Last year, Carolina’s Cam Newton, the first overall pick in the 2011 draft, put together the most dynamic rookie season ever for an NFL quarterback. Some think that Robert Griffin III, the second overall pick in the 2012 draft, can have a similarly dramatic impact for the Washington Redskins.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans will have the opportunity to make a first-hand comparison between the two young passers before the first month of the season is over.
Last week, Buccaneers.com began a series of preview articles focusing on the eight teams that will be invading Raymond James Stadium this fall, and the state of each team’s all-time series against the Buccaneers. The Panthers will be Tampa Bay’s first regular-season opponent, coming to town for the home opener on September 9, when an often heated rivalry will resume. After a pair of road games in New York and Dallas, the Buccaneers will then return home on September 30 to face Griffin and the Redskins.
That game will rekindle a series that has included seven straight games decided by a touchdown or less. In fact, 10 of the last 11 Bucs-Redskins matchups have fallen into that category, including two that, amazingly, turned on a last-second extra point. It’s no surprise, then, that the all-time series between the two teams is almost dead even, in terms of both victories and points scored. The Buccaneers and Redskins have even squared off twice in the postseason, with predictably even results.
When Tampa Bay and Washington last met,
Washington is the second of eight opponents Tampa Bay will face at Raymond James Stadium during the regular season this fall. It is one of the most intriguing home slates Buccaneer fans have had to look forward to in some time. In addition to the Panthers and ‘Skins, the Bucs will welcome to town the Kansas City Chiefs, New Orleans Saints, San Diego Chargers, Atlanta Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles and St. Louis Rams. Before the games begin, Buccaneers.com is going to take a look at each of those eight rivalries, discussing the all-time series results, the best moments for each team in the series, the most recent matchup, the outlook for 2012 and one key matchup to keep an eye on this fall.
Up next, the Washington Redskins.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Washington Redskins
All-Time Head-to-Head Results:
As mentioned above, the Bucs and Redskins have played to a virtual tie during a 17-game series that began 35 years ago, in 1977. The series was contested relatively infrequently early on, with just three meetings in Tampa Bay’s first 17 seasons. Over the past 19 years, however, the NFL has scheduled 14 games between the two teams, including the playoffs, with eight in the last nine years alone.
Tampa Bay leads the all-time series, 9-8, winning three of the last four to move on top. Overall, the Bucs have scored 322 points in the series to Washington’s 303. The two clubs met in the playoffs in 1999 (a 14-13 Tampa Bay win) and in 2005 (a 17-10 Redskin victory), both times at Raymond James Stadium.
Washington won the first four games between the two teams, which was a reflection of the two franchise’s overall fortunes in that era. The Redskins went to the playoffs eight times between 1982 and 1993, when three of those four games were played, while the Bucs made it just once and did not have a winning campaign besides a strike-shortened 5-4 season in ’82.
However, the Buccaneers won the next four games, to tie the series and it has been back-and-forth ever since. Tampa Bay has won six of the last 11 meetings, but only once did either team prevail twice in a row in that stretch. Of the 19 meetings, 11 have taken place in Tampa, including both postseason games. The Bucs are 7-4 in those 11 games.
Best Runs for Each Team:
Washington was in complete control of the series for a decade and a half, though that only included four games. The Buccaneers played their inaugural 1976 season entirely in the AFC, but a switch to the NFC Central in 1977 brought Washington to town for the first time in October of that year. It didn’t go well for the home team, as the Redskins, coming off their fifth playoff season in the previous six years, won 10-0. The Washington defense, ranked fourth in points allowed in ’77, allowed the Bucs just 136 yards of offense and one third-down conversion in 16 tries. Washington won the next three meetings, as well, though the Bucs nearly pulled off a big comeback in a 23-17 loss in 1993.
The Bucs’ best streak in the series followed on the heels of that 1993 loss. The NFL’s scheduling formula in the 1990s was based largely on teams’ records from the previous year, and similar seasons for the Redskins and Bucs early in that decade led to four games between them from 1994-96. The Bucs won them all. That included a rare home-and-home series in 1994 – usually reserved for division foes – and Tampa Bay posted 26-21 and 17-14 wins over the Redskins in the span of 15 days in December. Rookie running back Errict Rhett, who made a huge surge in the second half of the 1994 season, was the story of those games, rushing 63 times for 256 yards and three touchdowns in the pair of victories. That four-game run was capped by a 24-10 Bucs win at old Tampa Stadium in December of 1996, in which Rhett and Mike Alstott helped produce a 209-yard rushing day for the home team.
Best Game for Tampa Bay:
There are plenty of good choices for this distinction, including a comeback win in the 1999 playoffs that sent the Bucs to the NFC Championship Game in St. Louis and a 19-13 decision in 2007 in which six takeaways by the Tampa Bay defense helped overcome a 412-193 disadvantage in total yards.
For sheer drama, however, few games in franchise history match the Redskins’ visit to Raymond James Stadium on November 13, 2005. It took a diving, last-minute touchdown catch, an incredibly gutsy coaching decision and two of the most hard-fought yards in Mike Alstott’s amazing career to produce a 36-35 Bucs victory at Raymond James Stadium on that unforgettable afternoon.
It was a shootout from the beginning, with the Redskins rallying from deficits of 14-3 and 21-10 to eventually tie the game at 21 all in the third quarter. Chris Simms produced a string of big plays, putting up 279 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions on 15-of-29 passing, but he was countered by Redskins running back Ladell Betts, who combined a 94-yard kickoff return with a 17-yard reception for his two scores. That second Betts TD actually put the Redskins up 28-21, but the Bucs tied it again on Simms’ four-yard TD pass to Ike Hilliard.
Washington went up again on Clinton Portis’ touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter, then held the Buccaneers on the next drive when the home team elected to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 12. Defensive linemen Phillip Daniels got a hand on Simms’ pass at the line of scrimmage to break up the fourth-down attempt. Simms got the ball back one more time with 1:52 remaining thanks to a critical stop of Portis by Derrick Brooks on a third-and-two rushing attempt. With a minute remaining, Simms lofted a deep pass down the middle of the field to wide receiver Edell Shepherd, who made a leaping catch and landed in the end zone for the game-tying score.
Or what appeared to be the game-tying score. The Buccaneers did in fact line up to kick the extra point that would make it 35-35, but the Redskins, aggressively trying to block Matt Bryant’s conversion attempt, jumped offsides twice in a row. After the second one, Head Coach Jon Gruden elected to take the half-the-distance penalty at the spot and sent out the offense to go for two. That do-or-die call worked when Alstott took a simple handoff over right guard and just got over the line on a second-effort push.
The victory (read more about it here in the 2005 game story on Buccaneers.com) began a run that saw the Buccaneers win six of their last eight regular-season games to take the NFC South title. The Redskins got a large measure of revenge in the playoffs that year, however, returning to Raymond James Stadium in January and winning a Wild Card playoff game, 17-10.
Best Game for Washington:
That Wild Card win in January of 2006 might have been the most important one of the series for Washington, but it was a strange affair. The Buccaneers’ defense was stifling that day, allowing just 120 yards of offense, including just 25 net yards in the passing game. Washington still managed the win thanks in large part to four Buccaneer turnovers, the first a Simms interception that set up a six-yard touchdown drive and the second a Cadillac Williams fumble that was returned 57 yards for the Redskins only other TD. All of Washington’s scoring came in the game’s first 25 minutes and the visitors simply hung on after that during a grim afternoon at Raymond James Stadium.
In contrast, Washington’s 20-17 overtime victory in October of 2000 at FedExField was marked by a string of big plays late in the contest. The Redskins opened up an early lead in this one, too, thanks to a 50-yard touchdown run that was part of a 141-yard day for power back Stephen Davis. Larry Centers’ eight-yard scoring catch early in the fourth quarter gave Washington a 10-point lead that still possessed with just over two minutes to go.
However, Tampa Bay produced a stunning rally that was equal parts offense, defense and special teams to send the game into overtime. First, Shaun King capped a 69-yard touchdown drive with a 46-yard pass to Reidel Anthony on third-and-10. Amazingly, King had the football swatted out of his hands by defensive end Bruce Smith while in the backfield but was able to recover it and throw while scrambling to get the score. A failed onside kick left the Bucs in a bleak situation just after the two-minute warning, but defensive tackle Warren Sapp blocked a 35-yard field goal attempt by former Buccaneer Michael Husted to give Tampa Bay one more chance. A 15-yard King scramble helped put Martin Gramatica in position to tie the game, and he did so at the end of regulation with a 43-yard field goal.
In overtime, neither team produced a first down with its first drive, which left the Bucs punting away from their own 15 just two minutes into sudden death. Waiting a little past midfield was Deion “Prime Time” Sanders, who took Mark Royals’ kick back 57 yards to the Buccaneers’ eight. From there, it was just a matter of positioning before Husted banged home the 20-yard game-winner.
Most Recent Meeting:
This game, played in December of 2010 at FedExField, was the second of the two aforementioned meetings decided by extra-point shenanigans. While the Bucs’ 2005 victory turned on a gutsy call to go for two, the 2010 rematch avoided overtime thanks to a stunning failure on a regular one-point try.
It came very close to being a demoralizing afternoon for the Buccaneers, who were fighting for their playoff lives on a day that featured nearly relentless rain. Despite allowing Ryan Torain to run for 158 yards in the first half, the bend-but-don’t-break Buccaneers were only down a point, 10-9, when the fourth quarter began. A beautiful 79-yard drive ended in heartbreak early in the final period when Freeman fumbled the snap on first-and-goal from the one and Washington recovered. He would get another shot midway through the period and was able to finish the job this time with a 41-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kellen Winslow, who made a dazzling over-the-shoulder catch. A successful two-point conversion put the Bucs up by seven.
Veteran quarterback Donovan McNabb had one more rally in him, however. He led the Redskins on a 75-yard drive in the game’s final two-minutes, converting a pair of third downs along the way. A 10-yard pass to WR Anthony Armstrong made it first-and-goal from the two. Some confusion then ensued as an incorrect down marker on the field led many observers to believe that the Redskins were given the benefit of a “fifth down” after the Bucs got stops on the first three tries. It was only fourth-and-goal, however, as McNabb dropped back with 13 seconds to play, and he was able to use that final chance to find wide receiver Santana Moss open in the back of the end zone.
An extra point would send it into overtime. However, long-snapper Nick Sundberg’s snap was a bit high and it went through the hands of holder Hunter Smith. Graham Gano, who had already missed two short field goals on the day, never got a chance to try the extra point and was tackled hard by cornerback
The Buccaneers and Redskins are a pair of teams trying to restore their playoff glory after a bit of a drought. In fact, the last postseason trip for both teams took place in 2007, and both lost in the opening round, Tampa Bay to the eventual-champion Giants and Washington to Seattle.
The biggest change for the Buccaneers heading into 2012, obviously, is the arrival of Head Coach Greg Schiano and his new staff. In Washington, the hope for the future rests on the shoulders of Griffin, a dynamic athlete who won the Heisman Trophy last fall and is likely to step quickly into the lineup.
The Buccaneers’ biggest issue when facing the Redskins in the last half-dozen years has been stopping the run, and that was also the team’s biggest deficiency in 2011. The Buccaneers ranked last in the NFL in rush defense last fall and had trouble with a mobile quarterback when playing Carolina’s Newton twice. Tampa Bay’s 2012 defense is not likely to bear much resemblance to last year’s squad, however. Bill Sheridan is now in charge and will run a very aggressive attack at the behest of Schiano. There will likely be new starters in safety
Washington didn’t run the ball particularly effectively in 2011, on the other hand, and never really settled on a primary back (not too surprising, with Mike Shanahan at the helm). Then-rookie Roy Helu did get the largest share of the carries and ran for 640 yards; he may be the centerpiece of the rushing attack in 2012, and of course Griffin will provide a threat from the quarterback spot.
Despite a 5-11 finish, the Redskins defense was fairly strong in 2011, finishing 13th overall and 12th against the pass. Washington had one of the league’s best pass-rushing crews, producing 41 sacks, including 7.5 from rookie standout Ryan Kerrigan. Kerrigan teams with Brian Orakpo (9.0 sacks), Stephen Bowen (6.0) and Adam Carriker (5.5) to give the Redskins a very dangerous front. That particular battle could be one of strength-on-strength come September 30, given the state of the Buccaneers’ offensive line. After the high-profile addition of guard
Washington started the 2011 with a 3-1 record, and the Bucs were 4-2 heading into mid-October. Things turned south for both teams after that, but there is reason for optimism in both Florida and Virginia. By the end of the first month, it should be evident whether that optimism was well-founded in either camp.
Key Matchup in 2012:
Brian Orakpo vs.
Orakpo has 28.5 sacks through his first three NFL seasons, never fewer than eight in any campaign. Last year, he also forced three fumbles. Orakpo is quick and explosive off the line and has the sort of on-the-move body control that allows him to turn the corner and slip past blockers. The 6-4, 260-pound speed rusher is a handful for any offensive tackle, but Penn has made a career of shutting down some of the league’s best pass-rushers. If Penn can give Freeman time to operate during Washington’s Week Four trip to Raymond James Stadium, the Buccaneers will have a much better chance of prevailing.
The Buccaneers and Redskins have forged a shared history of close games and unusual late-game happenings. The two teams also hope they will be sharing a bounce-back season in 2012 after good starts a year ago turned disappointing for both. Each team is in transition, the Bucs adapting to a new coaching staff and the Redskins finding out just how dynamic Robert Griffin can be. All of that makes for an unpredictable meeting in late September at Raymond James Stadium, but probably not a dull one.