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Redskins Get Running Start

On the Redskins' first offensive series, with a first and 15 at their 36-yard line, they lined up in a formation they had not used in preseason. The Redskins stacked tight end Walter Rasby and receivers Rod Gardner and James Thrash on the right side of the offensive line. After taking the handoff, Portis leaned toward the left behind the line's blocking. But when Buccaneers defenders overpursued, Portis changed directions toward a big hole on the right and turned upfield. Tampa Bay safety Jermaine Phillips dove as a last-gasp attempt to stop Portis as he crossed the goal line after a 64-yard run that gave Washington a 7-0 lead. Portis faced the giddy crowd in the end zone, holding the ball high, while soaking in the adulation.

"I'm really exhausted. But I have time to recover now," said Portis, who extended his streak of at least 100 rushing yards to seven games, the previous six with the Denver Broncos. "I've got the night off. . . . Off the excitement alone, you could be tired."

Joe Gibbs makes a successful return to the sidelines, winning his 125th career game as the team's coach. "It was huge for me. I can tell you that." (Jonathan Newton - The Washington Post)

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While Tampa Bay faced an element of surprise against Gibbs's offense, there was no mystery to Washington's defense. Williams has developed a reputation as one of the NFL's best young defensive minds with an attacking philosophy in which he routinely blitzes the quarterback.

With Washington up 7-0, Tampa Bay had the ball on its 40-yard line for a second and 10. Bowen blitzed from the left side, zooming around fullback Mike Alstott to pounce on Johnson. Bowen stripped Johnson, allowing defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin to fall on the ball at the Tampa Bay 34-yard line. "Everything they ran, we had practiced," said cornerback Shawn Springs. "We were so well prepared."

On Washington's next series, the Redskins ran the ball seven consecutive times, punctuated by quarterback Mark Brunell's scramble to the Tampa Bay 2-yard line after he came under pressure. Brunell's one-yard run made it fourth and inches following a measurement. Gibbs played it safe, and Hall's 20-yard field goal gave Washington a 10-0 lead.

The Bucs were fortunate to be down 10-3 at halftime after a statistically dominating performance by Washington. The Redskins committed only two penalties, zero turnovers and possessed the ball for almost 18 minutes.

Tampa Bay's defense got the Bucs back in the game by the end of the third quarter. With about five minutes left in the period, Cory Raymer had replaced Lennie Friedman at center for the Redskins because of muffed exchanges with Brunell. But on second and seven from the Washington 14-yard line, Raymer accidentally stepped on Brunell's foot after a snap. Brunell lost his footing while handing off to Portis and the ball squirted loose. Cornerback Ronde Barber picked it up after a serendipitous bounce and scampered into the end zone.

The 10-10 score silenced the crowd, and Gibbs grimaced. But Brunell, who was steady if unspectacular yesterday, gathered the offensive players on the sideline and told them to stay calm. "That [fumble] would shake a normal person up," Gibbs said of his quarterback.

Early in the fourth quarter, Tampa Bay had the ball on its 41-yard line for a second and six. Redskins defensive lineman Jermaine Haley applied pressure up the middle, causing a bad Johnson pass. Linebacker Antonio Pierce, who started for the injured Mike Barrow, leaped high for an interception in front of wideout Tim Brown and rambled 16 yards, giving Washington the ball on its 36-yard line. On the ensuing Redskins drive, Portis rushed three times and caught a seven-yard pass, setting up Hall's game-deciding field goal.

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