Robert Griffin III fumbled on his first carry Sunday at Raymond James Stadium, but such was the first half for the Washington Redskins and their rookie quarterback that it ended up being a good play for the visiting team.
Washington WR Pierre Garcon recovered the loose ball in the end zone for the game's first touchdown in the first quarter, helping the Redskins take a 21-6 lead over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers into halftime. Griffin later successfully ran another ball into the end zone for a touchdown, and rookie RB Alfred Morris added a 39-yard scoring run in the second quarter.
The Buccaneers scored on two long field goals by the unshakeable Connor Barth – 50 and 57 yards this time – but a promising offense start soon bogged down. The Redskins ended up with a 232-132 total yardage edge at the intermission.
Bucs QB Josh Freeman completed 13 of 22 passes for 88 yards but he was intercepted by CB DeAngelo Hall in the second quarter to set up Griffin's five-yard TD run. Tampa Bay's rushing attack was fairly solid, gaining nine yards on 50 attempts, though a key holding call in the first quarter erased another 19-yard run by rookie RB Doug Martin that could have set the home team up for more points.
Washington won the toss and deferred, with Billy Cundiff booting a touchback to start the game. Williams made a nice spinning catch on a fade stop on the game's first play to produce an immediate first down at the 32. The Bucs got another set of down three plays later on a tough, six-yard catch over the middle, but the drive stalled near midfield when Freeman's third-and-10 scramble came up five yards short. Michael Koenen's punt was fair caught at the Washington 10.
The Bucs jumped offsides on Washington's first play but still came up with a quick three-and-out, thanks largely to DT Gerald McCoy's tackle of Morris three yards behind the line on third-and-five. The resulting punt put the Bucs back at their own 30, but they took immediately after that.
WR Arrelious Benn's shifty end-around picked up a first down at the 41, and Freeman then tossed a 20-yard rollout strike downfield to Williams. On first down from Washington's 39, Martin broke free down the left sideline, but the play came back on a holding call against on C Jeremy Zuttah. The Bucs didn't gain another first down, but a tackle-breaking play by RB D.J. Ware on a third-down screen picked up a big five yards before Barth's 50-yard field goal.
Washington came back with a renewed emphasis in the running game and got a 17-yard cutback gain by Morris. On the next play, Griffin stepped up to avoid pressure and threw right to wide-open FB Darrel Young for a pickup of 24 to the Bucs' 30. A holding penalty backed the 'Skins up to the 40 but a short pass to TE Fred Davis turned into a 26-yard gain on the next play, down to the Bucs' 14. Three plays later, on third-and-five from the nine, Griffin took a shotgun snap, paused for a moment then sprinted up the middle. A hit by safeties Ahmad Black and Mark Barron forced a fumble right at the goal line, but Garcon recovered for the Redskins in the end zone for the game's first TD on the final play of the first quarter.
The Bucs went three-and-out on the next possession, though Freeman had a shot to hit Williams 20 yards downfield, throwing the pass a bit behind his target. The resulting punt was boomed 55 yards to the Washington 20, and a holding penalty on the Redskins pushed it back to the 10.
The Bucs seemed to start the next drive well when Barron buried Griffin on a first-down option keeper, but the rookie safety was flagged for unnecessary roughness. Two plays later, S Ronde Barber drew a pass interference call far downfield, making it first down at Tampa Bay's 25. A leaping PBU by CB Aqib Talib two plays later made it third-and-11, and a well-defended dumpoff to WR Leonard Hankerson didn't come close to picking up the first down. Cundiff came on to try a 41-yard field goal but pushed it wide right.
Unfortunately, Freeman's attempt to hit Jackson on a deep out two plays later instead went right to Hall for an interception, which Hall returned to the Bucs' 35. An incompletion on first down was followed by an attempted run by Morris that ran into a wall of tacklers and lost three yards. The Redskins were able to dig out of the third-and-13 on a 12-yard out to Davis and a strong fourth-and-one run by Morris. Griffin finished the drive himself by once again taking off on a delayed run up the middle to score from five yards out.
The Bucs' offensive struggles continued on the next drive, as a short run and an incompletion quickly made it third-and-nine. Freeman tried to step up to buy time on third-and-nine but was eventually sacked from behind by LB Ryan Kerrigan, leading to another Buc punt. Koenen boomed his kick 64 yards and the Redskins started up again at their own 40.
Washington needed just two plays to get it in from there, as Morris broke free for a 39-yard touchdown on the second snap, making it 21-3 in the visitors' favor.
The Bucs' offense regained a little rhythm on the next drive, getting a quick first down on a five-yard Jackson catch and a 10-yard Martin run. Three plays later, on third-and-four, the Bucs snapped it directly to Martin, who dashed around left end for a gain of 17 and a first down at the Washington 42. However, Freeman's scramble on third-and-10 moments later picked up just three yards and the Bucs sent Barth out to try a 57 yards and, of course, he nailed it.
Tampa Bay's defense worked hard to get the ball back to the offense for one more scoring drive, with LB Lavonte David's four-yard TFL on Morris the key play leading to a punt with 51 seconds left. However, the Bucs were unable to get moving and had to punt it back with 20 seconds left after a three-and-out.
Washington used the last few seconds to move into range for a 57-yard try by Cundiff, but he came up short.