When you’re four games behind your division leader with three divisional games left, the focus has to be on winning now. Opportunities will be present in the future, and if the Bucs could take care of business at home they could very well find themselves in position to take advantage of them later down the road.
According to odds makers, Tampa Bay came into this match-up favored to win by a Chandler Catanzaro field goal.
This might be surprising to the casual observer, assuming a division leader would have the upper hand over a last place team. However, when you consider the Redskins are the only team atop their division which has surrendered more points than they’ve scored this season, it makes a little more sense.
Five of Tampa Bay’s final eight games are at home, starting with this one. Let’s talk about how this one went down, and what it might mean for the future.
For the first half of action, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense moved up and down the field at will, and stalled in scoring positions. This, of course, isn’t a new problem.
On the first possession of the game, Ryan Fitzpatrick and his offense took the ball all the way down to the Washington 22-yard line. It took seven plays to move 56-yards, and then on play eight, Fitzpatrick overshot Shaun Wilson near the goal line and was intercepted by former NFC South nemesis Josh Norman.
All five of the Buccaneers’ first-half possessions reached Washington territory. They ended in the interception, a punt, a missed field goal, a made field goal and finally on a middle of the field dump pass with no timeouts remaining at the end of the half.
In his three first drives, Redskins quarterback Alex Smith had just 53-yards passing. On his final drive of the half, he had 50. And Dustin Hopkins put a field goal on the board with 20-seconds remaining in the half to give them a 6-3 lead.
Most fans are going to be wondering what happened in the final attempt by the Bucs before hitting the locker room, and I’m sure it’ll be brought up in post-game press conferences.
With two timeouts at his disposal, Fitzpatrick found running back Jacquizz Rodgers for an eleven-yard pass completion. Timeout.
One timeout left, and Fitzpatrick again found Rodgers, this time for seventeen yards across midfield and to the 47-yard line. Timeout.
No timeouts left, and needing just a few more yards to give Catanzaro a feasible opportunity to tie the game, and Fitzpatrick again went to his veteran running back.
Rodgers took the pass eight yards to the Washington 39-yard line before being tackled. With no timeouts. And the Bucs left the field again, with no points.
Despite outgaining their opponents 279-yards to 136, Tampa Bay went into halftime down by three and faced with giving the Redskins the ball right back to start the second half.
Thus far in 2018, the Bucs have been a better second half team most weeks than they have been in the first half.
For the third quarter against Washington though, it was more of the same. Tampa Bay only got the ball once in the quarter, but they drove it all the way down to the Redskins 16-yard line before a botched snap by free-agent gem Ryan Jensen knocked the team back to the 30-yard line for a Catanzaro kick attempt.
If you’re surprised by this result - he missed it - then I’d like to welcome you to Bucs fandom. Not sure why you chose now to climb aboard, but we’re happy to have you.
Nothing else happened in the third quarter. Zero.
6-3 entering the fourth quarter and the Redskins were deep in Bucs territory looking to put a touchdown on the board. Which they did.
On 3rd-and-5 from the Tampa Bay six-yard line, Alex Smith found receiver Josh Doctson in the back of the end zone for the first touchdown of the game.
One offensive snap later, Ryan Fitzpatrick gave the ball right back, and put his defense right back on the field on an ill-advised throw to tight end O.J. Howard which was intercepted by rookie Greg Stroman.
Fortunately, the defense held for Tampa Bay, and Washington was forced to settle for another Dustin Hopkins field goal, making the game a 16-3 contest with just over twelve-minutes remaining.
We’ve all seen this from the Bucs this year though. They go down multiple scores, and late in the game, turn it on for a feverish comeback.
On the drive following Hopkins’ third field goal of the game, Fitzpatrick found his running back Rodgers again, this time for an 18-yard gain.
After an incomplete pass, Fitzpatrick connected with Adam Humphries for 29 more and the Bucs were in business again on the Washington 28-yard line.
Disaster struck again on the very next play. After Fitzpatrick once again checked down to Rodgers, Redskins linebacker Zach Brown punched the ball out of his arms as he was running down into the red zone.
The ball flew into the back of the end zone where newly added safety HaHa Clinton-Dix recovered it for a touchback.
It might just be the theme of the season, and this game was no different. The team could have won. Should have won. Yet didn’t.
In the end, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fell to 3-6 on the season, losing to the Washington Redskins by a score of 16-3.
I wish I had an answer for you, folks. But I don’t. And I’m not sure anyone does at this point.
Next week, the Bucs visit New York (New Jersey) as they face-off against the New York Giants. See you then.