Week 10 Game Recap: Washington Redskins 35, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 36
What you need to know
The Redskins lost a very winnable game, in large part because of their inability to adjust on defense. Despite Michael Clayton’s injury, the Redskins started the game in their base defensive package without any special attention paid to Joey Galloway. After being burned by two long catches by Galloway, one that set up an Alstott touchdown and another where Galloway himself scored, the Redskins entered the second half with a safety shaded over to Galloway’s side. This was something they should have been doing from the start. Another problem defensively for the Redskins was their inability to pressure Chris Simms. They blitzed six men consistently, and sometimes even blitzed seven or eight men, but they couldn’t record a sack. Credit for this is due to Simms’ timely release, but the Bucs’ also utilized a good protection scheme. Despite continually blitzing without success, Gregg Williams kept at it, and on the Bucs’ winning touchdown, a 30 yard pass to Edell Shepherd, it cost them. The Redskins blitzed seven men on the play, leaving Walt Harris alone with the fast receiver, and it didn’t turn out well.
Clinton Portis had a great day running the football, his best of the season in fact. He was able to gain 82 yards in the first quarter, 40 of them coming on a long run off tackle to the right, and had over 100 yards in the first half. For the first time this season, Portis was able to cut back to the middle of the field on runs to the outside. Portis tired in the second half and didn’t play much, but Ladell Betts was able to come in and the offense didn’t miss a beat. Between the two of them, Ladell Betts and Clinton Portis accounted for 20 of the Redskins’ 35 points (three touchdowns, one two point conversion).
Mark Brunell struggled early, turning the ball over three times in the first half, but was able to gain his composure and did well in the second half. The Redskins initially attempted to block Simeon Rice with one man in Chris Samuels, but quickly realized that wasn’t going to work after Rice forced two fumbles and intercepted a pass on a wide receiver screen. He was double and triple teamed in the second half, and neutralized. Brunell was unable to find Santana Moss much, as the Bucs bracketed the dynamic receiver with a corner and a safety. Redskins’ H-backs/tight ends accounted for ten catches, as four different players rotated in and out of those positions. Chris Cooley in particular did well, and was targeted on key third and fourth and shorts. Mike Sellers continued his impressive play, scoring a touchdown for the sixth time this season.
The officials made a number of debatable calls in this game, most of them going against the Redskins. After Mark Brunell’s first interception, Joey Galloway caught a pass 34 yards downfield. He didn’t get both feet down in-bounds, but was ruled a force out and as such it was not reviewable. This catch led to the first points of the game for the Bucs. Late in the fourth quarter, with the Buccaneers down by seven and driving for a critical score, Joey Galloway caught a 13 yard pass that converted for a first down. It appeared that he had dropped the ball, but the referee ruled that the evidence wasn’t conclusive and the play stood as called. Finally, on the critical two point conversion try that would either win or lose the game for the Bucs, it appeared that Mike Alstott’s elbow hit the ground about half a foot from the goal line. This was the elbow in which the ball was carried, so the ball couldn’t have been over the goal line with the elbow behind it. However, the play stood as called.
Chris Simms proved himself worthy, at least in this game, making the crucial plays in leading his team to a much needed victory. With the running game not doing much, it was up to Simms to make plays. He appeared unfazed despite constant Redskins blitzing, and never forced a pass into coverage all game. He was able to throw the ball deep to fast receivers Joey Galloway and Edell Shepherd, over the coverage (which was sparse because of the blitzes). It was the first time in his pro career where he had more touchdowns than turnovers. He displayed a surprisingly good sense of the pass rush, avoiding sacks by throwing the ball away when necessary. He did display tunnel vision for Joey Galloway, staring down his favorite receiver and drawing coverage in that direction, but luckily it didn’t cost him. Edell Shepherd, in place of the injured Michael Clayton (shoulder), had a breakout game of sorts with two long catches, one for a touchdown and the other setting up a score a few plays later to Ike Hilliard.
Mike Alstott had a renaissance game. He led his team in rushing with 21 yards, but it wasn’t the yardage that mattered. It was the way he accumulated said yardage. Alstott was able to drive forward when there wasn’t a hole to run through, taking the pressure off his young quarterback in the red zone. He scored two touchdowns, one from one yard out and another from two yards out, and showed impressive leaping ability in getting over his offensive linemen into the end zone. His most critical run, though, had to be his two point conversion attempt. With his team on the one yard line after an offsides penalty against the defense gave Tampa the ball at the one yard line, Alstott got the ball and was stopped short of the goal line initially. He kept his legs churning, however, to get the crucial score and put the Bucs ahead for good. It was more than crucial yardage that Alstott provided, though, it was character. With Carnell Williams not doing much of anything, Alstott’s hard-nosed yardage gave the team a spark. For fantasy purposes, Alstott could be an important touchdown vulture type down the stretch.
Defensively, Simeon Rice made a huge impact after disappearing in the Buccaneers’ past two losses. In their loss to the 49ers he had been suspended, and he didn’t record a tackle in their loss last week to the Panthers. This week, however, he was back, embarrassing Chris Samuels to the tune of two sacks, two forced fumbles, and an interception. He did all that in the first half, and was double and triple-teamed in the second half and neutralized.
The Buccaneers’ special teams’ woes continued. Not once in the 29 year history of the franchise have they returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Yet they allowed the Redskins to return one for a score, a 94 yard jaunt by Ladell Betts. Betts was hit initially around the 30 yard line, but spun out of the tackle and was able to outrun the pursuit.
What you ought to know
|QB Mark Brunell, Pass: 23 - 35 - 226 - 2 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 3 - 15 - 0|
Brunell started off very badly, giving Tampa three turnovers in the first half. His first interception wasn’t entirely his fault, as David Patten was roughed up by Juran Bolden and the ball essentially was stolen from his grasp. The pass was a bit later than it needed to be though. His second interception was ill-advised, as he threw a screen to Santana Moss who was well covered by Bolden. The ball was tipped and Simeon Rice would intercept it. On the very next possession, Brunell tried to evade the pass rush to the left sideline, attempting to outrun Simeon Rice. That wasn’t a smart decision, as Rice brought him down to the ground and forced a fumble. These three turnovers resulted in 14 Tampa Bay points, putting the Redskins behind early on. Brunell would recover, however, and was able to systematically pick apart the Bucs defense for the remainder of the game. The Redskins would score touchdowns on their first three possessions of the second half, two on passes from him. Brunell threw a pass out to his favorite red zone target, Mike Sellers, for the first touchdown, and would add two points more on a pass to Clinton Portis after a rollout to the left. On the next drive, he threw a beautiful pass down the middle of the field to Ladell Betts for a touchdown. He would hit his tight ends/H-backs ten times during the afternoon, going to Chris Cooley especially on key short yardage plays.
Portis had his best rushing game of the season yardage wise, gaining 144 yards on the ground and tacking on a touchdown. 82 of those yards were gained in the first quarter, and he had over 100 by halftime. Portis was able to take runs to the outside and cut them back to the middle of the field, using the Tampa over pursuit to his advantage. On the first drive of the second half, following Mike Sellers’ touchdown, Portis made a great catch, laying out for the ball but staying in bounds to convert the two point try. For much of the second half Portis spent time on the sideline, tired as a result of his heavy workload in the first half. He left the game just before Ladell Betts caught his touchdown, and would return at the very end of the Redskins’ next drive, scoring on an eight yard run himself. This was a good performance for Portis, who showed glimpses of his Denver self in incorporating cutback running into his repertoire.
|RB Ladell Betts, Rush: 7 - 26 - 0, Rec: 3 - 19 - 1 (5 targets)|
Betts, who hadn’t scored all year, scored twice Sunday. He was used as a change of pace for Clinton Portis, and did very well, but his initial success came on a kickoff return. With the Buccaneers just having scored to go up 14-3, Betts took the kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown, tight roping the sideline to avoid defenders. The play was reviewed, but upheld. In the third quarter Betts carried the load for Portis who was tired, and scored on a 17 yard pass from Brunell. Betts started out to the right of Brunell in a shotgun formation, motioned left, and went straight up the middle for the catch. He was able to break two tackles en route to the end zone. Betts also was the main running back on the Redskins’ final scoring drive, but was removed from the game just before Portis scored his lone touchdown.
Moss was heavily covered by the Tampa defense and struggled to find openings all day. Receiver screens were ran early on in an attempt to draw the coverage up towards the line of scrimmage, but the Redskins never took advantage of this by throwing the ball deep. Moss was the target on a botched receiver screen that was tipped by Juran Bolden and intercepted by Simeon Rice. In the second half, Moss gained 47 yards on a perfect play call, as the pocket rolled to the right as the Bucs blitzed from the left. Moss started the game as a punt returner, but after muffing his first return he was pulled in favor of James Thrash. This was Moss’ second worst game as a Redskin statistically, but that was mainly a result of the Buccaneers’ defense more than anything he did badly.
Patten was targeted heavily early on as the Redskins tried to establish their secondary receiver, and he continued to receive targets as Tampa double covered Santana Moss all afternoon. He wasn’t able to make an impact, though, as he seemed to look for interference before he looked to catch the ball. This was evident on the Redskins’ second drive. Patten was hit by Juran Bolden right as the pass came his way, and he looked to the official before attempting to knock the ball down. Bolden intercepted the pass, and the turnover would eventually lead to a Bucs touchdown. Late in the game, with the Redskins driving for a crucial field goal, Patten jumped to try to create interference with Brian Kelly instead of going for the catch. Patten had been whining to the press about a lack of opportunities prior to this game, and he didn’t do much with his chances here. It would not be surprising if the Redskins made a change at the second wide receiver spot in the near future.
Thrash caught the only ball that came his way. He was used as the main punt returner and as an H-back in certain running situations.
Cooley was the Redskins go-to receiver in key situations. He caught passes to convert a short third down and fourth down on the Redskins final scoring drive. In fact, he caught every pass thrown his way, and avoided fumbling after doing so in two consecutive games previously. Cooley created a mismatch against whoever he faced, using his size to shield smaller defenders and his speed to outrun linebackers. Cooley was again replaced near the end zone by Mike Sellers, who scored his sixth touchdown of the season. Cooley’s scoring is down from last season (when he scored six touchdowns) in large part because of Sellers, but he has already surpassed his receiving totals from last season.
Royal returned from injury to start the game and was used mainly as a blocking tight end. He caught both passes thrown his way for short gains.
Kozlowski was used sparingly as an extra tight end. His two targets were on two consecutive plays that may have been the same play call. Kozlowski ran down the middle of the field, slanted left, and found an opening between the linebacker and safety in coverage. On the first play he gained 18 yards, and on the second he was overthrown by Brunell, as the pass dropped off his fingertips. Had the pass been accurate, Kozlowski might have scored.
Sellers scored his sixth touchdown of the season on the Redskins’ first drive of the second half. He motioned to the left flat, caught a pass roughly ten yards shy of the goal line, and was able to power his way into the end zone. He has tripled his previous career high in touchdowns for a season and shows no sign of slowing. He was a valuable special teams contributor, blowing up the wedge and wrecking havoc in general.
Hall was perfect on the afternoon, hitting field goals from 33 and 40 yards, and connecting on all three of his extra point attempts.
The Redskins were able to hold the Buccaneers’ rushing game in check most of the afternoon, but when it counted they couldn’t do so. Carnell Williams started the game but was unable to make an impact, rushing for only 20 yards and losing a fumble. Michael Pittman didn’t fare much better, only gaining 15 yards. Mike Alstott, however, was able to force his way ahead for short gains, scoring two touchdowns and the crucial two point conversion to win the game. The Redskins were able to plug up any holes the Buccaneers’ offensive line was able to create, but Alstott was able to lower his head and bull rush ahead for a couple of yards every time he ran the ball. Joe Salave’a had a good game, plugging up the middle and forcing the only turnover of the game for the Redskins. Lemar Marshall didn’t show up, however, only recording two tackles while playing middle linebacker all afternoon. Marcus Washington led the team with six tackles.
Given Chris Simms’ inexperience and poor performance in games the past few weeks, the Redskins did horribly against the pass. They blitzed regularly, sending six, seven, or even eight men into the line, but were unable to get to Simms even once. They didn’t shift any special coverage to Joey Galloway until the second half, allowing the speedy wide out to score a touchdown and get deep in the first half basically uncontested. Walt Harris was clearly overmatched most of the game, and was beaten first by Ike Hilliard and later by Edell Shepherd for touchdowns. Sean Taylor was unable to play with an ankle injury, and Pierson Prioleau started in his place. Prioleau could be seen yelling at defensive coordinator Gregg Williams after he was left alone to guard Joey Galloway on a deep bomb that was barely out of reach. Even when it became clear that they couldn’t get to Simms even when blitzing, the Redskins refused to alter their strategy, and it cost them in the end with Shepherd’s touchdown.
|QB Chris Simms, Pass: 15 - 29 - 279 - 3 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 3 - 5 - 0|
Simms had a breakout game, avoiding mistakes and making key throws as he led the Bucs to a crucial victory over an NFC opponent. In what was easily his most impressive game to date, Simms was able to go over the top to his speedy wideouts, Joey Galloway and Edell Shepherd, to take advantage of the Redskins’ blitzing tendencies. The game plan was clearly to play close to the vest and take advantage of Redskin mistakes, and he was able to do just that. After a Redskins’ turnover on their second possession, Simms was able to hit Joey Galloway deep for a 34 yard gain inside the Redskins’ five yard line. This play led to a Mike Alstott touchdown. The Redskins blitzed Simms often in an attempt to rattle the inexperienced signal caller, but were unable to put much pressure on him at all, and didn’t record a sack. He seemed to have tunnel vision for Galloway, but because of the blitzing that didn’t matter, as Simms found Galloway down the middle of the field for long gains, including a 24 yard touchdown in the second quarter. In the second half Simms was able to find Edell Shepherd down the right sideline twice for long gains. The first was a 46 yard gain that set up a short touchdown pass to Ike Hilliard, and the second was what turned out to be the winning score from 30 yards out. Simms wasn’t forced to make plays underneath the coverage, where he has thrown interceptions in previous games. This game may have solidified Simms’ place in the Buccaneers’ future.
|RB Mike Alstott, Rush: 9 - 21 - 2, Rec: 1 - 18 - 0 (1 targets)|
Alstott had his best game of the season and rescued Tampa’s fading playoff hopes, scoring two touchdowns and adding a two point conversion. With Carnell Williams struggling and Michael Pittman hurting, Alstott was asked to carry a heavier load than he had in previous weeks. He was able to score the first touchdown of the game from one yard out, jumping over the scum at the line of scrimmage. He scored his second touchdown immediately following Mark Brunell’s fumble. He was able to plow forward for a few yards every time he ran the ball despite the offensive line’s inability to make holes, using his inertia to drive defenders backward. After the Buccaneers were able to score a touchdown to cut the deficit to one with less than a minute remaining, the Redskins were called for two successive penalties. The first was enforced on the kickoff, but Jon Gruden decided to enforce the second penalty on the try and go for two to win the game. Everybody in the stadium knew the ball was going to Alstott, including the Redskins’ defense. Alstott was hit behind the line of scrimmage by a leaping LaVar Arrington, and fell into the scrum, barely reaching the ball over the goal line. The play was later reviewed and it appeared that Alstott was stopped just short of the line, but the evidence wasn’t conclusive and the two point try was allowed to stand, giving Tampa the lead. Alstott’s gritty performance gave character to a floundering Buccaneers team desperate for a victory and, more so, an identity. Alstott figures to be a significant contributor down the stretch as they fight for a playoff spot.
Williams wasn’t able to make an impact, rushing for barely two yards per carry and only gaining 20 yards on the day. He didn’t hit the hole hard, instead bouncing around behind the line looking for room to run. He seemed to be running cautiously, possibly because of his foot injury. On the first play from scrimmage in the second half, he was hit behind the line by Joe Salave’a and fumbled the ball. It was his second fumble lost in as many games. Given the strong performance of Mike Alstott and the improving health of Michael Pittman, Williams’ playing time may decrease in the next few games.
Pittman played sparingly but was reasonably effective when he say the field. His average of three yards per carry actually led the team, as the Bucs struggled to gain yardage on the ground. Pittman was used in blitz protection regularly, replacing Carnell Williams on clear passing downs. He was targeted three times but was unable to catch a pass, as Simms’ throws were very low. He gained a key first down to end the first half and keep the Redskins from getting the ball again.
Cook caught his first pass of the season. The reserve fullback was generally used as a run blocker or in pass protection.
Galloway was Chris Simms’ favorite target, and was targeted all over the field all game long. After the Redskins’ first turnover, Galloway caught a 34 yard pass from Simms to set up Mike Alstott’s first touchdown run. The play was a controversial one, as Galloway didn’t appear to get both feet down in bounds, but it was ruled a force-out by the official. Late in the first half, Galloway was able to find an opening across the middle, caught the ball, and was able to outrun the safety into the end zone for a 24 yard touchdown, his seventh this season. Late in the game with his team desperate to score, Galloway made a spectacular one handed grab down the middle of the field. The ball was overthrown and Galloway fell after stretching to catch it, but had the throw been on target Galloway would have scored easily. Galloway’s speed made him hard to cover, and he figures to be a significant contributor down the stretch.
Hilliard started the game in place of the ailing Michael Clayton, who sat to rest his shoulder. He ran short routes for the most part and didn’t stretch the defense deep. He caught a three yard touchdown in the third quarter, fooling Walt Harris with a double move in the end zone.
Shepherd saw extensive action for the first time this season and caught the first touchdown of his three-year career. He was used almost exclusively on go-routes, taking advantage of his superb speed to outrun the cornerback, who was generally in single coverage. He set up Ike Hilliard’s touchdown catch with a 46 yard grab in the third quarter. In the fourth, he made a great catch behind Walt Harris for the score that set up the winning two-point conversion. With Michael Clayton out, Shepherd got a chance to showcase his ability, and he did very well. If Clayton continues to miss time, Shepherd will likely see more action in the coming weeks.
Becht was targeted once but didn’t catch a pass. He was used mainly to pass block.
Bryant didn’t attempt a field goal. He made all four of his official extra point attempts. He had one blocked on the final score of the game, but the Redskins’ defense was offsides. The team decided to go for two instead of attempting another kick.
Tampa Bay’s defense entered the game second in the entire league against the run, and averaged around 75 yards per game given up on the ground. They were much worse against the Redskins, allowing Clinton Portis to amass 82 yards rushing in the first quarter and giving up 185 rushing yards total. Portis was able to utilize his cut back ability to elude defenders caught in over pursuit. Ladell Betts was less shifty, but was also able to come up with some tough yards on the ground. The Redskins’ offensive line, one of the largest in the league, was able to wear down the Buccaneers’ defense, diminutive by comparison. Derrick Brooks led the line backing corps with 8 tackles and one assist.
The pass defense was very good and forced Mark Brunell to make mistakes early. Juran Bolden, the nickel cornerback, made his presence felt, roughing up David Patten to force the game’s first turnover and later hitting Santana Moss right as the ball arrived to allow Simeon Rice to intercept the ball. Rice had a great game as well, with the aforementioned interception along with two sacks. Chris Samuels appeared overmatched against Rice most of the game. Ronde Barber led the team with 9 interceptions and helped shut down Santana Moss, who was held in check with only four catches. With Dexter Jackson out with an injury, Will Allen started at free safety.