Photos from Buccaneers vs. Redskins at FedExField.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' campaign for consecutive victories got off to a fast start on Sunday at FedExField but ran out of steam in the 11th hour.
After racing out to a 24-0 lead in the second quarter, the Buccaneers fell victim to a spirited rally by the Washington Redskins and a game-winning touchdown pass with 24 seconds to play. The resulting loss dropped Tampa Bay to 2-4 on the season and kept them from winning back-to-back outings for the first time since 2013.
The game was actually played in Landover, Maryland, about eight miles outside the capital. Still, this one initially looked like it would be the Buccaneers' second straight dominant win in the Redskins' home. Last year's 27-7 win at FedExField was the Bucs most complete game of the 2014 season; this year's version was lacking the strong finish the visiting team desperately needed.
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The Buccaneers appeared to be on the verge of finishing off the Redskins just before the two-minute warning, after a 49-yard run by Doug Martin gave them a first-and-goal at the Washington five-yard line. A touchdown would have pushed the Bucs' lead to 10 points and effectively put the game out of reach. However, after two Martin runs got the ball to the one, an attempted toss-sweep to RB Charles Sims lost two yards and the Bucs settled for Connor Barth's second field goal and a six-point lead. Washington countered with an 80-yard touchdown drive ending in Jordan Reed's second short touchdown catch of the game.
"We've just got to finish," said QB Jameis Winston, who had his second straight efficient outing. "We battled and overcame so much adversity, with penalties and stuff like that…we battled. It's just a tough one. We've got to finish. It's my job to get us in the end zone. Doug had been doing his part all day and I've got to put us in the end zone. That's the bottom line."
Indeed, many of the numbers the Buccaneers put up on Sunday are usually associated with victory. Winston completed 21 of 29 passes for 297 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 128.1 passer rating. He completed eight passes to WR Mike Evans, who turned them into 164 yards and a 40-yard touchdown on the Bucs' third play of the game. Martin added 136 yards on 19 carries as the Buccaneers ran for 190 yards and 6.3 yards per carry. The Buccaneers even scored on defense for the second straight game, with DE Howard Jones returning a Kirk Cousins fumble 43 yards for a touchdown midway through the second period.
The Bucs led 24-0 at that point, but Washington took over the remainder of the game. After scoring before and after halftime, the Redskins completely took control of the momentum with a surprise onside kick in the third quarter. That led to Reed's first touchdown and closed the gap to three points.
"I really don't know," said CB Johnthan Banks, who returned after missing two games with a knee injury. "They made a play, came back, onside kick, got a little momentum, and we didn't get the job done. We didn't stand up like we're supposed to stand up and get a stop, and that changed the whole swing of the game. We have this feeling in our mouth again, and it's bad."
The Buccaneers lost despite racking up 479 yards of offense, converting on seven of 12 third downs and allowing only one sack of Winston. Tampa Bay's only turnover of the game was a fumble in the waning seconds when Sims tried to pitch the ball out of desperation on the Bucs' last play. Amazingly, that didn't add up to a victory, though it did continue to showcase a potent offense. The Buccaneers have scored 30 or more points in consecutive games for the first time since November of 2012.
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"That's what we've been focusing on," said Winston. "When we want to do something on offense we do it. We wanted to get Mike the ball, we got him the ball and he made some big plays. We wanted to get Doug the ball, run the ball, and Doug came up big again. The thing is, it's the game of football and we have to finish. It's my job. That's a part of role of being quarterback of this team, to lead us, and we've got to finish."
Unfortunately, the Buccaneers often needed more yards than they should have, as they were routinely backed up by penalties. The team's season-long penalty woes continued on Sunday with 16 flags for 142 yards. One of those included an offensive pass-interference call on an apparent second touchdown catch by Evans in the third quarter.
Tampa Bay's offense found its groove instantly, racking up 140 yards and 10 points on their first two possessions. In fact, the Bucs scored three plays into the game when Winston's first throw found Evans for a 40-yard touchdown. Martin, who had ripped off a 23-yard run on the previous play, accounted for 22 yards from scrimmage on the next drive as the Bucs marched 71 yards on eight plays to set up Barth's 22-yard field goal.
The Bucs' defense was equally hot in the opening quarter, allowing just 21 yards on Washington's first three drives. The Redskins' only first down in that stretch came on a defensive-holding penalty; otherwise, the home team was unable to convert on any of its first three drives. The only real negative for the Buccaneers in the early going was a string of missed opportunities, as they nearly blocked three straight punts and missed out on an interception when Banks couldn't hold on to a deep pass down the middle. The Bucs had only one takeaway on the day, on Jones' touchdown, but they were close to a couple other interceptions. Instead, Cousins completed 33 of 40 passes for 317 yards and three touchdowns.
"He played a good game," said Banks of Cousins. "We had our chances to make plays and we just didn't make them. I missed one, Chris missed one. We had our chances to make plays. They played a good game, but we really missed a lot of plays and they came back and beat us."
Washington's initial first down that wasn't the result of a penalty came with less than 11 minutes left in the half. Two plays after that, Smith sacked Cousins, forcing a fumble that Jones recovered and returned 43 yards for a touchdown. Jones picked the loose ball off the turf and turned on the Jets, easily pulling away from all the pursuing Redskins.
The Bucs scored on their third possession of the game, too, prior to Jones' sprint, driving 72 yards on 14 plays to set up Winston's seven-yard touchdown pass to Dye. The rookie wideout, playing more snaps due to an injury to Louis Murphy, spun off a defender and dived full out to pull the pass in and give the Bucs a 17-point lead. The Bucs overcome a 10-yard holding penalty and a 15-yard personal foul on the drive, actually racking up 97 yards of offense over 14 plays.
Washington did manage to get on the board before halftime. On the drive following Jones' touchdown, Cousins marched his crew 74 yards on seven plays, finishing it himself with an eight-yard run on a deceptive keeper on a zone read.
The Redskins fully took over the momentum after halftime, scoring twice in rapid succession. After taking their first drive of the third quarter 60 yards for a touchdown, with Ryan Grant's three-yard catch capping it, the home team pulled off a bold move with a successful onside kick. Two subsequent roughing-the-passer penalties helped the Redskins mount another touchdown drive, this one covering 51 yards on seven plays. A third-down slant pass to TE Jordan Reed pulled Washington within three.
The Bucs did tack on three points on a 45-yard Connor Barth field goal a minute into the fourth quarter, giving the visitors a six-point lead. Washington responded with their own field goal drive to pull back within three with eight minutes to play. Dustin Hopkins hit a 35-yard shot to get the points.
Barth's second field goal gave the Bucs another six-point lead, but Washington's first lead of the game was also the final score, as Reed scored on a quick third-down slant for the go-ahead points at the end of an 11-play drive.
Additional notes and in-game details:
- Jameis Winston's 40-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans in the first quarter marked the first time this season that the Buccaneers have scored a touchdown on their first possession of the game. The last time Tampa Bay found the end zone on its opening possession was at Carolina on Dec. 14, 2014, and that too was on an Evans TD catch.
- The Bucs drove 71 yards for a field goal on their second possession, which marked the first time Tampa Bay had scored on its first two drives since their 27-24 win at Pittsburgh on Sept. 28, 2014. For good measure, the Buccaneers drove 72 yards for another TD on their third drive. The last time they had scored on each of their first three possession was against New Orleans on Oct. 21, 2012.
- Tampa Bay's 14-play touchdown drive in the second quarter, ending in Donteea Dye's seven-yard catch, was their longest scoring drive of the season.
- The Bucs had 203 yards of offense in the first quarter. That was their top yardage output in any single quarter since they had 208 in the third quarter against Oakland on Nov. 4, 2012.
- Howard Jones' 43-yard fumble return touchdown in the second quarter marked the second game in a row that the Buccaneers had scored in that manner. DE Jacquies Smith, who forced the Kirk Cousins fumble that Jones picked up, scored on a three-yard fumble return against Jacksonville in Week Five. That marks the first time since 2005 that the Bucs have scored two fumble-return TDs in the same season. It is only the second time the team has done it in consecutive games; the previous instance was 28 years against Minnesota on Oct. 18 and Chicago on Oct. 25, 1987.
-WR Mike Evans caught eight passes for 164 yards and a touchdown, marking his season high in yards and his second 100-yard game of 2015. Evans now has five career 100-yard games, with two of those coming against Washington.
- The Bucs' defense started the game with a three-and-out, featuring a stop of Morris for a loss of one on first down by DT Clinton McDonald and LB Lavonte David. Sure tackles by Johnthan Banks and Kwon Alexander on short passes kept Washington from reaching the sticks.
- Tampa Bay's first possession started at its on 36 after a nine-yard punt return by Bobby Rainey. The second play of the drive was a weaving 23-yard run to the Washington 40. On first down, Winston enjoyed strong protection, giving him time to throw deep down the left sideline to Evans. Evans caught the perfect pass just as he reached the goal line and fell across the pylon for a touchdown.
- The Bucs survived a defensive holding penalty on the next drive when David disrupted a third-and-one pass intended for Matt Jones. After Rainey's 12-yard return of a 52-yard punt, the Bucs started again on their own 25. Two seven-yard runs by Martin and a 29-yard completion over the middle to Murphy got the Bucs back into Washington territory quickly. Murphy was hurt on the play; after a delay to tend to him, the offense lined up in a jumbo protection but a play-action pass to Evans surprised Washington and was good for 25 yards to the Washington 12. A swing pass to Martin put the Bucs in a third-and-two at the four, but a play-action rollout play fell apart and Winston had to throw it away. Barth came on to put a 22-yard field goal through the uprights for a 10-0 lead.
- Tampa Bay's defense forced another quick punt, aided by Banks' near interception on a deep pass down the middle, and runs of 18 and 5 yards by Martin got the offense back across midfield. A holding penalty put the Bucs into a tough situation but a sharp 13-yard pass over the middle to Jackson converted a third-and-nine. From the Washington 26, two Sims runs separated by the end of the quarter moved the sticks but T Gosder Cherilus was flagged for unnecessary roughness, backing the Bucs up by 15 yards. A screen pass and a sweep to Sims combined for 13 yards and first down in the red zone. On third-and-one after two more Sims runs, Winston threw to the left corner of the end zone and Dye made a diving catch just inbounds for a 17-0 Buc lead.
- Tampa Bay's defense tacked on seven points on Jones' 43-yard rumble on the next Washington possession, but the Redskins followed with their first scoring drive of the game. Cousins' 19-yard pass to Ryan Grant got the ball inside the 10 and then the quarterback took it in himself from the eight on a zone-read keeper that worked to perfection. Washington's defense then forced a punt for the first time in the game and the Redskins drove back into Buc territory before halftime. However, a hard hit by S Chris Conte on an apparent third-down completion inside the 20 jarred the ball loose from WR Andre Roberts. The Redskins went for it on fourth-and-two from the Bucs' 47, but then punted after their first try was wiped out by an illegal shift penalty.
The Bucs got the ball first in the second half but did little with it, and a short punt allowed Washington to start their first drive near midfield. A deep pass to Roberts converted an early third-and-two and gave the Redskins a first-and-goal at the Bucs' seven. Cousins completed the touchdown drive with a three-yard TD pass to Grant, pulling the home team to within 10 points. Washington benefitted from two roughing-the-passer penalties on the drive.
The Redskins continued their comeback with a bold call, successfully pulling off an onside kick. On the very next play, Cousins found Grant over the middle for 32 yards to the Bucs' 19. Washington got a first-and-goal out of a defensive holding penalty and Jordan Reed got into the end zone on a little third-down slant.
The Bucs faced a third-and-five early in their next drive but Winston converted it with a perfect sideline fade to Evans for 24 yards to midfield. After moving back due to a holding penalty, the Bucs surged forward again on Evans' 20-yard catch to the Washington 35. Three Martin runs, including a powerful four-yarder on third-and-two, moved the chains again. However, an apparent Evans touchdown catch was erased by an offensive pass interference call and Winston was sacked back at the 40 on the next play. It was third-and-27 after the teams switched sides to start the fourth quarter. A short pass to TE Luke Stocker put the Bucs in position for a 45-yard field goal try and Barth nailed it for a six-point lead.