Jason Campbell was careful not to place any added pressure on himself in the days leading up to his first NFL start. Even as he watched game film of Tampa Bay last week, he kept his focus on running the Redskins' offense, not on outsmarting the Buccaneers' defense.
"The main thing I have to do is worry about what I have to do to help the team," Campbell said. "I need to worry about my assignments and what I need to do from play to play. I need to let everything fall into place and utilize the guys that are around me."
Campbell did just that. He made sure he got the ball in the hands of his playmakers and didn't try to force anything.
Despite the Redskins' 20-17 loss at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, it was--by all accounts--a solid showing by Campbell.
Campbell was 19-of-34 for 196 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He scrambled five times for 11 yards and was sacked twice.
Campbell began his first offensive possession at his own 28-yard line. First play: a deep pass to Brandon Lloyd along the left sideline. The pass was on target, but Lloyd was well-covered by cornerback Ronde Barber and could not hold on.
Midway through the first quarter, Campbell completed his first pass of the game: a 14-yarder to Ladell Betts in the flat. On the next play, Campbell showcased his elusiveness when he beat a blitz by safety Will Allen and linebacker Ryan Nece to complete a 15-yard pass to James Thrash.
On 3rd-and-7 at the Bucs' 22-yard line, Campbell was blitzed by Barber and this time he could not avoid the sack, a joint effort by Barber and defensive end Greg Spires for a 5-yard loss. The offense settled for a 45-yard field goal by Nick Novak.
After the Redskins' defense recovered a fumble in the second quarter, Campbell quickly completed a pass to Mike Sellers for a 19-yard pickup to the Bucs' 46-yard line. Later, Campbell used his scrambling ability to pick up another first down on a 2-yard run.
But, on 3rd-and-10 at the Bucs' 35-yard line, Campbell's pass to Lloyd in the end zone was overthrown, and the Redskins were forced to punt.
Campbell went into the halftime break having completed 5-of-10 passes for 51 yards.
Campbell opened the second half in a rhythm. He led the offense on an impressive drive, converting a pair of third downs with a 14-yard completion to Antwaan Randle El and an 11-yard completion to Betts. He also connected on a 17-yard pass to James Thrash.
On 3rd-and-goal at the Bucs' 3-yard line, Campbell faked a handoff and rolled right. He waited, and just as he approached the sideline, rifled a pass to Chris Cooley who was one yard in the end zone. Cooley held on for Campbell's first career touchdown pass. The score gave the Redskins a 10-3 advantage.
Tampa Bay scored two touchdowns in the second half to take a 17-10 lead. Late in the fourth quarter, down 20-10, Campbell was forced into hurry-up mode. He impressed in running the offense as he attempted to rally the Redskins. He completed passes of 22 and 26 yards to Cooley and 14 yards to Betts.
At the Tampa Bay 4-yard line, Campbell dropped back to pass and rolled right. He found Todd Yoder open in the back of the end zone for a touchdown, narrowing the Bucs' lead to 20-17.
Tampa Bay recovered Derrick Frost's on-sides kick, though. Despite a solid showing in his debut, Campbell would not have an opportunity for late-game heroics.
Despite the loss, Sunday's game was the culmination of a dream for Campbell, a fresh-faced second-year player out of Taylorsville, Miss.
"As a kid, your dream is to play in the National Football League," Campbell said. "[Baltimore Ravens quarterback] Steve McNair was a guy I always looked up to because he came from the same area that I came from in Mississippi. For me to have the opportunity to be a starter in the NFL means a lot to me, my community and everyone that supported me to get to this point. It is important for me to do my best, to prepare myself each week."
Of course, Campbell does not play the game to develop his skills. He plays the game to win.
"Anytime you go in there, your goal is to win," he said. "That is the point of playing the game. That is why guys work hard during the week to go out and fight your best. That is the same thing with any team. Everyone's goal is to win on Sunday. That is why it is the NFL. It is tough to get a win each week."