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Smith sticking with program

Bucs receiver Mike Evans pushes Redskins cornerback David Amerson away during the second half of Sunday’s game.
Bucs receiver Mike Evans pushes Redskins cornerback David Amerson away during the second half of Sunday’s game.
Published Nov. 18, 2014

TAMPA — The vindication was as overwhelming as the victory for Bucs coach Lovie Smith.

In dominating the Redskins — his description — the Bucs proved you have to believe in the plan to win.

Since arriving in January, Smith has preached pressure on the quarterback rushing only four down linemen, causing turnovers, and scoring on defense. It all paid off Sunday when the Bucs forced the first of three turnovers on the game's first possession, sacked Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III exactly VI times and rode hot rookie receiver Mike Evans to a 27-7 win at FedEx Field.

"I know you have to have faith before and believe in what we're doing," Smith said. "When you've lost as many games as we have, you have to keep believing. … The reality is we've been improving. We haven't been able to finish football games but we've been in games. I believe you are what your record says you are, but there's a little bit more to it than that. And for our football team, I know as a head coach that they're getting the message.

"But you need to get wins to truly validate what you believe. So when you go on the road and get a win in a hostile environment and dominate a team like that, it has to help."

All week long, Smith showed the Bucs video of his Chicago Bears teams that were so adept at rushing the passer and creating turnovers. Then defensive tackle Gerald McCoy addressed the defense before the game and told his teammates they needed to make Smith's emphasis come to reality. On the first play from scrimmage, linebacker Lavonte David forced RG3 to hurry a pass that linebacker Danny Lansanah intercepted off a deflection.

It's no coincidence, Smith says, that 11 of the team's 20 sacks have come in their wins, at Pittsburgh and Washington.

"It's funny how that works when you are able to get pressure and it does set the tempo for just about everything," Smith said.

The Bucs had several things in their favor. Redskins starting left tackle Trent Williams injured his knee early in the first quarter. And Griffin, who likes to extend plays, gave the Bucs some extra seconds to bring him down.

"RG3 is a scrambler but he scrambles and looks to throw," said Bucs defensive end Jacquies Smith, who had two sacks and forced a fumble. "So we knew he's an athlete type of guy, he's going to stay alive back there so basically you have to stay alive in the rush."

Four defensive linemen registered at least a half sack and the Bucs had 11 quarterback hits.

"I'd just say we were working more together as a unit," Jacquies Smith said. "If I'm collapsing the pocket on the right side, Gerald is right there or Michael (Johnson) is right there picking up a sack. It's kind of poetry in motion when all of us are working together."

The Bucs finished after leading in the fourth quarter of five other games. But quarterback Josh McCown hit Evans for two long touchdowns. Evans had a career-high 209 yards receiving.

"I saw disappointment in how quick we had dominated the game for the most part and for them to get that (score)," Smith said. "But we were in great position, still. We had the lead. … I think the guys thought we were the better team and this time we're going to finish the job."