Washington Redskins (5-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-3)
November 13th, 2005
Raymond James Stadium
Neither the Redskins nor the Bucs could ever have imagined in training camp that their week ten match up would find both of them fighting for the lead in their respective divisions. The Redskins kept their season rolling last week by snapping a seven game losing streak to the Eagles while the Bucs dropped their second straight to division leading Carolina. Both teams currently sit only one game out of the lead in their divisions.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers surprising flight to the top of the NFC South standings has recently encountered some turbulence since losing their starting quarterback, Brian Griese, to a season ending knee injury in week seven. Prior to Griese's injury, the Bucs had won five of their first six games. Filling in for Griese is third year quarterback, Chris Simms, who has been unable to lead the Bucs to a win as the starter in his two attempts. Last week, Simms played more like a rookie than someone who had once held the starting position as he was sacked five times, threw two interceptions and fumbled once in their 34-14 loss to the Carolina Panthers. One of the interceptions was especially costly as it was returned for a touchdown. Simms has now turned the ball over six times in the last two weeks.
The Redskins have won two of their last three games and with the Giants game withstanding, have gotten better each week. The Redskins trail the Giants by one game for the NFC East lead. The match up with the Bucs comes a time when the Redskins are trying to get some players healthy, especially across their defensive front. Last weeks win over the Eagles served notice that the Redskins may be turning the corner and are finally playing with the swagger and intensity that is expected from not only Coach Gibbs but also themselves.
Tampa Bay comes into this game looking for more production out of the quarterback position. Since Simms has taken over and shown an inability to move the ball consistently through the air, opposing defenses have stacked the box and forced the Bucs to beat them with the pass, which to this point Simms has been unable to do. In last weeks loss to the Panthers, the offense which averages 114.8 yards on the ground were limited to 44 yards on just 18 carries with their rookie tailback, Carnell Williams getting only 29 of those on 11 attempts. Without a consistent running game, the Panthers forced the Bucs to throw and thereby made the offense play to their own weakness. The Redskins have had difficulty recently against strong running teams (allowing 119.8 yards per game) so the Bucs will look to stay on the ground as much as possible. If the Redskins defensive front can get healthy and find a way to limit the Bucs on the ground, thereby making the Bucs offense one-dimensional, the blitzing and defensive scheming on the part of Redskins Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams should allow for the Redskins to have success against the struggling Bucs offense.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Redskins will be facing a formidable Bucs defense. Tampa Bay is only allowing 236.9 yards per game and is especially tough against the run where opponents are only getting 75.9 yards per game. Clinton Portis and the Redskins running game come into the game gaining an average of 119.4 yards per game. The Redskins have done a nice job of mixing their play calling and have shown that they can move the chains on third down. Quarterback Mark Brunell is enjoying his best season (1,781 yards passing with 12 touchdowns and 3 interceptions) since his Pro Bowl seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars and has found Santana Moss to be worth what it cost the team to get him from the New York Jets in an exchange for the unhappy Laveranues Coles. Moss has been a major reason why the Redskins have had success through the air and especially on third down, where his 18 catches rank him second in the NFL. The Bucs are allowing their opponents 161.0 yards per game through the air while the Redskins are averaging slightly more than that at 170.0. The Redskins, despite the Bucs stingy run defense, will still look to give Tampa Bay a healthy dose of running with both Portis and Ladell Betts. The ability to find some success on the ground is critical for the Redskins, as that will allow the passing game to open up as well. Chris Cooley will be a key player to watch in the Redskins offensive attack. Not only is he used as a blocker in the running game; he is increasingly becoming a weapon that must be accounted for in the passing game.
Both teams come into this game needing to win to stay within a game of the lead in their division. The team that is able to take care of the ball and in turn force a turnover will put themselves in good position for the win. The Redskins will need to limit the Bucs running game and force Chris Simms to beat them with the pass. On offense, the Redskins will need to continue with their attacking approach with the mix of both the run and pass. If they can get the running game rolling, the passing attack becomes that much more dangerous. The Bucs will need to get production from their young quarterback. If they can get it, their running game, which has been productive this season with Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, could do some damage against a defense that has yielded yardage on the ground this season. If they are forced into a one-dimensional pass attack, the Redskins defense should be able to contain the Bucs. On defense, Tampa Bay will need to be wary of both the rushing and passing game of the Redskins. They have done an outstanding job against the run this season and will need to continue that this week.
- Coach Joe Gibbs is 3-0 against Tampa Bay.
- This is the first trip back to Tampa Bay since the Redskins 14-13 divisional playoff loss in 2000.
- The Buccaneers have beaten the Redskins in four straight at home.
- Bucs CB Ronde Barber needs only one sack to become the first cornerback with 20 sacks and 20 interceptions in a career.
- The Bucs are 3-1 at home; the Redskins are 1-3 on the road.