By Michelle Sabin
Sports Talk Florida
Tampa Bay had a rocky start against Washington on Sunday. With starting tight end Rob Gronkowski and receiver Antonio Brown out of the game, the Bucs looked to the rest of the lineup to help carry the offense.
Running back Leonard Fournette rushed for 47 yards and received 45 passing, while receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans recorded 57 and 62 yards, respectively. Despite the appearance of an average offensive performance, it was anything but for Tampa Bay.
Quarterback Tom Brady said, “we never played on our terms. We played from behind the whole game.” Head Coach Bruce Arians added, “baffling to me after the week of practice I watched these guys have that we could play that poorly.”
On the opening drive, the Buccaneers were penalized on the first play, failed to convert on 3rd and 8, and went downhill from there. Washington, on the other hand, drove down the field for a 46-yard field goal for their first possession.
The Bucs got the ball back and it was short lived. On a pass intended for receiver Jaelon Darden, Brady threw his first interception of the game. Washington capitalized on the turnover with a 28-yard field goal.
Brady threw another interception on a short middle pass intended for Evans. Cornerback Bobby McCain ran the ball back 19 yards before being tackled by Cameron Brate.
After the turnover, the Buccaneers defense tried to turn up the pressure on Washington. Quarterback Taylor Heinicke was chased out of the pocket by Rakeem Nunez-Roches and sacked by Joe Tryon for a loss of 2 yards. He was sacked again by linebacker Anthony Nelson for a loss of 6.
Despite the pressure, Washington was able to short pass and run their way down to the Tampa Bay 20-yard line. At the start of the second quarter, Heinicke threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Carter bringing the score to 13-0.
The Buccaneers reciprocated on a 68-yard scoring drive and settled for a field goal. The drive started out strong with a 29-yard deep pass to Darden, followed by back to back runs and a short pass to Fournette. Brady eventually made it inside the red zone with an 8-yard pass to Tyler Johnson.
However, Brady threw two incomplete passes to running back Gio Bernard, which brought up 4th and 7. Kicker Ryan Succop’s 25-yard field goal was good and finally put the Bucs on the scoreboard. Both teams added another field goal before the end of the half, giving Washington the lead 16-6.
Tampa Bay’s defense had allowed Washington to score on each possession of the first half. However, at the start of the third quarter, the momentum shifted for a short time. Bucs linebacker Devin White tackled running back Antonio Gibson for a loss of 1 yard and sacked Heinicke for a loss of 10 yards. Washington was unable to convert on 3rd and 21 and were forced to punt.
It appeared to be turning around for the Tampa Bay offense, as well. Brady completed a 14-yard pass to Godwin, fired off a 15-yard pass to Fournette, and another to Godwin to bring up 1st and 10 at the Washington 14-yard line. The drive ended with tight end Cameron Brate scoring on a 6-yard touchdown pass in the end zone.
With the score 16-13 in the middle of the third quarter, the Bucs were poised for a possible rally. However, Heinicke led Washington on a 71-yard drive culminating in a 1-yard touchdown run by Gibson expanding their lead.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Bucs defense got a turnover on 3rd and 9. During the passing play, linebacker Lavonte David forced a fumble recovered by Antoine Winfield Jr. at the Washington 40-yard line.
Brady wasted no time. He completed two short passes to Fournette, and then launched a 40-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans. Succop’s extra point went wide left and was no good.
Washington used their last possession of the game to run 10:26 off the clock as they drove 80-yards. They were knocking on the door of the end zone with the Bucs defense trying to play physical football for a stop. After 3 attempts by Gibson with no gain, he was able to run in a 1-yard touchdown. Washington’s 2-point conversion failed, but they carried the lead 29-19.
Tampa Bay got the ball back with less than 30 seconds on the clock and were unable to recover from an overall poor performance on the road.
Linebacker Lavonte David summed it up, “We came out flat. They made more plays than we did, and we didn’t play our best brand of football.”
The Buccaneers return home for Monday Night Football against the New York Giants on November 22.
The video used in this story was provided by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Youtube channel.