Robert Griffin III completed 25-of-36 passes for 323 yards and Alfred Morris ran for 113, but the Washington Redskins 24-22 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday night at Raymond James Stadium was anything but pretty.
As if to set the tone for the game, prior to kickoff, the Redskins announced Brandon Meriweather and Aldrick Robinson would not play due to injuries the two suffered after colliding with one another during warm-ups. Luckily for the Redskins, Trent Williams – who played the full game Sunday with a knee injury – and Pierre Garcon were able to provide much-needed strength to a roster otherwise marred by injuries in recent weeks.
The Buccaneers entered the game with the best rushing defense in the league – but it didn’t show, as the Redskins rushed for 160 yards over 30 carries on the night.
After a 50-yard field goal by Connor Barth put the Bucs on top 3-0 in the first quarter, the Redskins’ offense came alive.
Griffin stayed alert in the pocket, dodging past Tampa Bay’s defense to find fullback Darrel Young, who carried the ball for 24 yards to the Buccaneers’ 30-yard line with just over two minutes left in the quarter. After Josh Morgan’s holding penalty cost the Redskins 10 yards, Fred Davis picked up 26, putting Washington in the red zone against a sleeping Tampa Bay defense.
Leonard Hankerson picked up two yards and Alfred Morris another three, putting Griffin in position to run the ball for a touchdown. Griffin rushed for eight yards and fumbled the ball on the first of several hard hits dealt by Mark Barron on the night, but Garcon recovered it in time to secure the Redskins’ first touchdown of the evening, allowing Washington to take a 7-3 lead.
The Redskins’ defense held the Buccaneers at bay in the second quarter, limiting quarterback Josh Freeman to just one complete pass for five yards on their first drive.
The Redskins caught the first of several breaks on their first offensive play of the quarter when Barron was called for unnecessary roughness on a play that should have left Griffin sacked with a loss of several yards. After the call, Griffin tossed to Garcon for 20 yards and the first down, and on 1st and 10 on the Redskins’ 43-yard line, Buccaneers free safety Ronde Barber was called for defensive pass interference.
However, Alfred Morris failed to break through the Buccaneers’ defense on the next play and Griffin tossed an incomplete pass before handing off to Hankerson, who advanced just three yards, requiring the Redskins to look to Billy Cundiff for the first of four field goal attempts he would have on the night. As would be the case three times Sunday evening, Cundiff missed the field goal attempt – this time, a mere 41-yard attempt that soared so far right of the post it was an embarrassment.
However, the Redskins soon earned another shot at tacking onto their lead. At 2nd and 5 from the Buccaneers’ 36-yard line, DeAngelo Hall intercepted a pass intended for Tampa Bay wide receiver Vincent Jackson. Griffin looked to Morris and Davis to advance the ball and, after an encroachment call on Gary Gibson put the Redskins within five, Griffin rushed for the touchdown and Cundiff’s extra point made it 14-3.
The Redskins took advantage of holes in the Tampa Bay defense, which ranks last in the league in pass defense. With just over six minutes left in the half, Griffin tossed to Hankerson for 21 yards to bring the Redskins to the Buccaneers’ 39-yard line. Trent Williams, provided much-needed defense and freed up Morris who scrambled for a 39-yard touchdown to give the Redskins a 21-3 cushion.
With just over five minutes left in the half, the Buccaneers completed a 41-yard drive – which included a direct snap to running back D.J. Ware – and Barth’s 57-yard field goal trimmed the Redskins’ lead to 21-6.
The Redskins tried to answer with a field goal of their own, with Cundiff setting up from 57 yards away, however, his kick fell short, forcing the Redskins to settle for a 15-point lead at the break.
Unfortunately for the Redskins, the Buccaneers looked like a different team in the second half. Washington failed to break through the Tampa Bay defense in the third quarter and, after Mason Foster and George Johnson’s shared sack on Griffin, the Redskins were handed another big break – this time, in the form of a 15-yard penalty for roughing the passer. However, Garcon managed two costly penalties – the first for offensive pass interference and the second, an unnecessary roughness penalty – and the Redskins failed to score on the drive.
With under 4:30 left in the quarter, Freeman single-handedly changed the momentum of the game by firing a 65-yard pass to a wide-open Mike Williams, who brought it to Redskins’ 20-yard line. After short runs by LeGarrette Blount, Freeman tossed to Jackson for a seven-yard touchdown to bring the Redskins’ lead to just 21-13.
At the start of the fourth quarter, the Redskins once again looked to Cundiff to tack on some insurance points. And, yet again, Cundiff missed – this time, he seemingly over-compensated for his previous kick, sending it wide left of the post from just 31 yards away.
From there, it seemed the Redskins were headed into a tailspin. The Buccaneers wasted no time in taking advantage of the faltering Redskins’ defense. With 12:13 left in the game, Freeman gunned another perfect throw – this time to Jackson for 54 yards to bring the Bucs to the Redskins’ 25-yard line. Freeman followed through with a 22-yard pass to Jackson to bring the Bucs within two yards, and LeBlount carried one up the middle for the touchdown. Freeman failed to find Williams for the two-point conversion and the Redskins lead remained 21-19.
After the Tampa Bay defense held the Redskins to just 23 yards in two drives and, with under four minutes left in the game, the Buccaneers set Barth up for a 47-yard field goal, giving Tampa Bay a clutch 22-21 lead.
It only seemed fitting that the outcome of the game would rest on the shoulders of Billy Cundiff, who had yet to complete one on the night. With less than 10 seconds left to play, Cundiff made it count, sending one 41 yards to power the Redskins to a 24-22 win over the Buccaneers, bringing Washington’s record to 2-2.