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Other Week 18 Game Recaps

Week 18 Game Recap: Washington Redskins 17, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10

What you need to know

Washington Redskins

RB Clinton Portis was in and out of the game for much of the contest after suffering a minor shoulder injury. While in the game, Portis found little running room but at least managed to find the end zone to reward fantasy owners.

The Washington defense didn’t play perfectly, but they were very opportunistic. The unit took advantage of several mistakes by the Buccaneers (as well as a couple of questionable calls by officials) to take control of the game early and maintain it late.

The Washington offense was awful, though it didn’t need to do much. QB Mark Brunell threw for just 41 yards, and the team as a whole gained just 120 yards of total offense.

Star safety Sean Taylor experienced both the highs and lows of playoff football. He returned a fumble to put the Redskins up. Unfortunately for Taylor, his presence in the game was limited by the fact that he was ejected for apparently spitting in the face of Tampa RB Michael Pittman.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

At times, QB Chris Simms appeared like a veteran signal-caller, capable of moving his team downfield with ease. At others, he greatly resembled an untested young player who was very unsure of himself. His final numbers look solid, and he could have played the hero role had it not been for a dropped TD late in the game. But the fact remains that he also could have played better in the game at other times.

Cadillac Williams, recently named the league’s offensive rookie of the year, came up with a very small effort. Though the running lanes weren’t there very often, he also failed to hit them hard when they were. His presence was minimal.

The Tampa defense was outstanding, and limited the Redskins to just 120 yards of total offense. Both touchdowns by the Redskins were more the fault of the offense than anything.

What you ought to know

QB Mark Brunell, Pass: 7 - 15 - 41 - 0 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 4 - 6 - 0

This wasn’t a game that will be put onto the Mark Brunell highlight reel. Of his 15 passes, just two were deep targets (both of them misfiring), and his stat line looks pitiful. Brunell’s best play of the game was by far a play on which he recovered a fumble by TE Chris Cooley. It’s not saying much when the best play a QB makes is on a fumble recovery. He didn’t make a ton of mistakes; then again, he didn’t make a single play all afternoon, with his longest pass play of the day covering just 15 yards. He had an opportunity to connect with WR Santana Moss for what would have been a long touchdown, but Brunell’s pass sailed a bit wide toward the sideline. Had the pass been on target, it may have gone for a score. As it was, Moss probably still should have at least come up with the reception for a solid gain on the play. Brunell also made what could have been a costly mistake when he was intercepted by Brian Kelly on an ill-advised pass intended for Taylor Jacobs. The ensuing drive by Tampa was the drive on which Edell Shepherd came about as close as one can come to tying the game with a touchdown. Had the Bucs scored there and gone on to win the game, Brunell would be called the goat right now.

RB Clinton Portis, Pass: 0 - 1 - 0 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 16 - 53 - 1, Rec: 1 - -5 - 0 (1 targets)

Portis had a very odd game. He nearly threw a touchdown pass to WR Santana Moss early on, but the ball was a little bit underthrown and fell incomplete. Later, he scored from six yards out following a Washington interception. That six yard run was one of his longest of the afternoon. He found the running lanes small, and only his strength enabled him to push the pile forward whatsoever and salvage a decent yardage day. He was seen on the sidelines late in the first quarter. There was no report about an injury, and he was again walking the sidelines when the teams came out after halftime. Portis was shown putting on his jacket, and looked to be finished for the game, early in the third quarter. Midway through the quarter, the report from Washington was that nothing was wrong with him. True enough, he returned to the game and was the primary ball carrier for the Redskins, but he didn’t do much with those carries. In fact, he juggled his very first carry and nearly fumbled it away to the Buccaneers. It was later revealed after the game that he had suffered some sort of arm injury, though it obviously wasn’t enough to keep him out of action for any extended duration. Perhaps the injury was suffered during one of the many phenomenal blitz pickups Portis was involved with. The announcers revealed a quote by Portis during the game, to the effect of, ‘When I’m carrying the ball, people want to hit me and kill me…so when I’m not carrying the ball, I want to kill them.’ It’s more a statement on Portis’ mindset than anything, but for anyone who questioned his toughness, just watch footage of him picking up and dumping blitzing linebackers in this game and come back and tell us what you think. Portis lost six yards rushing on a play that was negated by an illegal motion penalty.

RB Ladell Betts, Rush: 10 - 25 - 0, Rec: 1 - 11 - 0 (1 targets)

Betts spelled Clinton Portis when the latter went out with a minor shoulder injury. Betts was not very effective during the game, and found the running lanes clogged consistently.

WR Santana Moss, Rush: 1 - 11 - 0, Rec: 2 - 18 - 0 (7 targets)

Moss did almost nothing in the passing game, through very little fault of his own. QB Mark Brunell simply had a difficult time getting the ball to Moss in space. The one time Moss put a great move on Ronde Barber and was wide open down the sideline, Brunell put a little too much air on the pass and sailed it out of bounds. Moss earlier came close to a score as well an HB option pass, but the toss from Clinton Portis was underthrown and fell incomplete.

WR James Thrash, Rec: 1 - 5 - 0 (4 targets)

Thrash was only thrown to once after halftime, and as one can see from the stats, he wasn’t exactly targeted a ton in the first half, either. His impact was almost none.

TE Chris Cooley, Rec: 2 - 12 - 0 (2 targets)

Cooley’s biggest play of the game was when he fumbled a reception away from Mark Brunell. Luckily for the Redskins, Brunell pounced on the ball for the recovery and Washington maintained possession.

PK John Hall 1 - 1 FG, 2 - 2 XP, 5 points

Hall connected on a 47 yard field goal in the third quarter, barely squeezing the kick into the bottom corner of the upright. Earlier in the game, Washington passed up an opportunity to attempt a 52 yard FG, opting to punt instead. The announcers mentioned that in pregame warm-ups, Hall’s maximum range appeared to be in the 46-47 yard range. As it turned out, they were right.

WAS Rush Defense

Cadillac Williams never had a chance to succeed for most of this game. The Washington run defense was swarming, and it didn’t help Williams that he appeared slow and tentative to hit the hole. Aside from Williams’ ineffectiveness, Washington’s defense also caught a huge break. Later in the contest, Williams fumbled the ball away to the Redskins. LB Marcus Washington recovered the fumble while on the ground. Williams’ leg appeared to come in contact with Washington, which would have meant he was down. Officials, however, ruled that Washington got up without being touched, fumbled again, and Sean Taylor picked up the loose ball and took it 51 yards for a score. Even after review, officials couldn’t determine that Washington should have been ruled down. This made the game 14-0 at the time, a deficit the Bucs had a very difficult time coming back from.

WAS Pass Defense

Playing without one starting CB already (Shawn Springs), Washington nearly lost another top DB when Walt Harris was shaken up after a tackle on Alex Smith. He was eventually ok. S Sean Taylor, the other excellent DB, was NOT ok. He got into a bit of a taunting match with Bucs’ RB Michael Pittman where the two went face-to-face with helmets on. What happened next is that allegedly Taylor spit into the face of Pittman. Pittman retaliated with a punch across Taylor’s facemask. The official, who was right on top of the two players at the time, flagged and ejected Taylor and didn’t even flag Pittman. That leads one to believe that he was certain Taylor was the instigator, because ordinarily even a retaliatory punch in the face would be grounds for a penalty. After the game, HC Joe Gibbs said he was disappointed in Taylor because he has been a model citizen to this point of the season. As for the game plan, Taylor and the rest of the Redskins made a conscious effort to stop Joey Galloway from beating them deep, and it worked early on. They executed this plan flawlessly, and didn’t give up a single big play over the top all game. Of course, focusing so much on the deep pass enabled Chris Simms to pick them apart underneath. He opened up on fire, with 16 completions on his first 18 pass attempts. One of the early incompletions was a part of that opportunistic Redskins’ defense. LB LaVar Arrington stepped in front of a Simms pass and nearly returned it for a score. Following the interception, Arrington brought the ball down to the six yard line and fumbled the ball back to Tampa on the tackle. Since he was ruled down, however, the play was not reviewable. The big negative on the day for Washington was the injury to DL Renaldo Wynn. He suffered a fractured forearm on a play where he was attempting to sack Chris Simms and instead jammed his hand against his own teammate. The other bad news for Washington is that they were unable to get much pressure on Simms late in the game, as he had loads of time to throw the ball. If their defense plays this way against a team like Seattle next week, they will likely not win the game. Today, they pretty much took advantage of gift opportunities – they didn’t “make” very many plays, however.

QB Chris Simms, Pass: 25 - 38 - 198 - 0 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 3 - 11 - 1

Early on, the Redskins appeared content to let Simms have his way with the short passes underneath, choosing to focus instead on stopping Joey Galloway and the deep passing game. After Simms got to 16-18 passing, however, Washington shook things up a bit. They started sending more people after him, and the double teams on Galloway were fewer. Simms, however, kept on cruising. He appeared very strong and confident on most of his throws. What doomed him, though, was the occasional play on which he seemed unsure of himself and what he was doing. Those “drive-killing” sacks were what did him in, not to mention a couple of costly turnovers. His first pass attempt of the game was intercepted by LB LaVar Arrington, who took it down to the six yard line. Clinton Portis scored on the next play. Simms ended his day by tossing an interception on his last pass of the day as well, this time by Marcus Washington. It was an obviously huge turnover, because Tampa was trying to score the game-tying TD on that drive, which lasted all of one play – the pick. Interestingly, both of Simms’ interceptions came on passes that were at least partially deflected at the line of scrimmage. It wasn’t all bad for Simms, however. He had a fantastic TD run on a bootleg carry early in the third quarter. He also showed a bit of his father’s moxie late in the fourth, when he taunted and goaded his opponent with a “come and get me” hand gesture as he was taking off on a run toward the sideline. By the fourth quarter, Tampa’s offensive line had begun giving him loads of time to throw, and he took full advantage by making several terrific passes, mostly over the middle of the field. He threw what appeared to be a gorgeous game-tying TD pass to WR Edell Shepherd, but the receiver couldn’t hang onto the football as he hit the ground. The Bucs challenged, but the ruling on the field was upheld. On the very next play, Simms again saw a wide-open Shepherd streaking into the end zone, but overthrew him on a fourth down pass. Following a Washington three and out, Simms took over with another chance to tie the game, but tossed that second interception to all but end the game.

RB Cadillac Williams, Rush: 18 - 49 - 0, Rec: 3 - 10 - 0 (3 targets)

There wasn’t much running room for Williams, and the few times there was any room he failed to hit the hole hard. He just didn’t look very strong or quick running the ball. It could have been due in part to Washington’s defense, or in part to Williams hitting the wall a bit. Whatever the case, he simply did not look very good. To make matters worse, his costly fumble was returned 51 yards for a TD by Sean Taylor. Replays showed that Williams’ foot appeared to come into contact with LB Marcus Washington (who originally recovered the fumble), but officials could not determine that over replay. HC Jon Gruden showed a lot of faith in Williams following the fumble, giving him a carry on the Bucs’ very next play from scrimmage. Still, he failed to impress the remainder of the game and looked too tentative, especially against a defense of this caliber.

RB Mike Alstott, Rush: 4 - 15 - 0, Rec: 1 - 7 - 0 (2 targets)

Alstott once again handled the short yardage duties for the Buccaneers, converting one such run and being stuffed on one.

RB Michael Pittman, Rec: 3 - 30 - 0 (7 targets)

Pittman’s role in the passing game was much larger than starter Cadillac Williams, even though they caught the same number of passes. He was involved in a strange play with Redskins’ S Sean Taylor on which it appeared that Pittman simply hit Taylor in the facemask for something he said. It was later revealed that Taylor allegedly spit in Pittman’s face, so the RB was never penalized. Pittman once again returned kicks for Tampa, and was very impressive in doing so.

WR Joey Galloway, Rec: 7 - 69 - 0 (11 targets)

Galloway didn’t register his first reception of the game until the final play of the first quarter. Washington had him double-teamed for much of the game, forcing Chris Simms to beat them with short passes underneath. Once it became apparent that Simms was willing to take what the defense gave him (he started 16-18), they backed off Galloway a bit and his stat line improved. Still, not only was he unable to break any real deep passes; he was never even targeted deep downfield.

WR Ike Hilliard, Rec: 4 - 38 - 0 (4 targets)

Hilliard turned in a customary consistent performance. All of his receptions came on underneath routes and he was never able to gain much separation from defenders after the catch, with his long reception going for just 19 yards. With Hilliard, you usually know what you’ll get - nothing spectacular, nothing terrible.

WR Edell Shepherd, Rec: 1 - 4 - 0 (3 targets)

Shepherd had just one pass thrown to him, a forgettable four yard reception, through the first 57 minutes of the game. He then became the focus of the game on a ball intended for him in the end zone on Tampa’s next-to-last drive. Shepherd caught what appeared to be a game-tying 35 yard touchdown pass from Chris Simms as he slid into the end zone. Officials on top of the play, however, ruled that Shepherd lost possession before establishing himself in the end zone. The call was challenged by Tampa, but officials upheld the ruling on the field. On the very next play, Shepherd was again targeted in the end zone and was wide open, but the pass from Simms sailed over his head incomplete.

TE Alex Smith, Rec: 3 - 14 - 0 (4 targets)

Smith’s role was minimal but effective. What few opportunities he had, he did the most he could with. He wasn’t a player on many fantasy owners’ radar for 2005, but he could be a solid sleeper TE for 2006. He’s got the talent to succeed, and just needs a bigger opportunity.

TE Anthony Becht, Rec: 3 - 26 - 0 (3 targets)

Becht was surprisingly effective in the short passing game, including a nice grab on which he managed to hold on despite taking a vicious hit from a defender.

PK Matt Bryant 1 - 1 FG, 1 - 1 XP, 4 points

Bryant nailed his only field goal attempt, from 43 yards out. The kick gave Tampa its first points of the game, and with his team already trailing 14-0, the kick was definitely pressure-filled at such a distance.

TB Rush Defense

The Buccaneers kept Washington under 100 rushing yards for the game, an impressive feat considering the Redskins ran the football 31 times. Clinton Portis found some very tough going for most of the afternoon, and bruising backup Ladell Betts didn’t fare any better. About the only time the Bucs’ run defense cracked, it wasn’t really their fault. Washington LB LaVar Arrington had intercepted a Chris Simms pass and taken the ball down to the six yard line. On the very next play, Portis took the ball into the end zone for a touchdown. It’s difficult to expect a defense to come up with a stop when the ball is placed first and goal on them immediately. Aside from that one run, the Bucs’ run defense was outstanding. LB Shelton Quarles was shaken up after being drilled by Clinton Portis during a blitz pickup. Quarles lay on the ground for several moments, but eventually walked off under his own power. On the Bucs’ final series of the season, they came up with three big stops of Portis, enabling the offense one last gasp to try and tie the game in regulation. Unfortunately for them, Chris Simms was intercepted on his very first pass of the ensuing possession, which effectively ended the game.

TB Pass Defense

All that really needs to be said is that QB Mark Brunell finished with just 41 yards passing on less than 50% completions. The Buccaneers completely took out Santana Moss and Chris Cooley from the Washington passing game, and Tampa was also helped out by the fact that Washington established an early lead and simply milked the clock for the remainder of the game. About the closest the Redskins came to a big pass play was on an HB option pass from Clinton Portis to Santana Moss in the first quarter. Had the pass been a bit more out in front of Moss, it may have gone for a score. As it was, the ball was very well defended by Tampa and knocked away incomplete. It actually was very close to being intercepted. Tampa Bay was never really challenged defensively after that point, but any time Washington did take a shot downfield, it went for nothing. S Brian Kelly made a remarkable play on an interception, where he tipped the pass up in the air and snagged it out of mid-air himself.

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