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LANDOVER, MD-With time slipping away and the Washington Redskins heading to what appeared to be their third straight loss, Donovan McNabb and the offense had to drive 75 yards in 3:47 to come back from a 17-10 deficit to an up-and-coming Tampa Bay Buccaneer squad.
For a moment it seemed as if McNabb had pulled the Redskins' chestnuts out of the fire with a six-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss on fourth and goal. However, when Graham Gano went out for the all-important extra point to tie the score, the same misfortune plaguing the offense struck on special teams.
The snap from Nick Sundberg was high, but holder Hunter Smith failed to save the play as the ball glanced off his hands behind Gano. The botched attempt left the Redskins dazed after another last-second loss in a game that was theirs for the taking.
"Man it just hurts. There ain't a whole lot to say about it," said Moss who was clearly stung by the loss. "When you are going through it year after year, it just builds up man. It hurts. I don't have words for it. I just feel we work too hard to come out here and be mediocre on Sundays."
The touchdown came on the heels of months of frustration in which the offense has struggled to produce in key moments. The score capped a thirteen play effort in a pouring rain against a Buccaneer team in the thick of the NFC play-off picture and could have been a significant step forward for McNabb who has struggled mightily this season. But the missed point after killed any positives found in the final drive.
"It is tough, there is no question," said Smith. "It's raining, the ball is wet when it goes onto the field. It's wet when it's put down. It's wet when Donovan [McNabb] throws a touchdown pass to put us in a situation to tie the game and it's wet when I go out and have to hold the ball in a manner that we can kick the ball and tie the game up. I didn't do that."
Even though Smith ultimately took the blame for the loss, there was plenty to go around.
The Buccaneers trailed for much of the game until Josh Freeman threw a 41-yard, go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter to tight end Kellen Winslow. Winslow got behind the defense and caught the ball over an outstretched Rocky McIntosh for an easy touchdown. Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo appeared to be held badly on the play by left tackle Donald Penn, but no flags were thrown and Winslow's catch stood. Freeman ran in the two-point conversion giving Tampa Bay the 17-10 edge.
"He had a great sleeper hold on me," said Orakpo of Penn. "You now I've been having that all year man. I don't know what I have to do to keep getting these calls, but they missed that one. That was a huge play. If he didn't hold me, obviously the quarterback is on the ground. He knows it too. It's frustrating when you have a situation like that; you're trying to make a big play for your team and you get strangled like that."
His numbers weren't outstanding, but Freeman didn't turn the ball over and his strike to Winslow, plus the subsequent scramble for two points, proved to be the difference.
"It was really about finding a way to win today, really," said Tampa cornerback Ronde Barber. "All that matters is that we came out with a win and need to continue to move forward. We only have one game left on the road, but really it was just about finding a way to win today."
While the Buccaneers took the victory, it was Washington who dominated the first half without it showing up on the scoreboard.
Ryan Torain rushed for 172 yards on 24 carries in his return from a hamstring injury that sidelined him throughout November. The young running back filling in for Clinton Portis posted his third 100 yard performance in just his fifth start with the team. This one was especially impressive as he consistently found himself in the Tampa Bay secondary.
"It's good to see Ryan back and healthy and being able to run through some tackles and pick up some yards for us," McNabb told reporters. "He had an excellent game. In the first half, he was outstanding."
There was little question the first half belonged to him as he dominated the first quarter headlines with 10 carries for 121 yards, including a 54-yarder on his first carry to set the tone. That was the most 1st quarter yardage by a running back since Marshall Faulk in 2001 and Torain's 158 first half yards were the most in a half since Tiki Barber dashed for 171 yards in 2005, ironically against the Redskins.
"The offensive line was working so well," Torain said. "They were opening up big holes and we were stretching them and cutting back. And that's what we do. That's our bread and butter."
Washington ran the ball 22 times for 174 yards in the first half, punishing a Buccaneer front, which lost rookie defensive tackle and first round pick Gerald McCoy early in the first quarter to a biceps injury. However, blown opportunities cost Washington a chance to build a big lead.
Gano missed field goals from 34 and 22 yards and a goal line fiasco to end the first half meant he had to trot out for another kick, which he converted from 25 yards out. The Redskins mismanaged the clock following a timeout, forcing them to rush a third down play. It was unsuccessful and led to the field goal, making it 10-3 at halftime.
"Obviously, you want to win a football game like that," said Mike Shanahan. "You can take control of it, you got some long drives in the first half and you settle for a field goal instead of a touchdown. You have opportunities, even at the end of the half, and we had the ball on the two-yard line and we can't get it in the end zone....You can't make mistakes like that and still win."
Washington did hit pay dirt on fourth and goal from the one as McNabb found rookie tight end Logan Paulsen in the end zone to put the Redskins up 7-0 in the second quarter. It was Paulsen's first NFL touchdown and a crucial one given the prior two trips to the red zone had ended in missed field goals.
"They were in their goal line defensive package," said Paulsen in the locker room after the game. "Usually you have a defensive linemen covering a tight end and that's what they did. We had been preparing for that all week and it worked to perfection."
The rest of the day, however, didn't go according to plan. The Buccaneers squibbed the second half kick-off to keep the ball away from the explosive Brandon Banks, and linebacker Chris Wilson muffed the ball, turning it over to Tampa.
The Bucs chipped away at the lead with a pair of field goals from Connor Barth as Torain was held to one yard in the third quarter. The Redskins offense disappeared along with him, holding the ball for a paltry 3:47. They also failed to pick up a first down as Tampa made the necessary adjustments to stop the run.
McNabb's late-game heroics were part of one of his better outings in 2010. He went 22-35 for 228 yards and two touchdown passes. Notably, he avoided throwing an interception for the first time in 10 games and finished with a quarterback rating over 100 for just the second time this year.
"I've been a part of up and down seasons, but nothing to this point," he said echoing Moss' sentiments. "When you get in this situation, I think it's important, as a team, to continue to stay together and make sure that everyone understands that if you're not fighting for anything then fight for yourself and be a spoiler."
Washington falls to 5-8 with the loss, needing to win out to reach .500 on the year. They travel to Dallas next week to renew their rivalry with the Cowboys in an attempt to sweep the season series between the two.
Santana Moss has been with the Washington Redskins since 2005, making him one of six players who has been here for the last half-decade. During that time, the Washington Redskins have a 41-52 record after Sunday's heartbreaking 17-16 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after a botched extra point snap. Moss has therefore been here through a lot of mediocrity and turmoil, to say the least.
Finally, it looks like all of that has worn on him. After the game, Moss expressed his frustration about the situation, using not-so-friendly language to do it.
"It's just total man, it's ****ing years of losing. It's just total," he said. "Excuse my French, but man I'm just hurt. I wish I wouldn't talk right now, because I really don't have much good to say. I'm just hurt."
Moss admitted that the years of losing have taken a toll on him.
"There ain't a whole lot to say about it," he said. "When you're going through it year after year, it just builds up, you know? It hurts. I don't got any words for it. I just feel we work too hard to come out here and be mediocre on Sundays. Yeah, we're in games, but that ain't what we play for."
Moss had 82 receiving yards and the touchdown that should have tied the game if not for the botched snap. However, when asked by reporters later about the play, he said that his frustration didn't have to do with one incident.
"It's just week-in and week-out. You work and it's your job to come out here and play this game of football. Somebody gotta win, and somebody gotta lose. But when you just losing, and you know you had a chance to win - I'm not talking about the last play - I'm talking about throughout the game, throughout the years, throughout the weeks, throughout this year. When you are losing and you don't have no say-so as to why...that's why it hurts, and that's why I feel the way I feel. I'm just getting tired of it.
"Everybody play for their own perspective and their own reason, but I put too much in it and it means too much."
Moss is a free agent after this season is over, so you could be seeing the last few games of his Washington Redskins career.
(HT to CSN Washington for the video and to Jack Anderson out at Redskins Park for the quote).
Given the way the game between the Washington Redskins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers has gone, it's only fitting that a Redskins mistake was what decided the game. Thanks to a muffed snap and hold by Nick Sundberg and Hunter Smith, the Redskins fell one point short, falling 17-16.
The Redskins looked to be poised to tie the game and send it into overtime. On fourth and four, Donovan McNabb found Santana Moss on a slant pattern for a touchdown, putting the game at 17-16. But on the extra point, Sundberg's snap sailed over Hunter Smith's head, causing the final margin. Sundberg's snap was a bit high, and Smith had it go through his hands instead of bringing the ball down.
The play was just the latest in a series of miscues for the Redskins. Kicker Graham Gano missed two field goals in the first half, one from 34 yards and one from 24 yards. Poor clock management also prevented the Redskins from getting a touchdown at the end of the first half, forcing them to settle for a 25-yard field goal. That's a combined 11 points that the Redskins squandered, and as expected, those missed opportunities came back to bite them.
The missed opportunities the Washington Redskins had early in this game have come back to haunt them. The Redskins have potentially cost themselves 10 points by missing two field goals and not getting a touchdown at the end of the first half. Now, they are trailing.
Josh Freeman found Kellen Winslow over the top down the middle of the field for a 41-yard touchdown pass to give Tampa Bay the lead. Freeman snuck in on a quarterback sneak for the two-point conversion, and Tampa Bay now leads 17-10 with just over four minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
The Buccaneers got the ball at their own 20-yard line and methodically moved the ball up the field. They got a key catch from Cadillac Williams on third and seven to preserve the drive just before the touchdown pass. On the touchdown, it looked like the Buccaneers got away with holding Brian Orakpo, as one offensive lineman had him by the neck. No matter what, though, the Redskins now have to rally in a game they've led the entire time.
It looked like disaster was going to strike the Washington Redskins again. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers dominated the third quarter and had the ball on the goal line ready to take the lead. Instead, in a flashback to the play that decided the game against the Chicago Bears, the Redskins forced and recovered a fumble on the goal line.
London Fletcher recovered a fumble by Josh Freeman on the one-yard line, allowing the Redskins to preserve a slim 10-9 lead early in the fourth quarter. It looked like a Bucs' offensive lineman jarred the ball out, and Fletcher recovered it. The huge play was reminiscent of Albert Haynesworth's forced fumble of Jay Cutler in the Redskins' 17-14 win over the Chicago Bears.
The Buccaneers had gotten to the one-yard line after a 43-yard pass on third and 10 from Freeman to Arrelious Benn. Benn ran right by Kevin Barnes and really should have been able to get into the end zone. Instead, Freeman fumbled and the Bucs got absolutely nothing out of it.
Connor Barth is now three-for-three on field goal attempts. If Graham Gano was the same, the Redskins would still have a one touchdown lead.
Following a Washington three-and-out and a Hunter Smith punt, Josh Freeman led a 10-play drive and used over five minutes of clock time to get the Buccaneers into field goal range. The drive started with an end-around to Arrelious Benn, who is having a big day for Tampa Bay. Freeman also passed for two first downs on the long drive.
Barth kicked a 35-yard field goal to cap off the drive, his third of what has been a perfect game for the young kicker. Gano has missed two field goals today, making only one. Despite their special teams dominance though, the Buccaneers still trail by one point. Ryan Torain has to get back to work.
You really couldn't have scripted a worse start to the second half for the Washington Redskins. They had a chance to go ahead 17-3 if they were able to get a score. Instead, disaster struck.
The Buccaneers' kick went short to Chris Wilson, but he lost the football trying to scoop it up. The Buccaneers recovered the fumble easier, and three plays later, they got a 44-yard field goal by Connor Barth to cut Washington's lead to 10-6.
It's not clear whether the Bucs were trying to kick away from Brandon Banks or whether Barth just messed up the kickoff, but either way, Wilson's fumble proved costly. The Redskins' defense held their ground initially, forcing a holding penalty that pushed the Bucs back. But then Rocky McIntosh jumped offsides, and Cadillac Williams picked up enough yards on third and 12 to get into field goal range. Barth's field goal was just long enough, as it barely got over the crossbar.
The Redskins will now need to score a touchown to make it a two-possession game.
After doing it via the pass on their previous scoring drive, the Washington Redskins got back to their bread and butter: the running game. Led by Ryan Torain and Keiland Williams, the Redskins easily moved the ball down the field. But due to bad clock management, the Redskins could not punch it into the end zone, and had to settle for a 25-yard Graham Gano field goal that barely slipped in through the uprights. The Redskins now lead 10-3 at halftime, but it should be much more lopsided.
The Redskins put themselves in that position by taking a terrible delay of game penalty on the two-yard line. After a three-yard run by Keiland Williams got the ball to the two-yard line, the Redskins let the clock run down and took their second timeout. But then, the Redskins somehow let the play clock run all the way down, causing a delay of game penalty that pushed the ball back to the seven-yard line. To compound the matters, the Redskins burned their final time out, and McNabb's pass on third and goal was incomplete. The Redskins fans booed the team after the play, which was probably deserved.
It's unfortunate because the Redskins were able to run the ball effectively again. Torain began the drive with a 19-yard run, and Williams caught a 36-yard screen pass to get the ball deep inside Tampa Bay territory. Torain has 158 yards rushing already, as the Redskins have outgained the Buccaneers 272-144.
Leave it to the Redskins passing defense to allow Josh Freeman to throw his longest competion of the 2010 season.
DeAngelo Hall, who likes to cover the opposing team's best wide receiver, gave up a 64-yard gain to rookie receiving threat Arrelious Benn to set up Tampa Bay's first score of the game. Benn got past Hall to catch the ball, and then Hall hung on to the rookie for several yards before Kareem Moore came over to help bring him down.
Fortunately for the Redskins, the drive fizzled out there. Two runs and an incomplete pass inside Washington's 10-yard line led the Buccaneers to bring on kicker Connor Barth. Unlike Graham Gano, Barth kicked the ball through from short range to pull the visitors back to a score of 7-3.
What's the best way to get points on the board when your kicker has missed two easy field goals? Go for it on fourth down and convert. That's exactly what the Washington Redskins did, and because of that, they have a 7-0 lead on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Facing fourth and goal from the Buccaneers' one-yard line, the Redskins elected to call a play-action pass. Luckily for them, tight end Logan Paulsen snuck out of the backfield, and Donovan McNabb lobbed it to him for an easy touchdown to give the Redskins the lead. Graham Gano tacked on the extra point -- barely, I might add -- to make the score 7-0.
Santana Moss was the Redskins' star on the drive. He had two nice-sized catch and runs, one on third and five near midfield and another to get the ball inside the red zone on first down. With Ryan Torain's effectiveness becoming more limited as the Buccaneers key on him, Moss will continue to have chances to shine.
The drive was set up by DeAngelo Hall forcing a fumble on LeGarrette Blount.
Tampa Bay’s rookie defensive DT Gerald McCoy is done for the day after suffering a biceps injury in the first quarter.
Losing McCoy hurts an already shaky Buccaneer front, which has surrendered over 150 yards rushing in less than a half of play.
Ryan Torain had 134-yards rushing in the first quarter, mostly on first and second downs. Third down has been a whole different story for the Redskins. And kicking? Kicking is looking like a major problem.
Torain had 13-yards on four carries on Washington's latest drive. The Redskins have clearly missed their young running back over the past several weeks as he has been recovering from a hamstring injury. The offensive line has looked good blocking for Torain, especially when he rushes to the left, but has been less than excellent in pass protection. The Redskins have run the ball for first downs seven times and passed only two times so far today.
After the offense moved the ball well, special teams let the Redskins down for the second time in less than 20 minutes of action. Kicker Graham Gano missed a 24-yard field goal to end the drive, just minutes after missing a 34-yard field goal in the first quarter. It would seem that he is not long for the Washington roster.
Welcome back, Ryan Torain. The Redskins' running back has been out of action since Week 8 against Detroit, and clearly, he's been missed. He reminded everyone about that by ripping off a 54-yard run on his first carry, getting the Redskins into scoring position. Unfortunately for the Redskins, Graham Gano couldn't finish things off, missing a 34-yard field goal off the left upright.
The end of the drive in general was very disappointing for the Redskins. On third and six, Donovan McNabb had Chris Cooley wide open at the first down market, but severely underthrew the ball, one-hopping it to him. Then, Gano kick from the left hash never curled the right way and slammed off the left upright.
It's too bad, because the Redskins looked like they had something going. Torain's 54-yard run was the result of excellent blocking, as he had a big hole to run through. The Redskins even converted a third down when McNabb found Anthony Armstrong on a third and two earlier in the drive. But instead of coming away with a lead, the Redskins came up empty.
Mike Shanahan's decision to bench Donovan McNabb in the final two minutes of a Week 8 loss to the Detroit Lions set off a firestorm in Washington D.C. There's a chance that may somehow happen again.
During his segment on FOX's pregame show, Jay Glazer reportedly said that the Redskins are "considering" benching McNabb and putting in Grossman if McNabb struggles today. Here's his elaboration on Twitter:
I'm reporting that Skins are actually prepping Grossman to play today if McNabb struggles, K Shanahan informed staff. Rex & Don split reps
If true, this is pretty unbelievable, if only because the Redskins can't think that Grossman is a legitimate long-term solution to their quarterback position. Therefore, the only real purpose of playing Grossman is to make clear that McNabb too isn't a long-term solution. This renders that big contract he signed meaningless, and you'd think that the Redskins would use the lack of guaranteed money upfront as a means to get out of it.
It will be interesting to see how the city responds if this does indeed happen again. Last time, support was nearly universally behind McNabb. Will that be the case again this time?
It's official: we will have to wait at least one more week to see Carlos Rogers and LaRon Landry return to the football field. The Redskins' list of inactives for Sunday's game against the Buccaneers has come out, and Landry and Rogers are both on it.
Both players were limited in practice throughout the week, so this isn't a huge surprise. Landry has missed the last three games with an achilles injury suffered against the Eagles, while Rogers has missed two of the last three games with a hamstring issue suffered against the Tennessee Titans.
In a mild surprise, youngsters Terrence Austin and Jeremy Jarmon are also on today's inactive list. You'd think the Redskins might use this time to see what they have in those guys, but they've obviously decided otherwise. The other players on the inactive list are Andre Brown, Erik Cook, Derrick Dockery and John Beck.
As has been typical all season, the Redskins have listed more players as questionable on their injury report this week than their opponents. Against the Giants last Sunday, at least Washington could count on New York's top two receivers Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks to miss the game. It gave fans a mild dose of confidence. This week this isn't the case, as the Buccaneers are about as healthy as a team can be at this point of the season.
Fortunately for the Redskins running game that has been struggling the past several weeks, Ryan Torain is back to practicing in full, and is likely to return to the starting lineup this Sunday at FedEx Field. The bigger question is whether or not star secondary players LaRon Landry and Carlos Rodgers will be healthy enough to suit up.
The full list of injuries as released to the media today is as follows:
LaRon Landry, S - Limited Practice (Achilles) - QUESTIONABLE
Carlos Rogers, CB - Limited Practice (Hamstring) - QUESTIONABLE
Brandon Banks, WR - Limited Practice (Knee) - QUESTIONABLE
Kareem Moore, S - Limited Practice (Ankle/Biceps) - QUESTIONABLE
Lorenzo Alexander, LB - Full Practice (Hamstring) - QUESTIONABLE
Kedric Golston, DE - Full Practice (Elbow) - QUESTIONABLE
Santana Moss, WR - Full Practice (Knee) - QUESTIONABLE
Brian Orakpo, LB - Full Practice (Ankle) - QUESTIONABLE
Casey Rabach, C - Full Practice (Knee) - QUESTIONABLE
Ryan Torain, RB - Full Practice (Hamstring) - QUESTIONABLE
Trent Williams, OT - Full Practice (Shoulder) - QUESTIONABLE
Donovan McNabb, QB - Full Practice (Hamstring) - PROBABLE
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Quincy Black, LB - No Practice (Knee) - QUESTIONABLE
Tim Crowder, DE - No Practice (Shoulder) - QUESTIONABLE
Nick Koutouvides, LB - No Practice (Ankle) - QUESTIONABLE
Mike Williams, WR - No Practice (Knee) - PROBABLE
Kellen Winslow, TE - Full Practice (Knee) - PROBABLE
Dekoda Watson, LB - Full Practice (Hamstring) - PROBABLE
In addition to the Haynesworth situation, the Redskins will also be trying to bounce back from their horrible performance against the Giants last weekend. Overall, this is not a very good time to be a member of the Redskins. And it doesn't really get all that better with a suddenly resurgent Tampa Bay Bucs squad. The Bucs come in at a very surprising 7-5, with second year quarterback Josh Freeman under center. They are young, fast, and they play hard. Which could be a recipe for disaster if the Redskins come out even the slightest bit flat.
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