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Hail or Fail: Redskins’ incredible streak without a lead change is now nine games

Josh Norman celebrates his interception on Sunday. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

A look at the good (Hail!) and bad (Fail!) from the Redskins' 16-3 win over the Buccaneers on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.

Hail: No Lead Changes

This is my favorite quirky NFL stat. Buccaneers kicker Chandler Catanzaro must appreciate it, too. Entering Sunday, Washington was the fourth team since 1970 without a lead change in its first eight games, and the first since the 1995 Packers. In improving to 6-0 when scoring first this season, Washington became the first team not to experience a lead change in its first nine games since the 1954 Redskins. That team started 0-5 and finished 3-9 under Coach Joe Kuharich.

Washington’s strange streak appeared to be in jeopardy against the Buccaneers, as the opening score of the game was a field goal, not a touchdown, for the first time in a game involving the Redskins this season. After Dustin Hopkins gave Washington a 3-0 lead, the Redskins forced Tampa Bay to settle for a potential game-tying field goal, but Catanzaro missed a chip shot from 30 yards. Catanzaro missed again with Washington leading 6-3, and the Redskins maintained their three-point advantage until Josh Doctson’s touchdown catch early in the fourth quarter.

Fail: The Buccaneers' Yards-to-Points Ratio

Okay, I lied, this is my favorite quirky NFL stat. According to Pro Football Reference, the Buccaneers, who had 29 first downs and punted once, became the first NFL team dating back to 1940 to amass at least 500 total yards and score fewer than six points. On Nov. 17, 1986, the 49ers outgained the Redskins, 501-266, in a 14-6 loss at RFK Stadium, the previous low point total for a team that eclipsed 500 yards. San Francisco committed four turnovers in that game, including three interceptions by Joe Montana. Washington won despite quarterback Jay Schroeder completing only 17 of 40 passes for 170 yards and throwing two interceptions of his own.

The Buccaneers joined the 2011 St. Louis Rams as the only teams since 1940 to be limited to three points or fewer when managing at least 400 yards. How did Tampa Bay pull it off? With red zone futility rarely seen outside of the Pee-Wee football ranks. The Buccaneers made five trips inside Washington’s 20-yard line. Two of those trips ended with turnovers. Two more culminated with missed field goals.

“Better teams, we gotta figure out a way to stop guys from getting up the field, but the ultimate goal is to keep them out of the end zone, and we did that,” Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger said.

These Redskins have a winning strategy: Keep it simple and let the other team lose

Hail: Turnovers

The Buccaneers entered the game with the second-most giveaways (21) in the league. They lived up to their reputation as generous hosts with four more turnovers Sunday.

“That’s pretty much what we knew we had to do,” Redskins cornerback Josh Norman told NBC Sports Washington’s JP Finlay after the win. “We had to go out here and give the ball back to our offense as many times as we can, just because we know we’re a little shorthanded on offense right now. With the banged up guys and the injuries that took place, we know we gotta put it on our back, each and every week we gotta come out and take over a game.”

Norman got Washington’s turnover party started with a leaping interception at the goal line to end Tampa Bay’s first drive. The takeaway extended the Redskins’ NFL-best streak of games with at least one turnover to 13. Preston Smith’s strip-sack of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ryan Kerrigan’s ensuing fumble recovery with less than four minutes remaining was Washington’s third takeaway in the fourth quarter and helped seal an ugly win.

“These games are very, very close, and it comes down to a turnover here or there, or a key penalty, so I think the turnover battle is critical,” Redskins Coach Jay Gruden said after Washington improved its turnover differential to plus-11 this season. “It’s what we’ve been preaching. Hats off to our quarterback and our receivers and our ballcarriers for great ball security, and our defense for getting the ball. It’s not easy, but it’s been the difference so far, and it’s why we are where we are.”

Fail: Ripping Redskins Fans

After Washington improved to 3-1 on the road, Norman said his team fed off the energy of the Redskins fans who made the trip to Tampa Bay and voiced his disappointment with the crowds at FedEx Field this season.

“We come back to our home and it seems like guys don’t really care,” Norman said. “They just boo everything and aren’t really behind us. We don’t really feel that [support]. And I’m tired of it, really. [Shoot], we can play all the games on the road if you ask me. At the end of the day, the people who are going to be for you, the fans that really [have] your back, they’ll be there. The other ones, man, it is what it is. Can’t really speak on them. They’re going to talk about what they talk about anyway. They’re all keyboard warriors anyway.”

Sorry, Josh. While the Texans surely wouldn’t mind if next week’s game were relocated to Houston, the NFL would probably frown upon such a move. Norman made some valid points during his postgame rant, but criticizing a fan base that has lived through 25 years of disappointment isn’t productive. Just ask Robert Henson. Norman elaborated on his comments with a tweet in which he challenged fans to make FedEx Field “terrifyingly loud” and “menacing.”

Hail: Zach Brown

The Redskins linebacker was originally slated for a “Fail” mention for his since-deleted tweet from Saturday night about his frustration with the coaching staff. Maybe the former North Carolina standout was in a bad mood because his alma mater lost its rivalry game to Duke. In any event, Brown channeled his anger on the field Sunday, finishing with nine tackles, including two for loss.

Fail: The Redskins’ Offense

Yes, the Redskins have been decimated by injuries, particularly along the offensive line and in the receiving corps, but that doesn’t excuse managing only 16 points and 286 total yards against the league’s 29th-ranked defense. Tampa Bay was allowing 34 points per game and had limited one opponent to fewer than 400 yards this year before the Redskins came to town. Washington quarterback Alex Smith missed a sure touchdown on a deep throw to Vernon Davis, but improved to 3-0 this season — and 4-0 in his career — when he throws for exactly 178 yards. Weird.

Hail: Special Teams

Just put Tress Way in the Pro Bowl now. The Redskins punter averaged 49.4 yards on five punts, including four that were downed inside the 20. Hopkins continued his solid season by drilling all three of his field goal attempts.

Fail: Timeout Management

It didn’t come back to hurt the Redskins on Sunday, but Gruden called a timeout on the third play of the second half and burned his third and final timeout with nine minutes remaining in the game. Buccaneers Coach Dirk Koetter did Gruden one better when he threw his challenge flag to ask officials to take another look at a potential Adrian Peterson fumble just before the two-minute warning at the end of the game. Problem was, Koetter was out of timeouts and therefore couldn’t challenge the play, resulting in a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

Read more on the Redskins:

Redskins-Buccaneers takeaways: Tampa Bay dominates the stat sheet, including turnovers committed

Redskins earn ugly 16-3 win over the Buccaneers, remain in first place

Josh Norman slams Redskins fans after road win: ‘They just boo everything’

Redskins' win over Bucs didn’t look pretty, but it passes the smell test

Redskins have a much-needed (mostly) injury-free Sunday