Playoff games are often won up front, in the trenches, on the offensive and defensive lines. On Saturday, when the Redskins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers square off in a Wild Card playoff game, one of the key matchups to watch will be three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels versus defensive end Simeon Rice, a three-time Pro Bowler himself.
Saturday's Wild Card playoff game will represent just the fifth time that Samuels and Rice have faced each other. The two have developed quite a rivalry. The 6-5, 268-pound Rice combines power and speed, while the 6-5, 310-pound Samuels combines strength and mobility.
In 2003, Rice got the better of Samuels and tight end Robert Royal, recording four sacks, seven tackles and a forced fumble as the Bucs cruised to a 35-13 win at FedExField.
In 2004, Samuels shut down Rice, limiting him to just three tackles, as the Washington won 16-10 in the regular season opener at FedExField.
In the Week 10 game earlier this season, Rice recorded two sacks and four tackle. One of his sacks came deep in Washington's territory and helped set up a Buccaneers touchdown. Tampa Bay won a thriller 36-35 at Raymond James Stadium.
Comments from Samuels and Rice this week suggest that they have a healthy respect for each other.
"I always have a big challenge when I face Simeon Rice," said Samuels, who may be playing the best football of his career, yielding zero sacks during the Redskins' five-game winning streak. "He is one of the best pass rushers in this league. He's proven that year-in and year-out. It's a tough matchup in front of me, but I know I can get it done."
Said Rice: "Chris is a great player. He has ample opportunities to make plays for his team, in terms of negating things I do. He does that well, at times. Other times, I win. That's the type of game we're going to play, the type of game we're going into."
Rice isn't short on confidence, however.
"For myself, I understand that no one can block me in this league," he said. "I understand I'm the best of the best for what this game is. I think I'm that rare athlete that's able to negate offenses by doing things that require my skill, my effort, my heart, my playing level and my intensity."
-- HARRIS SEEKS REDEMPTION
A Redskin who will be looking to redeem himself on Saturday is cornerback Walt Harris, who yielded a 30-yard touchdown reception to Edell Shepherd late in the fourth quarter.
With Shawn Springs a game time decision due to a groin injury, Harris could see significant plenty of playing time alongside Carlos Rogers. The Redskins' secondary will cover the likes of Shepherd, Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard. (Second-year wide receiver Michael Clayton, who played for Redskins' wide receiver coach Stan Hixon at LSU, is out with a turf toe injury.)
Harris was last in the playoffs in the 2003 season with the Indianapolis Colts. He started three playoff games (against Denver, at Kansas City and at New England) and recorded 14 tackles, a team-leading five passes defended, one interception and one forced fumble that year.
"In the playoffs, one play can make a huge difference in winning or losing," Harris said. "Not giving up the big play is the big thing in the secondary. We can't let their receivers get a step on us, and we have to be aggressive with [receivers]. We can't let anything be easy."
-- THE '99 PLAYOFF GAME
With the Redskins and Buccaneers set to face off in the postseason again, there has been plenty of discussion this week about the 1999 NFC Divisional playoff game between the two clubs. Due to media requests, the team's public relations department distributed statistics and game recaps in the Redskins Park media room this week.
Of course, that was the last playoff game the Redskins played before this year. In a defensive battle, Tampa Bay won 14-13 over the Redskins to advance to the NFC Championship game. The Bucs would go on to lose to the eventual Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams.
The Redskins have four players (Jon Jansen, Cory Raymer, James Thrash and Mike Sellers) who played in that game, while the Bucs have six (Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber, Anthony McFarland, Mike Alstott and Brian Kelly).
Everyone remembers the botched snap by long snapper Dan Turk, who passed away a few years after the game, on a 51-yard field goal attempt by Brett Conway.
More from the game? The Redskins built a 13-0 lead, with Brian Mitchell's 100-yard kickoff return at the start of the second half providing a big lift. But the defense yielded two second-half touchdowns and took advantage of a Brad Johnson fumble early in the fourth quarter to score the go-ahead TD.
Stephen Davis was held to 37 yards on 17 carries--and just two rushing yards--in the second half. Warrick Dunn had just 18 yards on 11 carries and Mike Alstott had 24 yards on 15 carries, with 17 of those yards coming as the Bucs ran out the clock with 53 seconds remaining. Alstott also logged a touchdown on a 2-yard run.
Jansen played in the game as a rookie.
"We had a terrific season, but to have things fall apart like that in the second half, you realize how important home-field advantage is," Jansen said. "Obviously we don't have it this time, but hopefully we have enough guys with playoff experience that we can relate what it's like down there in a playoff situation.
Asked if he felt confident that the Redskins would win that game, Jansen replied: "Yeah, when you have a 13-point lead in the third quarter, you really think that the momentum is going to stay with you. We had moved the ball on them somewhat. There wasn't a doubt in our mind that sooner or later, that game was going to fall in our favor. We didn't think it would come down to a kick at the end of the game, but it did. We still thought we were going to get it, though. It was unfortunate to have to end like that, to have to sit on that one for six years."