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For Redskins, That Old Feeling

Legendary Coach Gibbs Opens His Second Stint With a Victory

By Mike Wise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 13, 2004; Page A01

When the game mattered most, a running back carried the ball more than a quarterback threw it. The third-quarter fumble evaporated quicker than last season's coach. And the menace of a defensive back, flying through the line, sent the sellout crowd past crazed celebration and toward outright delirium.

All that was left was for a 63-year-old man to tug on the bill of his game-day cap, the one with the gold "R" embroidered on it, and proclaim -- in that homespun, squeaky voice of his -- "I gotta tell ya . . . that was a hard-fought game."

Joe Gibbs, coaching his first game since 1993, is congratulated by kicker John Hall after a 16-10 win over Tampa Bay. (Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)

_ Game Day: Redskins 16, Bucs 10 _
Clinton Portis rushes for 148 yards and the Redskins use a stifling defense to edge the Bucs.
Joe Gibbs brings back his familiar winning formula.
Boswell: Welcome smash-mouth football back to Washington.
Wilbon: Gregg Williams has the Redskins defense in attack mode.
News Graphic: The Bucs shredded Washington's defense a year ago.
New Redskins play-by-play man Larry Michael needs to improve.
Mark Brunell shows veteran leadership after a critical error.
Fans of all ages enjoy a successful return for coach Joe Gibbs.
The Bucs' revamped offense fails to produce a touchdown.
Play of the Game: Portis cuts back and goes 64 yards with his first regular-season carry as a Redskin.
Notebook: Prized rookie Sean Taylor begins first game on bench.
Best & Worst

_____ On Our Site _____
The Redskins and a FedEx-record crowd of 90,098 celebrate Gibbs's return. More photos.
Grade the Redskins
Talk about the game.
Got Game? Take our postgame quiz and test your knowledge.

_____ Audio _____
Gibbs hopes attention will now shift back to his players.
Portis talks about the adjustments the Bucs made after his TD.
QB Brad Johnson outlines how the Bucs struggled on offense.

_____ By the Numbers _____
Coach Joe Gibbs's return had several ups -- but also a few downs:
0: Sacks allowed by the Redskins.
2.7: Yards per carry for the Redskins after Clinton Portis's 64-yard touchdown run.
3: Total penalties for the Redskins.
6: Number of opening day victories for Joe Gibbs in 13 seasons.
4-1: Gibbs's record the game following an opening week win.

_____ Live Online _____
Michael Wilbon was in The Chat House Monday. Read the transcript.

_____ E-mail Newsletter _____

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__ NFL Insider __
Post's Mark Maske on all things NFL -- only on washingtonpost.com.

_____NFL Basics_____
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_____Buccaneers Basics_____
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Player stats
Opponent comparison

Nothing changes -- except Joe Gibbs's age and his growing aura. The gobble-up-the-clock offense, the opportunistic defense, mistake-free football in the fourth quarter. And another win -- the 500th in the history of the franchise.

Twelve years after he last roamed the sidelines for the Washington Redskins, Gibbs directed a group of modern-day players to a grinding, 16-10 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers yesterday before a franchise home record crowd of 90,098 at rollicking FedEx Field.

In the National Football League opener for both teams, the coach who stunningly retired in 1993 won his first regular season game since his return to football as the Redskins overcame a disastrous third-quarter turnover, their own offensive liabilities and a Buccaneers defense that gave up 291 yards but only one touchdown.

Clinton Portis, the latest running back to benefit from Gibbs's run-first, pass-later offensive scheme, churned his legs 29 times for 148 yards and one breathtaking, 64-yard touchdown -- on the very first carry of his Redskins career.

Safety Matt Bowen sent the masses home satiated, charging through the Tampa Bay line with a little more than five minutes left in the game and driving Buccaneers quarterback Brad Johnson into the ground to seal the Redskins' victory.

The Redskins moved to 125-60 under Gibbs all-time, and to 1-0 with an icon who decided to dust off the cobwebs in January and return to guide the Redskins following a disastrous two years in which they foundered under the leadership of Steve Spurrier. Including yesterday, Gibbs has used parts of three decades to win a quarter of the franchise's games.

Gibbs first took the field to applause about 12:15 p.m., more than 45 minutes before kickoff. Not completely buying into the sentimentality of the day, he refused to bite when asked afterward, "Can you go home again?" He tried to heap praise upon his assistants and players, and even eschewed the cursory, 30-second halftime interview with the network sideline reporter, because he "only had 12 minutes to focus and didn't want to waste a second."

But he did allow that he spoke to his wife on Saturday, and even she sensed what winning meant to her husband after Gibbs had been away from the NFL for more than a decade.

"I had all the emotions going before the game," Gibbs said. "I was with Pat yesterday and she said, 'I don't know when you've ever wanted one like this.' For me personally, it was a big deal. I told the players that hopefully now all the attention will be on them."

Beyond Portis, the offense and Mark Brunell's quarterbacking left much to be desired. Brunell, who like Portis was acquired by Washington in the offseason, ended the day completing 13 of 24 passes for 125 yards and no touchdowns. But with the help of Portis, his offensive line and a late field goal by John Hall, Brunell managed to run out enough of the clock to send the Buccaneers south with many more questions than Washington.

A Redskins defensive line once thought to be the team's weakest link pressured Johnson all afternoon, and limited Tampa Bay running backs Mike Alstott and Charlie Garner to a scant 30 yards on 15 carries.

Still, Gibbs's homecoming victory was in jeopardy midway through the third quarter. The coach who guided the Redskins to three Super Bowl victories -- in the 1982, 1987 and 1991 seasons -- looked like just another frustrated successor to himself heading into the fourth period.

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