Clifton Smith's fumble on the Bucs' final drive ended any threat they would have mounted, leaving the running back emotional in the locker room. QB Josh Johnson put his arm around Smith to lift his spirits, but nothing could change the magnitude of the play.
DE Jeremy Jarmon "made a heck of a play, just hit that ball out of my hand," Smith said.
Asked if the fact that he entered the game with just one carry in 2009 was a factor, Smith said, "I can't even use that as an excuse. Every time I step on the field, when I have the ball in my hands, I hold the hopes and the dreams of the team, and I just let everybody down. I didn't give people a chance (Sunday)."
Two weeks ago, the Bucs conducted workouts for free agents whom they might later want to sign. Among them were several placekickers.
It remains to be seen whether any of those candidates gets a return call, but it would not come as a surprise after K Mike Nugent's performance Sunday.
He missed attempts from 48 and 49 yards — one hitting the right upright, the other floating wide right. Nugent had a low 22-yard attempt deflected, though he managed to hit it strong enough to push it through.
"I felt like if I would have done my job, we should have won by three (points)," he said. "I thought everybody did a great job for it being such a close game. If I would have made those two kicks, we'd be going home with a win."
The snaps from LS Andrew Economos on the two misses were slightly wide, but that didn't affect the timing because holder Dirk Johnson did an admirable job of corralling the football, Nugent said.
"I thought everything was fine," he said. "I didn't walk off the field thinking something went wrong. I just walked off the field thinking I just didn't do my job. I didn't hit the ball the way I'm supposed to."
Nugent is now 2-of-6 for the season. Before this week, he had a 38-yarder blocked and a miss from 46 yards
Up, down day for Talib
CB Aqib Talib had a career day for the Bucs, matching a franchise mark held by CB Ronde Barber with three interceptions. But what he'll remember isn't his splendid, historymaking performance.
"I'm going to remember this 0-4 start," he said. That's largely because Talib was on the wrong end of the Redskins' biggest play of the day, a 59-yard bomb from QB Jason Campbell to WR Santana Moss in the third quarter that gave Washington the winning touchdown. Talib, who has been featured in man-to-man coverage this year, made a mistake against the veteran receiver from which he couldn't recover. After the snap, Moss used a double move to confuse Talib, and it had the intended result.
"I turned the wrong way, and, against a guy like Santana Moss, you can't do that," Talib said.
Talib offset that with his three picks. None of them seemed like easy catches. In fact, on his second, he not only had textbook position against WR Malcolm Kelly, he also went up and made a leaping catch. That was preceded by a diving interception across the middle in which Talib appeared to snatch the ball from Kelly. He hopped off the turf and peeled off a 16-yard return. Talib's day was emblematic of the Bucs' emphasis on single coverage. It puts players in good position to make plays on the ball, but that can prove costly when execution is lacking.
"It's the nature of the defense," Talib said. "We get in some of those calls where we're out there by ourselves. If they run a double move, we have to be on our A game. If we're not on our A game, it's probably going to be a touchdown. No margin for error when we're out there by ourselves."
Campbell not contained
The Bucs kept the heat on Redskins QB Jason Campbell early, but they lost containment on the athletic passer in the second half, allowing him to run for two big first downs. Missed tackles contributed to a conversion on third and 7 in the third quarter. Campbell ran for 9 yards on that play, sustaining a drive that led to a field goal. Later in the third quarter, Campbell escaped the grasp of LB Quincy Black, running for 13 yards on third and 11. On the following play, Campbell hooked up with Chris Cooley for a 17-yard touchdown.
Fast start fizzles
The Bucs offense had been lamenting the early deficits it has faced in its three previous games, but there was no such argument to be made Sunday. DE Gaines Adams' fumble recovery after DE Jimmy Wilkerson stripped Redskins QB Jason Campbell led to a Tampa Bay touchdown on the game's fifth play from scrimmage. The defense did a yeoman's job for the remainder of the half, forcing punts or turnovers on Washington's first six possessions. And the offense had no one to blame for its ineptitude — namely going 2-of-13 on third down. WR Antonio Bryant said: "You can't find yourself in a better situation as a football team than we did (Sunday), with our defense making the stops and getting the turnovers and Aqib (Talib) putting his hands out there and making the grabs he made. He showed up big time. Our defense showed up. Special teams showed up. Clifton (Smith) and the guys blocking for him made some great returns and got us in great field position. We just didn't come up with the plays." The defense allowed 277 yards, by far the lowest total of the season.
The Bucs didn't appear to sustain any major injuries, but they were without RB Derrick Ward (knee). And QB Byron Leftwich (hip) was inactive and said he would not have been able to play even if coach Raheem Morris hadn't benched him.
The Bucs have struggled mightily in the past few weeks converting on third down. And the failures mean fewer total yards:
Third down Total yds Opponent Date
2-of-13 (15 percent) 229 at Redskins Sunday
0-of-9 (0 percent) 86 vs. Giants Sept. 26
4-of-16 (25 percent) 353 at Bills Sept. 19
5-of-13 (38 percent) 450 vs. Cowboys Sept. 12