Saturday, February 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs face Redskins for first time since losing big lead last season

TAMPA — "You like that! You like that!" Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins screamed to a Comcast reporter on his way to the locker room at FedExField after his team dug out of a 24-0 hole to beat the Bucs 31-30 last Oct. 25.

Pretty soon, it became an anthem for the team's turnaround a year ago that could be seen on towels and T-shirts and hoodies worn around Washington, D.C.

That game was not decided until an extra point after Cousins threw the tying touchdown pass to Jordan Reed on — what else? — a slant pattern with 24 seconds to play.

Minutes earlier, the Bucs had a chance to put the game away on third and goal inside the 1-yard line before Charles Sims was dropped for a 2-yard loss and coach Lovie Smith opted for a field goal for a six-point lead.

That game — the last one Tampa Bay played against Washington until tonight's final preseason encounter at Raymond James Stadium — likely saved the jobs of Cousins and coach Jay Gruden while serving as Exhibit A for why Smith would be fired at the end of 2015.

Gruden had gone all in with Cousins at quarterback, benching Robert Griffin III a year earlier. But Washington was off to a rocky 2-3 start while Cousins was shaky, opening the season with five touchdown passes and six interceptions.

Recognizing the importance of the game that week, Gruden ordered a ''Code Red'' for the Redskins leading up to Sunday, recognizing the importance of the game.

The Bucs came out hot on offense. Running back Doug Martin rushed for 136 yards, receiving Mike Evans caught eight passes for 164 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown from Jameis Winston to start the game. Winston was 21 of 29 for 297 yards and two touchdowns.

Gruden reportedly blasted his players at halftime and it must have worked, too.

"It has nothing to do with any Code Reds or any halftime talks," Gruden said. "This is a players' game. The players came out and made some plays."

The Bucs allowed 21 unanswered points to start the second half, failing to recover an onside kick.

The Redskins went on to win six of their last nine games, finishing 9-6 and winning the NFC East. Cousins signed the franchise tender worth $19.953 million.

Meanwhile, the Bucs won four of their next six to get to 6-6 before dropping their last four to finish 6-10. The defense, especially against the pass, never improved and Smith was fired.

Cousins said he didn't really know what prompted him to yell in triumph.

"I just said it to, I think it was Tarik (El-Bashir) in there from Comcast I was saying to," Cousins said. "Just fired up, fired up."

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