The new-look Washington Redskins produced some of the same old offensive problems tonight. They botched numerous scoring opportunities before settling for Mark Moseley's three field goals and a 9-7 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the opening preseason game for both teams.
But the Redskins conservative approach was what the coaches wanted. Coach Jack Pardee said the team's game plan was "to play it close to the vest" and rely heavily on Moseley's talented foot.
"We wanted to show some continuity and not do crazy things," Pardee said. "We wanted to protect the football and not have any penalties and run the ball. We didn't have any major mistakes that we had been having last year."
Yet Tampa Bay, which scored the first time it had the ball, stumbled around enough that Washington should have scored many more points.
At times, the Bucs resembled Keystone Kops. They collided trying to catch punts, they kicked 13-yard punts and they were penalized enough times to make their fans boo them.
But Joe Theismann and Kim McQuilken, who each quarterbacked a half, could not complete enough third-down passes to get Washington into the end zone and the Redskins had to settle for Moseley's field goals from 33, 31 and 26 yards, the last coming early in the fourth period.
"I feel good about this team," said Pardee. "It's a team with some class and poise. It's not a super team that will pull the scoreboard off every down.
"But we can win if we play together as a unit, as we showed tonight. That's what we have to achieve this season."
As long as the Redskin defense plays this well, Pardee can afford to remain conservative on offense. The Bucs racked up 42 of their yards on that scoring drive, then did little else right against the constant pressure of Washington's front four.
Pardee's team also showed a bit of ball control, running eight minutes off the clock late in the fourth quarter on a drive that began at its three.
"If we can make that the mark of the Redskins, I'll be happy with this team," said the enthusiastic Pardee.
McQuilken engineered that march and was in control when Moseley booted hit game-winning field goal. The former Atlanta quarterback hit on seven-for-10 passing for 54, completing five of six on that last trek.
Theismann did about as well, turning the plays called by offensive coordinator Joe Walton into a seven-for-12 game good for 47 yards. Neither quarterback threw an interception, nor did the Redskins lose a fumble.
Ironically, McQuilken looked his best in the one area where the Redskins have tried to control Theismann scrambling.While Thiesmann patiently stayed in the pocket for the most part, McQuilken cut loose for one 12-yard sprint that got the ball to the Tampa Bay 14 early in the fourth.
But on third down from the eight, McQuilken's pass to Louis Carter was too hard and too high at the three and Mosley lumbered in for the 26-yard chip shot. In the first half, he had missed from 45 and 43 yards.
That winning kick was set up by a Tampa Bay fumble. Redskin rookie linebacker Rich Milot banged into Buc quarterback Mike Rae from behind and the ball popped loose. Linebacker Ken Geddes recovered on the Tampa 48.
That was the last of three fumbles lost by Tampa Bay, which also had one interception. Those mistakes enabled the Redskins to gain possession six times inside the Tampa 50.But just three of those opportunities were turned into points by Washington.
"We usually had one missed assignment on every drive to hurt us," said Pardee. "But that's better than making major mistakes."
This was the football world's first look at the Redskins' new road uniforms, which closely resemble those of Kansas City except for a different hue of red. This also was the unveiling of what Pardee feels is a younger, stronger, quicker team honed by three rugged weeks in training camp.
At the start of the game, however, Tampa Bay seemed capable of driving these new Redskins all the way back to Washington.
After forcing a punt, which Mike Bragg kicked short, the Bucs struck quickly behind first-string quarterback Doug Williams.
He passed to Isaac Hagins and Jimmy Giles for two first downs. Then he was helped when Washington's Joe Jones was called for roughing the passer, which gave Tampa Bay a first down at the Redskin 17.
Fullback Johnny Davis ran behind a block from guard Greg Roberts, the Bucs' first round draft choice, and scampered to the one. He scored on the next down and the extra point gave Tampa Bay a 7-0 lead.
But from then on, Williams struggled. He had a pass picked off by Brad Dusek, only to be saved by penalties on both teams. So, he threw right into the linebacker's hands again. That interception held up and Washington took over on the Tampa 38.
But a backward fumble by Clarence Harmon, after he caught a Theismann pass that would have netted a first down at the Buc 12, stopped that Redskin threat and set up Moseley's first field goal, from 33 yards with 2:17 left in the first period.
Tampa Bay gave the Redskins the ball again and in the second quarter when Bragg's punt to Danny Reese was bungled after Reese and teammate Reggie Owens collided, forcing a fumble at the Buc 44. But Washington couldn't move and had to punt once more.
A short Buc punt and a nine-yard run by Harmon had the Redskins at the Tampa 29 before bogging down the next time. Moseley then missed from 43 yards.
Just before the half ended, Jerry Eckwood fumbled on a hit by Dallas Hickman and Mark Murphy recovered on the Buc 19. Theismann completed a seven-yarder to Harman to set up Moseley's 31-yard kick as time ran out.
Whatever pep talk Tampa Bay Coach John McKay delivered at the half went unheeded by his players. On their first possession in the third quarter, punter Danny Lee fumbled the snap but had enough time to recover since the Redskins were not rushing. Yet he somehow managed to kick the ball off the side of his foot and it went 13 yards to the Buc 43.
A fine diving catch of a McQuilken pass by Ricky Thompson moved the ball to the 29, but McQuilken was sacked by Reggie Lewis on second down and could not complete a third down pass, bringing on Bragg again.
Finally, the Redskins made Tampa Bay pay for a mistake after Milot slammed into the unprepared Rae. Then they ran down the clock on their long march and the near-sellout crowd of 64,493 booed when the public address announcer asked the fans "to watch all this exciting action" again on a television replay Sunday.
The Redskins now return to their Carlisle training camp for another week before traveling to Denver and a date with the Broncos next Saturday. CAPTION: Picture, Redskin defender Joe Lavender breaks up pass intended for Buccaneer Isaac Hagins in first quarter. UPI