Redskins taken down, 14-13

Washington blows 13-point cushion in loss to Buccaneers

January 16, 2000|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

TAMPA, Fla. -- For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the best offense is still a great defense.

With the struggling Bucs offense producing just four first downs and no points in its first 10 possessions, the Tampa Bay defense took over its NFC divisional playoff game against the Washington Redskins yesterday.

The Bucs held the Redskins to 26 yards in 27 plays in the second half and came up with two turnovers that set up two touchdowns and a 14-13 victory.

It sends the Bucs into the NFC title game, against today's St. Louis Rams-Minnesota Vikings winner, for only the second time in the history of the franchise.

The Bucs got a break when Brett Conway lined up for a 52-yard field-goal attempt with 1: 17 left in the game and center Dan Turk dribbled the ball back to holder Brad Johnson, who tried to get up and throw but was ruled to be sacked.

"Oh, my God, Oh, my God. I'm so sick. I don't know what happened," Turk said as he bolted out of the locker room.

Said Bucs coach Tony Dungy: "When you play hard, the breaks tend to come your way. Our guys do play hard. They never give up."

The Bucs followed the Dungy blueprint. They stuffed the run and played the two-deep zone against the pass. They played the sidelines tight and forced throws down the middle, where the safeties could react to them.

The defense held the Redskins to two field goals -- one set up by an interception -- although a special teams lapse enabled Brian Mitchell to run the second-half kickoff back 100 yards for the Redskins' only touchdown.

An interception by John Lynch in the third quarter set up the first Bucs touchdown, and Steve White stripped the ball out of Johnson's hands for the fourth-period fumble that set up the winning score.

For the Redskins, who had a 13-0 lead late in the third period and a shot at a game-winning field goal at the end, it was gut-wrenching loss. They were 20-0 in their history when they took a lead into the final quarter of a playoff game, but most of those games were coached by Joe Gibbs, whose teams were noted for their ability to close out games.

Wide receiver Michael Westbrook, held to one completion, said it was the toughest loss of his career, and guard Keith Sims said: "I'm sick. We had a tremendous opportunity and we squandered it."

Sims, a 10-year veteran, said, "I've never been to the Super Bowl and I desperately want to go.

The season's over. I don't want any what-ifs. I want to celebrate at the end of the year. I know we'll look back on this in a couple of days and say we had a heck of a season. But a lot of guys on this team can play for 10 more years. I can't. There's no guarantee we're going to make the playoffs next year."

If they do make the playoffs, the Redskins had better get a first-round bye. Since the present playoff formula was installed in 1990, the NFC bye teams are 18-1 in their first games in the playoffs.

"You learn how important home-field advantage is," he said. "We can't lose those games in the middle of the season to the Philadelphias, Dallas at home. You have those two games and they're up at our place. I don't think this happens there."

Running back Skip Hicks said: "The crowd noise makes a big difference. I thought I was in a dome. And that gives them momentum, which makes them hard to stop.

"We didn't lose. We just beat ourselves."

The season came full circle for the Redskins. They lost their first game to Dallas when Dan Turk's brother, Matt, who doubles as the punter, dropped a snap on a potential game-winning field goal on the final play of regulation. The Redskins then lost in overtime.

The Redskins appeared to be in charge when the Bucs punted with 5: 50 left in the third period, trailing 13-0.

The Bucs were still 73 yards away, but Dungy never lost confidence in Shaun King, the first rookie quarterback since Pat Haden in 1976 to win a playoff game.

Although backup Eric Zeier had warmed up on the sidelines in the third period, Dungy said he never considered pulling King.

"You just feel like he's going to make plays when you need them," he said. "I've never been around a guy I have as much confidence in as I have in him."

King then hit two completions for 16 and 17 yards and followed with a long pass to Warrick Dunn. Leomont Evans was called for a 31-yard penalty for pass interference, giving the Bucs a first down on the Redskins' 11.

King then scrambled and dumped it off to Mike Alstott, who bulled to the 2. On the next play, Alstott went to his right, was stopped, circled around to his left and scored to cut it to 13-7.

After the two teams traded punts -- there were 18 in the game -- White beat Kipp Vickers, who was playing for ailing Andy Heck, and knocked the ball out of Johnson's hands and Sapp recovered on the Redskins' 32.

Vickers, who had a lot of relatives at the game because he lives about 30 minutes from Tampa said: "Unfortunately, the position I play, the only time you stand out is when something bad happens."

Vickers blamed a bad pass set for getting beat.

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