Redskins-Buccaneers Rivalry? Who Knew

Deion Sanders, Mike Sellers
In one of his few shining moments as a Redskin, Deion Sanders celebrates his 58-yard punt return in overtime with current Washington standout H-Back and special teamer Mike Sellers. (Joel Richardson - The Washington Post)

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By Jason Feller
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 4, 2006; 11:40 AM

Beyond their traditional rivals in the NFC East (Cowboys, Eagles and Giants) and past their local feud with the Baltimore Ravens, the Redskins quietly have developed an intense rivalry with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The two NFC squads don't face each other on a regular basis -- the Redskins lead the all-time series 7-5 -- but for one reason or another, they have engaged in numerous memorable games over the past few years. With Saturday's playoff game approaching, here is a look at five of the biggest Bucs-Redskins games in this under-the-radar rivalry:

5. 2003: Buccaneers 35, Redskins 13

The Redskins were looking promising in Steve Spurrier's second year when the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers came to town in Week 6.

Washington sported a 3-2 record and was fresh off a 27-25 loss to the Eagles in which they were one failed two-point conversion attempt from sending the game into overtime.

The hype leading up to the game was intense as Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington threatened to level Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp if Sapp continued his routine of running through the opponent's pregame warmups.

The warmups went off without incident, but the game quickly unraveled for the Redskins. After leading 13-7 going into the third quarter, the Redskins quickly lost control as the Bucs regained their championship form and blew out Washington 35-13.

The loss exposed several flaws in the Redskins' defense and proved to be the beginning of the end of the Spurrier era. After the embarrassing blowout to the Buccaneers, Spurrier's team dropped eight of its next 10 games, leading to the "ball coach's" departure after the season.

4. 2000: Redskins 20, Buccaneers 17 (OT)

Owner Daniel Snyder had famously assembled a payroll of more than $100 million in the offseason and was being accused by some of trying to buy a NFL championship.

The grand experiment looked to be in major jeopardy, however, after the Redskins dropped two of their first four games and clearly lacked any chemistry.

The 3-1 Buccaneers, who also harbored Super Bowl aspirations, figured to give the Redskins a test.

The Redskins played well for 58 minutes and appeared ready to win their third game when Tampa Bay made a furious comeback. Bucs quarterback Shaun King picked up his own fumble and threw a 46-yard touchdown with two minutes left to cut Washington's lead to 17-14.

After blocking a field goal, the Bucs marched down the field with under a minute remaining and tied the game at 17.

In the extra session, both teams went three-and-out before prized free agent Deion Sanders had his biggest highlight in a Redskins uniform. The flashy cornerback returned a punt 58 yards to set up the game-winning field goal.

The victory started a four-game winning streak for the Redskins. Ultimately, though, the $100 million experiment would fail as the team limped to an 8-8 record.

3. 2004: Redskins 16, Buccaneers 10

The first game of the second Joe Gibbs era in Washington was a success for the Hall of Fame coach.

Newly-acquired running back Clinton Portis sprinted for a 64-yard touchdown on his first carry in a Washington uniform and the Redskins never looked back. The Redskins committed few mistakes other than a fumbled exchange between quarterback Mark Brunell and Portis -- a muff that resulted in a touchdown for Tampa Bay -- and defeated the Bucs, 16-10.

The loss would be the start of a disappointing season for the Buccaneers, who would suffer their second consecutive losing season after winning the Super Bowl.

The win ended up giving false hope to Redskins fans that Joe Gibbs would be able to immediately turn around the team. A four-game losing streak followed and buried the Redskins as they posted a 6-10 mark in Gibbs's return.

2. 2005: Buccaneers 36, Redskins 35

The Redskins were soaring after a 17-10 win over Philadelphia left them at 5-3 and in solid position in the NFC East. The Buccaneers appeared to be reeling with starting quarterback Brian Griese out for the year and backup Chris Simms winless in two starts.

Simms and the Buccaneers jumped to a 21-10 lead, though, stunning a previously well-regarded Redskins defense. In the second half, on the other hand, the Redskins and Clinton Portis shredded the top-ranked Tampa Bay defense for several scoring drives and took leads of 28-21 and 35-28.

With the Redskins leading 35-28, the absence of safety Sean Taylor (out with an injury) once again came back to haunt Washington's secondary. Simms connected on a 30-yard touchdown with unheralded Edell Sheppard, and the Bucs climbed to within one point at 35-34.

An offsides penalty that nullified a blocked extra point gave the Buccaneers the ball at the one-yard line. Instead of trying to for another extra point, Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden opted for a two-point conversion and the win.

What happened next is still a point of debate. Game officials ruled that Tampa Bay fullback Mike Alstott crossed the goal line, but the Redskins insisted that Alstott's elbow hit the ground and he fell short. The call was reviewed, upheld and the Redskins left Raymond James Stadium with a bitter 36-35 loss.

1. 2000: Buccaneers 14, Redskins 13

The Redskins were fresh off a dominating 27-13 playoff victory over the Lions and confidence was high going into Tampa.

At stake was Washington's first trip to an NFC Championship game since the Super Bowl season of 1991, and the Redskins appeared on their way after taking a 13-0 lead.

Brian Mitchell opened the second half with the longest kickoff return in NFL playoff history, 100 yards, and the Tampa Bay offense could not muster much of anything against Washington's suddenly respectable defense.

Later in the third quarter, though, fortunes changed suddenly as safety John Lynch picked off a Brad Johnson pass to set up Tampa Bay's first touchdown. Momentum had clearly shifted to the Buccaneers.

A fourth-quarter drive featured a fumble by Bucs quarterback Shaun King that Warrick Dunn picked up and ran for a first down. Inspired by the lucky bounce, Tampa Bay drove deep into Washington territory before King, who was being driven to the ground as he released the ball, hit John Davis with a one-yard touchdown pass.

The Redskins drove into field goal range in the closing seconds with a chance to win from 52 yards out. But just like in a season-opening loss to Dallas, Dan Turk's snap was off and kicker Brett Conway never had a chance to attempt the kick.

Tampa Bay would go on to lose to St. Louis in the NFC Championship game, but would win a Super Bowl three years later. The Redskins would fire coach Norv Turner the following season.


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