All eyes were on quarterbacks Jason Campbell and Bruce Gradkowski in Sunday's game, but it was the running backs who decided the outcome.
The Redskins, minus Clinton Portis, struggled to establish a consistent rushing attack all game long. Meantime, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers gashed the Redskins' defense for 181 rushing yards, with Carnell "Cadillac" Williams--Campbell's former teammate at Auburn--rushing for 122 yards on 27 carries.
More than anything else during Sunday's Redskins-Buccaneers game, it was the disparity in the ground game that turned out to be the difference.
Tampa Bay fended off a late rally by Campbell to win 20-17 at Raymond James Stadium. The loss dropped the Redskins' record to 3-7 on the season.
Despite the discouraging loss, head coach Joe Gibbs and associate head coach-offense Al Saunders had to take some solace in Campbell's performance.
Campbell made his NFL debut and finished the game completing 19-of-34 passes for 196 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Chris Cooley had five catches for 58 yards and one touchdown and Ladell Bett added five catches for 48 yards.
The Bucs' run defense stuffed Betts, who rushed for just 18 yards on seven carries. T.J. Duckett logged 26 yards on five carries. In the fourth quarter, Betts caught a screen pass and picked up six yards, but the ball popped loose from his grasp for a key turnover.
Two plays later, Tampa Bay scored a go-ahead touchdown to break a 10-10 tie.
The Redskins' defense opened up the game with a three-and-out, and Campbell began his first NFL 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 he could not hold on.
Neither the Redskins nor the Buccaneers could generate a first down on their first two offensive possessions.
Midway through the first quarter, fullback Mike Alstott got the offense on track with a 16-yard pickup, breaking tackles along the way. Then Gradkowski, a rookie quarterback out of Toledo, completed a 12-yard pass to wide receiver Ike Hilliard on a third down to get the Buccaneers in field goal range.
Shawn Springs knocked away Gradkowski's third-down pass to wide receiver Michael Clayton, forcing the Bucs to settle for a 26-yard field goal by Matt Bryant.
Campbell completed his first pass of the game on the ensuing drive: a 14-yarder to 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 again and this time he could not avoid the sack, a joint effort by Barber and defensive end Greg Spires. Washington settled for a 45-yard field goal by Nick Novak.
Early in the second quarter, the Redskins' defense took advantage of a fumbled snap by Gradkowski. Marcus Washington pounced on the ball for the Redskins' first forced turnover in five games.
Campbell quickly completed a pass to fullback 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.
Tampa Bay took over at its own 5-yard line. Gradkowski guided the Bucs downfield, completing a 25-yard pass to running back Michael Pittman, a 7-yard pass to tight end Anthony Becht and a 16-yard pass to wide receiver Joey Galloway. Williams began to find running room, rushing for 28 yards on the drive.
With the Buccaneers poised to score, Shawn Springs stepped in front of a slant pass to Galloway at the Redskins' 3-yard line for an interception.
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.
Duckett picked up 18 yards running behind a block by Chris Samuels and Derrick Dockery to put the Redskins in scoring range.
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 lead.
The Buccaneers responded, however. Williams continued to find running room, picking up 25 yards to help get Tampa Bay in scoring passes. Gradkowski tossed a series of short passes, then connected with Williams on a 21-yard screen pass to the Redskins' 7-yard line.
On 3rd-and-goal at the Redskins' 2-yard line, Gradkowski threw a quick slant pass to Galloway in the end zone. But the ball bounced off Galloway's chest and up into the air. Nearby was a trio of Redskins defenders, but the ball fell into the arms of Becht. He pulled the football in for a touchdown to tie the score at 10-10.
Early in the fourth quarter, Betts caught a screen pass from Campbell and turned up-field for a 6-yard gain, but safety Juran Bolden jarred the ball loose from Betts' hands and quickly pounced on the fumble.
Two plays later, Gradkowski found Galloway open down the middle of the field for a 34-yard touchdown pass. Galloway burst past Carlos Rogers at the line of scrimmage and caught the pass in stride for the go-ahead score.
The Redskins' offense was forced into a three-and-out on its next possession.
Tampa Bay got the ball back at its 43-yard line and Williams continued to gash the Redskins' defense, picking up 25 yards on his first carry. He picked up 20 more yards on five more carries to help set up a 31--yard field goal by Bryant.
Down 20-10 late in the fourth quarter, Campbell and the Redskins' offense went into hurry-up mode. He quickly guided the Redskins downfield, completing 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.
#### -- PRE-GAME COVERAGE
The Redskins travel to Tampa Bay this week to play the Buccaneers on Sunday, Nov. 19, at Raymond James Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET.
Head coach Joe Gibbs announced that second-year quarterback Jason Campbell would start for the Redskins. It will be Campbell's first NFL start since being drafted by the Redskins in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft.
The Redskins will be without running back Clinton Portis, who was placed on injured reserve after suffering a fractured right hand in the Nov. 12 game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Ladell Betts steps in to start, and he will share the workload with T.J. Duckett and Rock Cartwright.
The Redskins-Buccaneers game will be broadcast on FOX. Locally, WTTG-FOX 5 will televise the game. Matt Devlin calls the play-by-play with color analysis by Bill Maas. Chip Carter will serve as sideline reporter.
On radio, the game will be broadcast on Triple X ESPN Radio (94.3, 92.7 FM and 730 AM). Larry Michael handles the play-by-play with color commentary from Redskins legends and NFL Hall of Famers quarterback Sonny Jurgensen and linebacker Sam Huff. Bram Weinstein will serve as sideline reporter.
The Redskins are coming off a disappointing 27-3 defeat to the Philadelphia Eagles on Nov. 12 at Lincoln Financial Field.
Tampa Bay dropped to 2-7 after falling to the Carolina Panthers 24-10 at Bank of America Stadium on Monday Night Football. The Bucs dominated the first half and led 7-0 at halftime, but the Panthers outscored the Bucs 24-3 in the second half.
Rookie quarterback Bruce Gradkowski and second-year running back Carnell "Cadillac" Williams--Campbell's former teammate at Auburn--leads a Buccaneers offense ranked 30th in the NFL. The Bucs have three Pro Bowlers on defense in Simeon Rice, Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber.
#### -- PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS
-- SERIES HISTORY
The Redskins and Buccaneers have met 13 times in regular season play since Tampa Bay entered the league as an expansion team in 1976.
Washington leads the regular season series by a 7-6 count. The clubs have an even record of 1-1 in postseason play.
Sunday's game is the fourth matchup between the two clubs since 2003.
Raymond James Stadium is the site of two memorable Redskins-Bucs games last year.
There was the Redskins' 36-35 loss to the Bucs in mid-November last season, a game that ended in controversy when it appeared Washington had stopped fullback Mike Alstott on a 2-point conversion at the end of regulation.
Then, last January, the Redskins exacted revenge in the postseason, winning 17-10 in the Wild Card round.
-- TALE OF THE TAPE: REDSKINS-BUCS
|REDSKINS 2006 STATISTICAL RANKINGS|
#### -- NEWS & NOTES
- Joe Gibbs is 2-1 all-time against Jon Gruden, including the postseason.
Gruden has Gibbs beat in one category: youngest head coach to win a Super Bowl. Gruden won Super Bowl XXXVII at age 39, 162 days. Gibbs won Super Bowl XVII at age 42, 66 days.
Gruden is 2-3 all-time against the Redskins, including a 2-2 record with the Buccaneers.
- The Redskins will face cornerback Phillip Buchanon for the second time this season. Buchanon played with Houston when the Redskins played the Texans in Week 3. He was traded by Houston midseason to the Buccaneers.
- Redskins wide receivers coach Stan Hixon has a close bond with Bucs' wide receiver Michael Clayton. Hixon helped develop Clayton's skills in 2000-03 when he was an associate head coach-wide receivers coach at LSU. Clayton was the Buccaneers' first-round draft choice in 2004.
- Raymond James Stadium was rated as having the best turf in the NFL, according to a biennial survey by players in 2004.
-- FAMILIAR FACES ON THE BUCCANEERS
- General manager Bruce Allen is the son of former Redskins head coach and Hall of Famer George Allen.
- Wide receivers coach Richard Mann served as wide receivers coach with the Redskins in 2001.
- Tight ends-assistant special teams Ron Middleton played tight end for the Redskins in 1988 and from 1990-93.
- Personnel executive Doug Williams played quarterback for the Redskins from 1986-89 and helped guide Washington to a Super Bowl XXII championship in 1987.
- College scout Reggie Cobb worked in the Redskins' scouting department in 2001-02.