Washington won the toss and elected to defer, giving the Bucs the ball to start. The first completion went to wide receiver Mike Evans, who got a first down and drew a facemask penalty. The Buccaneers continued from there on a balanced mix of runs from Leonard Fournette and passes to wide receiver Chris Godwin. They'd get inside the red zone but ultimately have to settle for a field goal on their first drive of the game, taking an early 3-0 lead on a 29-yard kick from Ryan Succop with 11:51 left in the first.
The first offensive possession for Washington with quarterback Taylor Heinicke under center would not prove fruitful. Outside linebacker Shaq Barrett dropped running back Antonio Gibson for a loss of four on first down and the Football Team wouldn't recover. They'd punt the ball back almost immediately to give the Bucs' offense another shot.
Tampa Bay would end up punting right back, though after a couple sets of downs. They'd stall at midfield after a delay of game penalty – their first of the year – backed the Bucs up on third down. Brady almost had Evans but the ball was knocked away by Fuller and the Bucs surrendered the ball with 7:14 left in the first quarter.
The Bucs' defense came up huge on the next drive as pressure got to Heinicke in the form of a blitz by safety Antoine Winfield Jr. The next play, inside linebacker Kevin Minter got a hand on the ball to tip it enough that cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting was able to come down with it for the takeaway at the Bucs' 47-yard line.
With the bonus possession, Brady and company went down the field thanks to a big third-down grab from Scotty Miller. A couple plays later and Brady hit wide receiver Antonio Brown for the 36-yard touchdown. The point after was blocked, leaving the score 9-3 with 2:51 left in the first quarter.
The next drive would prove successful for Washington, who got into Buccaneer territory for the first time and then some. Heinicke made some clutch throws and all of a sudden, Washington was in the end zone on a two-yard run from J.D. McKissic on third and goal. Washington cut the lead, making the score 9-7 with 12:59 to go in the half.
The Bucs came up with an answer of their own. After a squib kick b Washington, the Bucs had good field position as they moved down the field, largely thanks to a couple good runs by Fournette. The drive culminated with a 27-yard touchdown pass over the middle to Godwin. The Bucs then went for two and wouldn't convert, leaving the score an off 15-7 with just over 10 minutes to go in the second quarter.
The Football Team would get past midfield but then be slowed up thanks to some excellent coverage by the Bucs' secondary. Washington faced third and nine and cornerback Carlton Davis got his hands in front of the ball to knock it away, forcing the incompletion. Washington then punted and pinned the Bucs at their own 13 with 6:10 left in the first half.
Tampa Bay came away with some points on the next drive. They got as far as the seven-yard line thanks to a couple excellent passes to tight end Cameron Brate and more plays by Fournette, both on the ground and through the air. Brady would go to tight end Rob Gronkowski in the back of the end zone on third and goal at the seven but Gronk wouldn't be able to get two feet down. The Bucs settled for the field goal, making the score 18-7 with under two minutes to go in the half.
The next drive didn't result in anything for Washington but it was eventful nonetheless. The Buccaneers finally got home as outside linebacker Anthony Nelson and rookie defensive lineman Khalil Davis sacked Heinicke. It looked like Davis forced the ball out before Heinicke was down and Shaq Barrett recovered it for the Bucs but after a review the refs upheld the initial call of just a sack. The Football Team was eventually faced with a third down and 16, which they would not convert and the punted the ball back to the Bucs with 90 seconds to work with in the half.
The Bucs only took about a minute of that time though as they went an uncharacteristic three and out after Brady was sacked on third down and 10 by Sweat. They gave the ball back to Washington with 30 seconds still left in the first half.
Washington wouldn't do much of anything on their next possession and just ran the clock out to go into the half, knowing they would get the ball back to start the third quarter.
The opening possession of the second half resulted in a field goal for Washington. They went down the field, gaining some momentum on a couple big passes to both McLaurin and Thomas but stalled out across midfield. They'd end up settling for a field goal after a third-down throw by Heinicke was almost picked off by safety Jordan Whitehead. The 36-yard kick made the score 18-10 with 11:46 to go in the third quarter.
The Buccaneers wouldn't be able to answer on their next drive and instead went three and out for their second consecutive series. They punted the ball back to Washington with 10:53 on the clock as the Bucs announced an ankle injury to right guard Alex Cappa.
This time, the Buccaneer defense would trade a three-and-out right back to Washington and the Football Team would surrender it back to Tampa Bay with 8:53 left.
On the return, the Buccaneers let the ball bounce and Washington's Troy Apke picked it up and then, untouched, ran it into the end zone offhandedly. It resulted in a touchback instead of downing it at the 10-yard line. The Bucs then started the series with two incompletions. It was Evans on third down and 10 with a sliding catch to convert and keep the drive alive. It would end abruptly as defensive lineman Da'Ron Payne punched the ball out of running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn's hands as he was going to the ground. Washington took over at their own 44.
Heinicke again made things happen with his legs as he scrambled 13 yards for a first down to get Washington inside the red zone. Just when Heinicke looked like he was about to be sacked, Heinicke escaped and dove for the end zone, hitting the pylon. Washington went for two to tie it but didn't get it, as the Bucs clung to an 18-16 lead with 2:14 left in the third quarter.
The next drive was a rollercoaster for the Buccaneers as Godwin made a very uncharacteristic drop that was thankfully made up for thanks to the feet of Fournette and a combination of Brate and Evans. The Bucs would still stall right outside the red zone though and Brady would take a sack on second down the Bucs couldn't recover from. They'd settle for the 38-yard field goal to make the score 21-16 with 13:32 left in the game.
This time, the Bucs' defense held up and held Washington to a three-and-out, getting the ball back to the Tampa Bay offense almost immediately. After a good punt, the Bucs would take over at their own 31 with 12:33 left.
This time, Washington would answer with a touchdown of their own as Heinicke threw the first postseason touchdown pass of his career to Sims. It brought Washington within a score, 28-23 with 4:51 left in the game.
The Bucs would add to their lead on the next drive thanks largely to Evans and a 35-yard catch that put him over 100 yards on the day. The Bucs would stall yet again as Brady was sacked by Payne on second down. Third and 18 and Brady went to Godwin who got 16. It was enough to get the Bucs into a comfortable field goal range, with Succop connecting on a 37-yarder to put the Bucs up 31-23 with 2:49 to go in the game.
The Football Team wouldn't be able to make anything happen thanks to a big-time sack on third down by Lavonte David that made it fourth down and 21. Heinicke threw it up on a desperation throw but it was defended well and fell incomplete just inside the two minutes warning.
With no timeouts left, Washington couldn't stop the clock and the Bucs took a couple knees to end the game, 31-23. Final and the Bucs advance.
View photos of Tampa Bay's Wild Card matchup against Washington.