If Hurricane Elena had arrived before the final gun, this might well have been one exciting evening at Tampa Stadium.
As it was, she wavered ominously off the Florida coast in the Gulf of Mexico, leaving one last, predictable National Football League preseason game to stand on its own: Washington 20, Tampa Bay 7.
A four-game sweep of their exhibition schedule completed, the Redskins quickly dressed and dashed to the airport, hoping to beat the storm to the city line.
"I've got to go," cornerback Darrell Green said repeatedly as reporters pressed him for explanations of his two-interception, one-fumble recovery, one-touchdown night. "There's a hurricane coming."
Quarterback Joe Theismann, who played most of the first half, gave the Redskins a scare when he bruised his right knee on a sack in the second quarter. Coach Joe Gibbs said he planned to replace Theismann with apparent No. 2 quarterback Jay Schroeder at the end of the first half, anyway, adding that the injury had nothing to do with his decision.
Theismann, who put ice on his knee during the second half and left the locker room with a heavily taped, bulging knee, said he could have played if necessary.
"I'm fine," he said. "I bruised it a little. I have a little boo-boo, that's all. I could have played more."
Theismann looked fit when he played, completing eight of 14 passes for 84 yards. Schroeder played the rest of the game, going a hectic 10 for 18 for 62 yards and one interception.
Were it not for Green, this game most aptly would be called the calm before the storm. Green made the two best catches and two flashiest runs of the first half, helping the Redskins to a 17-0 lead before 33,640 hardy souls.
By then, issues necessitated by this Monday's cutdown to the final 45-man roster became more important than scoring, anyway.
For the record, though, the scoring went this way: George Rogers got his first touchdown as a Redskin on a one-yard run, bouncing off two defenders with 8:50 remaining in the first quarter; Mark Moseley kicked field goals of 47 and 24 yards, and Green returned his second diving interception 42 yards.
Tampa Bay reserve quarterback Alan Risher's three-yard touchdown pass to George Peoples with 6:25 remaining in the game gave the Buccaneers (1-3) something positive to discuss in team meetings this weekend, but that's about all.
Babe Laufenberg, last weekend's hero, didn't play. Gibbs said he wanted to play Schroeder because he didn't play last week against New England.
Laufenberg wasn't so sure.
"You can draw your own conclusions," Laufenberg said, smiling weakly. "I did everything I could do within the parameters they set. What they asked me to do, I did. I don't think I could have done any more. This certainly wasn't the way I hoped to end the preseason."
But Schroeder said he thinks the Redskins will keep three quarterbacks.
"Babe played very well," he said of last week. "I don't think they can get rid of him."
As for himself, Schroeder said he played "so-so" tonight. When asked if he was No. 2, Schroeder hesitated.
"It's safe," Laufenberg said, leaning toward Schroeder.
"Based on tonight, I guess so," Schroeder then said.
Based on tonight, the coaches are faced with an interesting mix of decisions this weekend. Cornerback Tory Nixon, the team's top draft choice who appears to be the most likely defensive back to be released, played in the second half and didn't figure in much action.
"That's a good day," said assistant head coach-defense Richie Petitbon. "When nothing bad happens to you at defensive back, that's a good game. But this is going to be a tough cut."
Nixon said he thought he played well. "I'm not going to give up," he said. "I did pretty good, but there were no balls thrown to me. I didn't have a chance to really do anything."
Another player who figures in Monday's decisions is defensive end Steve Hamilton. He started in place of Dexter Manley, who didn't play because of a sore left shoulder ("I really didn't want to play in a hurricane, that's all," he said. "Just kidding.")
But Hamilton, a second-year player, later pinched a nerve in his right shoulder. His status was uncertain. Linebacker Mel Kaufman suffered a bruised knee. It was unknown how serious that injury is.
Naturally, the aches and pains were on Gibbs' mind tonight. But so was winning all four games this preseason, the first time that has been done by the Redskins in the 25 years records have been kept.
"If you planned it out, you probably wouldn't want to win all four. The year we won the Super Bowl (the 1982 season), we lost all four," he said. "A setback sort of gets you cranked up."
Of course, the Dallas Cowboys, the Redskins' first regular-season opponent Sept. 9, can sort of get a team cranked up, too.
Were it not for Green and the weather, the theme of the evening may have been experimentation. It was a night to test the new talent.
Guard R.C. Thielemann, activated this afternoon when tackle Mike McClearn was placed on injured reserve with two dislocated fingers, entered the game at the end of the first quarter with new left tackle Dan McQuaid.
Their appearance was not without incident. McQuaid was called for a false-start penalty in his first drive, and Thielemann bumped into Schroeder as Thielemann pulled later in the game, causing a fumble recovered by running back Keith Griffin.
Wide reciever Malcolm Barnwell, acquired this week from the Los Angeles Raiders, also played and caught one pass for seven yards.
There were six turnovers in the first half, accepted equally by the Buccaneers and Green.
But Washington's mistakes merely led to Tampa Bay's mistakes, and Tampa Bay's mistakes led, eventually, to the Redskins' final touchdown.
Green intercepted a pass by Steve DeBerg for the first time at the Tampa Bay 29-yard line, but his left-handed, cradled catch rolled him out of bounds for no gain.
Ten minutes later, Green picked up a fumble by tight end Jimmie Giles at the Washington 38 and darted 62 yards, apparently for a touchdown with 1:20 to play in the half. But the score was nullified when defensive tackle Darryl Grant was called for an illegal block on the return.
Two plays later, Schroeder was intercepted at the Tampa Bay 40 by linebacker Scot Brantley, who returned the ball to the 43.
After a penalty (there were a lot of those, too; eight called on each team), DeBerg backpedaled from his 38 and again found Green, who dove for interception No. 2, got up and ran 42 yards down the sideline for a touchdown.
"I guess you call it luck," said Green. "But I don't believe in luck. It was a blessing."