QUARTERBACK Quarterback Jeff Garcia spent most of the game on the sideline trying to bounce back from an injury to his back that came early in the first quarter. Garcia finished the game 2-for-4 for nine yards and was sacked once.
Garcia took a hit on the first play of the game from Washington defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin as he scrambled out of the pocket for a 1-yard gain. Garcia left the game with 13:15 remaining in the first quarter, but returned with 11:13 remaining in the fourth quarter. Garcia only completed two pass attempts in his two series in the second half. He came back into the game to give the offense a spark, but the Bucs were unable to move the ball even with Garcia in the game.
Quarterback Bruce Gradkowski finished the game 9-for-19 for 106 yards and was sacked twice. Gradkowski was ineffective running the Bucs offense and was unable to hit open receivers with any regularity. The second-year quarterback replaced Garcia in the first quarter and had a scramble for 11 yards on third-and-13, but was unable to get the first down. Gradkowski completed his first pass attempt in his second possession under center, a 9-yard reception to wide receiver Joey Galloway with 8:57 remaining in the first quarter. Gradkowski, however, missed a screen pass to running back Earnest Graham inside Washington's 10-yard line. Instead of a touchdown, the Bucs had to settle for a Matt Bryant 35-yard field goal.
Gradkowski seemed to be a little more comfortable in the pocket in his third series of work as he hit tight end Alex Smith with a 20-yard reception down the seam with 2:04 remaining in the first quarter. The backup quarterback didn't make a good decision on second-and-4 as he was called for intentional grounding which is a 10-yard penalty and loss of the down. Gradkowski hit Smith with a 12-yard reception on third-and-14 with 40 seconds remaining in the first quarter, but fell short of the first down and the Bucs were forced to punt.
Gradkowski got into a little bit of a rhythm throwing the ball on the second-to-last possession of the first half. He hit wide receiver Ike Hilliard with 13-yard pass on second-and-11 with 5:26 remaining in the second quarter. Gradkowski also hit Graham with a 6-yard reception out of the backfield on first-and-10 from the Bucs 32-yard line. Gradkowski used his legs to convert a third-and-1 with a 13-yard run on a bootleg to the right side. The drive was stalled, however, as Gradkowski failed to connect with Galloway on two deep pass patterns.
Even though Gradkowski didn't look sharp in the first half, he did a good job of leading the Bucs in the two-minute offense to get a field goal to end the first half. Gradkowski hit Hilliard with a 9-yard reception on first-and-10 at the 50-yard line and then found Galloway for a 12-yard reception for a first down. After Gradkowski took a sack, he found Hilliard across the middle of the field with a 16-yard reception with four seconds remaining to set up Bryant's 39-yard field goal.
Gradkowski nor Garcia was able to move the offense in the second half as the Bucs had four three-and-outs and 15 yards total offense.
The Bucs converted 1-of-12 (eight percent) of their third down attempts vs. the Redskins with the quarterbacks making one third-down conversion.
RUNNING BACK Running back Earnest Graham finished the game with 75 yards on 21 carries and one touchdown along with two receptions for nine yards. After two consecutive 100-yard performances vs. Arizona and Atlanta, Graham was unable to find any running room in the second half with the Redskins putting eight and nine players in the box for the run. Graham had an impressive first half running the ball as he gained 60 yards (3.8 avg.) on 16 carries. He only had 15 yards on five carries in the second half.
Graham put the Bucs on the scoreboard early in the first quarter following a Washington turnover. Graham had three carries for 19 yards on the scoring drive, including the 1-yard touchdown plunge to give the Bucs a 7-0 lead. On the drive, Graham had a 12-yard run on first-and-10 from the Redskins' 19-yard line following fullback B.J. Askew through the hole. Center John Wade and guard Davin Joseph did a good job of opening up the hole with a good combo block on Redskins defensive tackle Anthony Montgomery. Graham had an impressive 11-yard run on second-and-9 with 14:08 remaining in the first quarter right behind left guard Arron Sears.
Running back Michael Bennett didn't see any action on offense in the win.
Fullback B.J. Askew once again led the way for Graham and did a good job of clearing out holes in the running game. Askew did assist Gradkowski on a 13-yard bootleg on third-and-1 at the Bucs' 41-yard line with a cut block that cleared the edge for the quarterback to get the first down.
The Bucs' running backs rushed for 75 yards on 21 attempts (3.6 avg.) on Sunday.
WIDE RECEIVERS Wide receiver Joey Galloway finished the game with two receptions for 21 yards. Galloway suffered with the loss of Garcia as Gradkowski was unable to connect with the speedy wide receiver on multiple deep pass routes. On a first-and-10 play with 3:23 remaining in the second quarter, Galloway had burned double coverage deep, but Gradkowski threw the ball over his head. On the same drive, a third-and-7 play, Galloway again got behind the Washington coverage, but the ball was thrown short and the Bucs missed another deep opportunity. Galloway had a nice 12-yard reception with 1:11 remaining when Gradkowski through a slant route and the 13-year veteran juggled the ball, but held on. The play was reviewed and upheld, allowing the Bucs to get a 39-yard field goal at the end of the first half.
Wide receiver Ike Hilliard led the Bucs with four receptions for 44 yards (11.0 avg.) and made some big catches at crucial moments. Hilliard had three receptions for 38 yards in the first half with two receptions coming on the last drive of the second quarter. Hilliard had a 16-yard reception on second-and-18 from the Redskins 37-yard line that set up Bryant's 39-yard field. On the same drive, Hilliard had a 9-yard reception on first-and-10 with 1:33 remaining in the second quarter. Hilliard's only other reception in the half was a 13-yard catch on a second-and-11 play from the Bucs' 19-yard line.
Wide receiver Michael Clayton didn't record a reception in the win, but had an opportunity for his first catch since returning from an ankle injury last week. With 1:22 remaining in the third quarter, Clayton ran a slant route that Gradkowski threw behind him and he wasn't able to bring in the pass.
Wide receiver Maurice Stovall saw limited action on offense, but did stand out on special teams.
TIGHT ENDS Tight end Alex Smith finished the game with three receptions for 41 yards. Smith made a nice reception for 20 yards with 2:04 remaining in the first quarter. Smith had to jump in the air and reach behind him to pull in the reception down the seam in the middle of the field. Smith also had an 11-yard reception on third-and-14 from the Bucs 42-yard line. Smith had a 9-yard reception on second-and-10 with 13:57 remaining in the second quarter where he found a soft spot in the Redskins zone coverage in the middle of the field. That possession ended in a 27-yard field goal from Bryant.
Tight end Jerramy Stevens saw limited action and was used in running situations.
Tight end Anthony Becht had one opportunity for a reception with 9:24 remaining in the third quarter on a third-and-2 play. Even though Becht isn't the main option on the play, he needed to make that catch to keep the drive alive, but couldn't pull down the reception.
OFFENSIVE LINE The Bucs offensive line was tested vs. Washington in protecting Gradkowski after Garcia went down with an injury. Gradkowski isn't as mobile as Garcia and it showed as two of the three sacks given up came with the backup quarterback in the game. With the Redskins defense forcing the Bucs to throw the ball, the running game suffered as the offensive line couldn't open many holes for Graham in the second half. The line did a good job of creating space for Graham in the first half. The problems in pass blocking came from up the middle and off the edge.
Center John Wade did little for the offensive line up the middle either in run or pass blocking. On a third-and-1 play at the Redskins' 9-yard line, Graham tried to bang his way up the middle for a first down, but Wade was pushed back into the backfield by defensive tackle Kedric Golston. On a second-and-1 play with 10:03 remaining in the third quarter, Wade again struggled to get any push up the middle of the field as Montgomery got penetration up the field to throw Graham for a 1-yard loss. Wade did help Joseph on a combo block on a 12-yard Graham run in the first quarter, which led to the first points of the game for the Bucs.
Left guard Arron Sears had two penalties and wasn't impressive in his run blocking vs. Washington. Sears had a false start penalty on third-and-8 from the Bucs' 39-yard line that ended up causing the Bucs to punt when Gradkowski scrambled for 11 yards, but came up short because of the penalty yardage. His second false start penalty pushed Bryant back five yards for a field goal, but from 35 yards out, Bryant nailed the field goal. On a first-and-10 play from the Bucs' 18-yard line, Sears pulled on a running play by Graham, but was stood straight up by linebacker Marcus Washington which forced Graham to bounce the ball outside instead of inside and had no gain on the play.
Left tackle Donald Penn struggled against the speed of Washington and defensive end Andre Carter. Penn was beaten on third-and-goal at the 6-yard line in the first quarter by Redskins defensive end Andre Carter for a sack. Carter used a swim move to get off the corner and then used his speed to get to Gradkowski.
Right guard Davin Joseph didn't have a good game in pass blocking, but did open holes up the middle for Graham. On a second-and-4 play with 48 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Joseph was beaten up the middle by Montgomery as he nailed Gradkowski as the ball was let go. Gradkowski was called for an intentional grounding on the play.
Right tackle Jeremy Trueblood was not 100 percent as he has been struggling through a shoulder injury the last couple of games. Trueblood seemed to sustain an injury to his right arm on the second possession of the game, but fought through the setback. It was noticeable, however, in a second quarter drive when he missed a block on a Graham 1-yard run and getting knocked down on a third-and-9 pass play by Washington defensive end Phillip Daniels.
Tampa Bay lost the time of possession vs. Washington, 34:53to 25:07, and gained only 192 yards of total offense.
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