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PEWTER REPORT EDITOR-IN-CHIEF SCOTT REYNOLDS:
“The Redskins linebackers won this game for them. LaVar Arrington picked off a Chris Simms pass in the first quarter and returned it to the Tampa Bay 6-yard line, which set up Clinton Portis’ touchdown run on the next play. In addition to the interception, Arrington finished with 10 tackles, a pass defensed and a forced fumble. As well as Arrington played, Marcus Washington might have played even better with 10 tackles, a pass defensed, a key forced fumble of Cadillac Williams and a fumble recovery which ultimately was returned for a touchdown by Sean Taylor after Washington was stripped of the ball during his return. Washington also sealed the win for the Redskins with an interception in the closing seconds of the game, and came up with a big quarterback hurry on fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter when he pressured Simms up the middle and forced an incompletion to fullback Jameel Cook. But Arrington and Washington didn’t even lead the Redskins in tackles. That distinction belonged to fellow linebacker Lemar Marshall, who had 12 tackles on the evening. The Redskins did a great job tackling against Tampa Bay and limited Cadillac Williams to just 49 yards on 18 carries (2.7 avg.).”

“I’ve never seen a 6-foot-4 quarterback have so many passes deflected at the line of scrimmage before. Chris Simms had a total of six passes batted down at the line of scrimmage, which needs to be investigated during the offseason as two of those deflections turned into interceptions. Is it something in Simms’ delivery? Is he not finding clear passing lanes? Is the offensive line not creating clear passing lanes? There’s no reason for a big quarterback like Simms to have a problem with as many batted balls as he’s had this season. Those deflections hurt the Bucs against the Chicago Bears earlier this season and really bit them tonight.”

“If Tampa Bay wide receiver Edell Shepherd could get behind Washington’s defense on two consecutive plays when everyone at Raymond James Stadium knew that the Buccaneers had to throw the ball into the end zone, why couldn’t Jon Gruden dial up those plays earlier in the game when it wasn’t so obvious? I think Gruden spent too much time trying to establish a running game that wasn’t going to be there tonight due to Washington’s linebacker play, rather than attacking the Redskins’ weakness – its secondary – which only got weaker when safety Sean Taylor was ejected in the second half. With top cornerback Shawn Springs out due to injury, Taylor missing for almost the entire second half, and cornerback Walt Harris hobbled with an in-game leg injury, I’m shocked that Gruden didn’t ask Simms to push the ball downfield more throughout the second half and attack the wounded Harris and rookie cornerback Carlos Rogers. Had the play-calling been a bit more aggressive, the game wouldn’t have hinged on Shepherd’s dropped touchdown on third-and-10 with just three minutes remaining.”

“The officiating in the game was suspect, but perhaps the most questionable call of the evening was not calling Tampa Bay running back Michael Pittman for a personal foul for slapping Sean Taylor after Taylor spit into Pittman’s face. Referee Mike Carey, whose crew was too quick with the whistle tonight, saw the entire spitting incident, including Pittman slapping Taylor. Striking a player in the head after a play has been whistled dead should be a foul, but Carey pardoned Pittman and even announced that Pittman would not be flagged for retaliation. Since when is that in the rulebook? As it turns out, that non-call was probably the only call that actually went in the Bucs’ favor from Carey and his crew tonight.”

“The Bucs squandered great field position tonight. Tampa Bay had half of its possessions start at its own 38-yard line or start with even better field position. The Bucs had offensive series that started at its 38, 39 (twice), 46, 49 and the Washington 35 and only managed to get 10 points. That, coupled with some questionable calls that aided the Redskins, is why Tampa Bay still lost despite limiting Washington to only 120 yards of offense.”

PEWTER REPORT MANAGING EDITOR JIM FLYNN:
“Some will want to blame Tampa Bay’s 17-10 loss to Washington on some of the questionable calls the officiating crew made during Saturday’s playoff game. While I will agree there were several suspect calls, including Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington’s fumble recovered by Bucs guard Dan Buenning that wasn’t made reviewable because the whistle had blown the play dead, running back Cadillac Williams downing the Redskin defender on a play where ‘Skins safety Sean Taylor returned the loose ball 51 yards for a touchdown, defensive end Simeon Rice’s sack/fumble return for a touchdown in the first half that was ruled incomplete, and wide receiver Edell Shepherd’s touchdown that was ruled incomplete in the fourth quarter, the Bucs could have taken the game out of the officials’ hands by not making some of those costly mistakes. The refs aren’t given the opportunity to blow the call on Arrington’s fumble if Simms doesn’t get his pass batted up in the air at the line of scrimmage. The ‘Skins don’t score a 51-yard touchdown if Williams never fumbles in the first place, and Shepherd’s touchdown isn’t ruled incomplete if he simply holds onto the football from the time he catches to the time he gets up off the ground. The bottom line is Tampa Bay made too many mistakes on offense to beat Washington.”

“Forget all of this T.O. talk. We’ll address the Terrell Owens rumor/report in greater detail a little later this week in a Pewter Insider article, but I’m going to squash it now by saying that any money Tampa Bay has to spend in free agency needs to be put into upgrading the offensive line. Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden did a nice job of protecting this unit and hiding its weaknesses en route to compiling an 11-5 record and winning the NFC South division title, but the offensive line showed its true colors on Saturday, allowing quarterback Chris Simms to get sacked three times and failing to open up any holes for Cadillac Williams despite the fact that Washington didn’t play with more than seven men in the box for most of the game. Williams rushed 18 times for 49 yards (2.7 avg.), and the fact that the Redskins rarely stacked the box makes that type of production inexcusable. Tampa Bay’s running game, or lack thereof, really hindered the offense’s ability to move the ball on Saturday.”

“You really can’t say enough about the performance Tampa Bay’s defense turned in on Saturday. The Bucs succeeded in limiting Redskins RB Clinton Portis, holding him to just 53 yards on 16 carries. This unit only allowed QB Mark Brunell to complete 7-of-15 passes and throw for just 41 yards. And they only allowed WR Santana Moss to catch two passes for 18 yards. In fact, the Bucs held the Redskins to just 120 yards of total offense, yet they lost the game. Tampa Bay’s defense, which finished the regular season ranked No. 1 overall, showed that it is capable of playing championship-caliber football. The reason why the Bucs lost on Saturday was because the offense couldn’t show that same ability.”

PEWTER REPORT CONTRIBUTING WRITER MARK LENNOX:
“Given the Buccaneers’ success against the Redskins this season, it’s hard to see this game come to an end. If the game were only three quarters long, the last three that is, then the outcome would be different. Unfortunately, the exceptional defensive performance was for naught. The bottom line is that this team was not given a shot at the beginning of the year and responded by rattling off 11 wins and won their division. One bad quarter sealed the fate for the Buccaneers. The calls just didn’t go the Bucs’ way today. It’s unfortunate, but that’s football.”

“I want to commend wide receiver Joey Galloway for his performance this season. Galloway has been worth every penny since being traded from Dallas. Some said that he was washed up and would lose a step after debilitating knee injuries. Galloway responded by having one of the best seasons in his career and hauled in a team record 10 touchdowns in the process. If Galloway stays healthy he could rewrite the Buccaneer receiving record books.”

“After giving up zero sacks against the Redskins in their first meeting, the Buccaneers offensive line failed to duplicate its strong performance, giving up three sacks on the day. When the defensive line could not get to Simms, they managed to get their hands up and bat many balls down. Two tipped passes by the defensive line led to two interceptions. One interception led to a Redskins touchdown and the other sealed the game for Washington. The line itself failed to open up many holes for running back Carnell Williams, who finished the game with 49 yards on 18 carries. This has been a problem area for many years so I won’t be cliché and say they need to improve along the line. Everyone already knows that.”

“As much as I hate to say it, the fate of the NFC South now lies in Carolina’s hands. Every year since the divisions realigned, a team from the NFC South has been a representative in the NFC Championship game. Two times, Tampa Bay and Carolina, a NFC South team has reached the Super Bowl. Carolina has a long road to go being a wild card team and it would be the first time that a team who did not win the division made it to the title game.”

“It will be interesting to see what the Buccaneers do in the off-season with their quarterback and free agent situation. Losing this game either guarantees the Buccaneers the 23rd or 24th pick in the draft. The youth movement should continue for the Buccaneers but the time to win is now. Head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen struck gold last off-season with the signings of defensive tackle Chris Hovan and kicker Matt Bryant. The influx of young talent with solid veterans seems to be working in Tampa like it worked for Gruden and Allen during their days in Oakland. This off-season should be eventful.”

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