The Tampa Bay Buccaneers seemed to complete a huge comeback victory late in the game on Sunday, but instead suffered a gut-wrenching defeat at the hands of Washington Redskins.
Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman, who threw for 299 yards and one touchdown, led the offense down the field to set up a go ahead Connor Barth field goal with less than two minutes to go in the game.
But Tampa Bay's defense couldn't slow down rookie Robert Griffin III and watched as kicker Billy Cundiff, who missed all three of his previous field goals, just barely made a 41-yarder with three seconds left in the game to give Washington the 24-22 win.
Griffin III threw for 336 yards on 26 completions and ran for 43 yards with one touchdown. Rookie Alfred Morris rushed for 113 yards and one score against the Bucs top-ranked rush defense.
Meanwhile, the Bucs continued to struggle running the football. Doug Martin had just 33 yards on eight carries. LeGarrette Blount had a 2-yard TD late, but finished with a measly 17 yards on six totes.
The loss now puts the Bucs three games behind the division leading Atlanta Falcons, who are a perfect 4-0 right now.
Tampa Bay got the ball to start things off and opened the game with a nice 12-yard pass from Freeman to wide receiver Mike Williams along the sideline. After a picking up a few first downs, the offense slowed down near midfield and was forced to punt after Freeman was unable to move the chains after scrambling on third down. It was the first time that the Bucs didn't score on their first possession all season.
On their second drive, Freeman and company really started to roll. Arrelious Benn picked up a first down on a reverse. Then, Freeman moved outside the pocket to avoid pressure and hit Williams in the middle of the field for a pick up of 20 yards. Running back Doug Martin had a 19-yard scamper, but had it taken off the board due to a holding penalty by center Jeremy Zuttah. That penalty derailed Tampa Bay's momentum and it had to settle for perfect 50-yard field goal from kicker Connor Barth.
After going three-and-out on their opening possession, Washington got into the swing of things with big plays from their tail backs. Rookie Alfred Morris gashed Tampa Bay's No. 1 run defense up the middle for a gain of 17 yards. Then, back up Darrel Young gained 24 yards on a short dump off to put the Redskins in Bucs territory. From there, tight end Fred Davis took a short pass in the middle and turned up field for a gain of 26 yards. Washington then scored on a bizarre play where wide receiver Pierre Garcon recovered a Robert Griffin III fumble in the end zone to go up 7-3 late in the first quarter.
Griffin III and the Redskins quickly got into scoring position on their next drive thanks to some help costly penalties from the Bucs. On the drive's first play, safety Mark Barron drew a 15-yard penalty after he slammed RG3 to the ground on a tackle in the backfield. Then, Ronde Barber got flagged for pass interference on a deep ball to Garcon that gave Washington a free 32-yard gain. However, the Bucs defense was bailed out after kicker Billy Cundiff badly missed a 41-yard FG wide right.
But Freeman would give the ball right back to the Redskins just a few plays later. While looking down the field for Vincent Jackson, Freeman had his arm hit and the ball was picked off by DeAngelo Hall. That turnover gave RG3 great field position and he was able to punch it into the end zone just a few plays later with a 5-yard TD run.
Down 14-3, things started to get out of hand for the Bucs. The offense went three-and-out after Freeman was sacked on third down. After getting the ball back, it only took the Redskins two plays to score. Morris made a few defenders miss on a cutback run and raced 39 yards to the end zone to give the Redskins a 21-3 lead with 5:15 left in the first half.
Barth would cut into the lead after he was called upon when the offense bogged down. Tampa Bay's clutch kicker drilled a career-long 57-yarder late in the second quarter to bring the Bucs within 15 points right before halftime.
The Bucs nearly got a safety halfway through the third quarter when defensive end George Johnson got to Griffin III at the goal line. On the next play, the Bucs made a stop and appeared to force a punt, but linebacker Mason Foster got called for roughing the passer and the Redskins got a fresh set of downs. The Bucs would eventually force a punt after a Pierre Garcon personal foul penalty backed the Redskins into a hole they couldn't crawl out of.
Freeman opened up the next drive with a pinpoint 65-yard pass to Williams, who made a few defenders miss as he raced down field for the big gain. A few plays later, Freeman connected with Jackson on third-and-goal for a 7-yard touchdown to cut the Redskins' lead to eight points.
The Redskins had an opportunity to push the lead back up to double digits on their next drive. On a third-and-2 inside the red zone, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy made a big stop when he dropped RG3 for no-gain on a run. Washington thought they had an easy three points, but Cundiff badly missed an easy 31-yard field goal. That miss kept the score 21-13.
Once he got the ball back, Freeman went to work. On first down, Freeman went long to Jackson, who laid out for a 54-yard bomb to put the offense quickly into scoring position. Two plays later, Freeman found Jackson again inside the Redskins' 5 for a gain of 22 yards. The Bucs got into the end zone two plays later when LeGarrette Blount bulldozed his way over the goal line to make the score 21-19. Down by two points, the Bucs elected to go for two and failed to convert when Freeman's throw fell incomplete in the end zone.
Tampa Bay's defense tighten up when it got back onto the field. Cornerback E.J.Biggers nearly had an interception at midfield, but it went through his hands. On the next play, linebacker Quincy Black sacked Griffin III when he was trying to get out of the pocket. The Bucs were able to force a punt after a pass intended for Santana Moss fell incomplete on third down.
The Bucs got the football back with 3:38 left in the game down 21-19. Freeman diverted disaster when he recovered nicely from a low snap and stepped into the pocket to deliver a bullet to receiver Tiquan Underwood for a gain of 19 yards. On third down, Freeman went to Underwood on a WR screen and picked up five yards to set Barth up for a 47-yard field goal. Barth came through in the clutch once again and gave the Bucs a 22-21 lead with less than two minutes to go in the game.
With one timeout and plenty of grass in front of him, Robert Griffin III set out to make a last minute comeback. He connected with Leonard Hankerson and Fred Davis for some big gains. Once past midfield, RG3 took off for a 15-yard scramble. That set up a game-winning FG attempt for Cundiff, who was 0-3 up until that point. Cundiff just barely squeezed the ball inside the left upright to give Washington a 24-22 win on the road.
The 1-3 Bucs are now on bye this upcoming week. Their next game will be against the currently 1-3 Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium. The Bucs will honor left tackle Paul Gruber and inducted him into the Ring of Honor at halftime.
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