The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had difficulty stopping Ryan Torain and the Washington Redskins' rushing attack during the first half Sunday at FedExField, yet trailed only 10-3 heading into halftime.
The Buccaneers' defense allowed 272 yards in the first quarter – 158 of them on 18 carries by Torain – but repeatedly stiffened inside the 10-yard line. Four of five possessions in the half got to at least Tampa Bay's 16-yard line, but two missed field goals by Graham Gano helped the Buccaneers limit the damage. Washington QB Donovan McNabb did account for the half's only touchdown with a fourth-down, one-yard pass to reserve TE Logan Paulson.
A 64-yard pass from QB Josh Freeman to rookie WR Arrelious Benn on the next play after Paulson's score set the Buccaneers up for a 25-yard Connor Barth field goal, which the Redskins countered with Gano's 25-yarder just before halftime. Freeman completed four of nine passes for 92 yards but the Bucs struggled on third downs, converting just one of five third-down tries. RB LeGarrette Blount ran well, gaining 46 yards on seven carries, but his second-quarter fumble led to Washington's touchdown drive.
The Bucs won the toss and elected to receive, lining up as a steady rain began to fall. The opening drive started at the Tampa Bay 24 and got off to a good start with Blount's six-yard run around left tackle. Freeman slipped on the wet turf on his first dropback but managed to scramble for three yards. On third-and-one, Freeman scrambled left and tried to hit TE Kellen Winslow deep downfield but LB London Fletcher had good coverage and it was incomplete. Rookie P Robert Malone gave the Bucs a field-position boost with a booming 59-yard punt that pushed Washington back to its 16.
However, after a false start, the Redskins got a huge play on their first snap, as Torain escaped to the left side and broke free for 54 yards to the Bucs' 35. Washington faced a third-and-two at the 28 and WR Anthony Armstrong ran a little buttonhook in front of CB Ronde Barber for a gain of seven. LB Quincy Black stood up FB Mike Sellers on a first-down catch to keep the gain to three yards and Torain's next carry got just one yard before DT Roy Miller shut it down. The Redskins ran a nice bunch play to the left that got TE Chris Cooley open near the sideline but McNabb's throw one-hopped Cooley and the Redskins had to settle for a field goal try. Even better for the visitors, Graham Gano's 34-yard attempt hit the left upright and bounced away.
The Bucs thus took over at their own 24 and got a quick 12-yard gain on a sideline pass to TE John Gilmore. Blount broke free on the next snap, patiently waiting for a hole on the left side and then bursting through it for 18 yards to the Washington 46. Another four-yard Blount run was followed by a screen pass to FB Earnest Graham that picked up five more. The Bucs failed on third-and-one again, however, when Phillip Buchanon knocked away a slant pass intended for Mike Williams. The ensuing punt was downed at the Washington 11.
Torain once again got the Redskins out of trouble, blasting for 12, 23 and 10 yards on three consecutive carries. That put Washington past midfield again, but a leaping pass breakup by DE Tim Crowder and a 12-yard sack by Quincy Black pushed the 'Skins back to their own 45 and forced a punt. Rookie WR Preston Parker fair caught the 34-yard kick at the Bucs' 21.
A three-yard run by Blount and a near-sack by LB Brian Orakpo made it third-and-seven in a hurry. Freeman tried to hit WR Micheal Spurlock on third down but the pass went through the hands of CB DeAngelo Hall on what looked like a sure interception and the Bucs had to punt again. The Redskins got the ball back at their own 41.
And yet again Torain broke free on first down, this time getting 12 yards to cross midfield again. Two more Torain runs made it third-and-three at the Bucs' 40 and McNabb moved the chains with an eight-yard pass over the middle to WR Santana Moss. Three plays later, RB Keiland Williams converted a third-and-five with a seven-yard run to the Bucs' 20, and Torain followed with an 12-yard burst up the middle. LB Barrett Ruud broke through the line to drop Torain for a loss of four on the next play and a tricky underneath shovel pass to Moss was nearly disastrous as Crowder broke it up. On third-and-goal from the 12 the Redskins tried a Williams sweep to the right but he was tackled at the six to force another field goal attempt. Gano pulled his 24-yard attempt wide to the left and the game remained scoreless.
The Bucs took over at their own 20 after the miss and lost one yard on a first-down carry by Blount that DE Adam Carriker shut down immediately. On third-and-nine, Freeman threw a great sideline pass to WR Sammie Stroughter to pick up 11 yards and the Bucs' first third-down conversion. On the next play, Blount fought off two tacklers to break into the clear but, after a 14-yard gain, had the ball poked away by Hall, who also recovered at the Washington 46.
Torain runs of one and four yards made it third-and-five and McNabb found Moss on a crossing route for a gain of 22 to the Bucs' 27. A well-executed fake to Torain and a rollout by McNabb got Moss open on the other side on the next play, leading to another 21 yards and a first down at the six. The Bucs' defense stiffened once again, stopping a Torain run and a two-yard reception by Moss. On third-and-goal from the four, McNabb threw to Torain in the right flat but he was held out of the end zone. The Redskins understandably chose to go for it on fourth-and-goal and got the game's first points on a release pass to Paulson.
The Bucs struck right back with the deep ball to Benn, who had two steps on Hall down the right sideline, with Freeman hitting him in stride. That got the ball down to the Washington 11, but runs by Blount and Cadillac Williams gained only two yards each. Freeman tried to hit Mike Williams in the back of the end zone on third down but the pass was off his fingertips. Connor Barth put the Bucs on the board with a 25-yard field goal.
A short kickoff allowed Washington take over again at their own 40, and Torain immediately went around right end for another 19 yards. After the two-minute warning, a screen pass to Williams worked to perfection on the left side, breaking him free for a 36-yard gain to the five. Two runs by Williams gained only two yards thanks to hard tackles by Corey Lynch and Michael Bennett and the Redskins got a delay of game penalty to make it third-and-seven with 20 seconds to play. Because they had no timeouts left, the Redskins had to throw the ball and the Bucs defended it well. Washington brought on the field goal unit and finally made one, with Gano just slipping a 25-yarder inside the upright.