 yards, two touchdowns and a 92.3 QB rating. There were too many open looks, too much cushion and no interceptions. Tampa Bay’s DBs did knock down five passes, though, and didn’t allow a receiver to score.
SPECIAL TEAMS Linebacker Antoine Cash was late running on the field for the Bucs’ first punt. That’s inexcusable for Week 11 in the NFL season and cost Tampa Bay a 5-yard penalty.
After Matt Bryant’s 26-yard field goal, Bryant had a bad kickoff and then drew a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty for a late hit on Rock Cartwright. Late in the third quarter, Bryant kicked a ball out of bounds, which gave Washington a first down at the 40-yard line. Bryant did atone for his mistake with a 31-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter to give Tampa Bay a 20-10 lead.
Ike Hilliard and Phillip Buchanon returned punts for Tampa Bay with Hilliard averaging 6.5 yards on two returns and Buchanon returning one for seven yards.
Punter Josh Bidwell had a solid day, averaging 48.7 yards with a 49.3 net due to Tampa Bay’s swarming coverage. Bidwell had one punt downed inside the 20 and didn’t have any touchbacks.
Tampa Bay’s Michael Pittman averaged only 17 yards per kickoff return on three attempts with a long of 20. Washington’s Rock Cartwright had three returns for a 21.7 average.
Safety Kalvin Pearson had two of Tampa Bay’s four special teams stops. Special teams was nothing special against Washington, except for Michael Clayton’s onside kick recovery, but didn’t really hurt the Bucs too badly in any area.
COACHING Bucs head coach Jon Gruden did a great job of using all of his backs – Cadillac Williams, Mike Alstott, Michael Pittman and Jerald Sowell – against Washington. Alstott and Sowell provided great blocks, while Alstott sparked the running game in the first quarter with 25 yards on three carries. The defensive fronts and the scoreboard allowed Gruden to stay committed to the running game for all four quarters and he didn’t stray from it. He also picked the right play calls for Bruce Gradkowski, who finished 14-of-21 (66.6 percent) passing with four drops. Factor in those four drops and Gradkowski was 18-of-21 (85.7 percent). Tampa Bay outgained Washington 359-252 yards and dominated time of possession 36:01 to 23:59, which proved to be the key stat in the game. Gruden’s playcalling has been exceptional for the past two games, and he was helped by better execution by his players on Sunday. With two turnovers inside Washington’s 30, the Bucs left some points out on the field, though.
On defense, Monte Kiffin is working with a ton of backups, but called blitzes at the right time and his defense didn’t give up many big plays. Washington’s longest run was an 18-yarder by T.J. Duckett and its longest pass play was a 26-yarder by Chris Cooley.
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Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com