- The Washington Times - Monday, November 14, 2005

TAMPA, Fla. — Folks in Florida knew just where to place the blame for what ailed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers: quarterback Chris Simms.

The Bucs raced to a 5-1 record this season behind starter Brian Griese, who led his team to first place in the NFC South, then suffered a season-ending knee injury.

Simms was inserted in his place, the Bucs dropped two straight games and the mood in Tampa darkened considerably.

Simms gave the Bucs a glimmer of hope with his performance in a 36-35 victory over the Washington Redskins yesterday.

The son of former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms routinely converted deep balls against the Redskins. He completed 15 of 29 passes for 279 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions for a stellar 119.8 quarterback rating.

“I was very relaxed,” said Simms, in his third season out of Texas. “I didn’t make mistakes. I didn’t throw an interception. More times than not when you go no turnovers you are going to win the game.”

He was a model of efficiency, taking advantage of strong pass protection to negate the usually blitz-heavy defense and exploit the Redskins’ depleted secondary. With Redskins safety Sean Taylor sidelined because of an ankle injury, Simms and Co. were able to beat sub Pierson Prioleau regularly with downfield passes.

Simms saved his best for last. The Bucs got the ball trailing 35-28 with 1:52 remaining in the fourth quarter. Receiver Edell Shepherd maneuvered around Redskins cornerback Walt Harris, turned down the right sideline and beat Harris for a 30-yard touchdown that cut Washington’s lead to 35-34.

“He made a great little double move, kind of a slant and go,” Simms said. ” I just put it up there for him, and he made a great play in the end zone.”

Shepherd (three catches, 87 yards) also had a 46-yard catch. Joey Galloway led the Bucs with seven catches for 131 yards and a touchdown.

“When you play teams that blitz the way they do, they have to take some chances,” said Galloway, whose 24-yard touchdown reception gave the Bucs a 21-10 lead in the second quarter. “They have to leave some guys by themselves at times. When you play these kind of teams, there are going to be times when they make you look really bad and times when you have the opportunity to make plays and make them look bad.”

Yesterday, it was Simms making the Redskins — particularly the secondary — look awful. The Bucs’ 36 points equaled the most the Redskins have given up this season. And the young quarterback could be coming of age after engineering a two-minute drill worthy of a veteran.

Simms said the key for his success was simply slowing down. He had few poorly throw balls and took what the surprisingly generous defense gave him.

“Early in the game they blitzed us a few times, and we picked it up. We made a few plays down the field, and I think we scared them away a little bit,” said Simms, whose team scored a total of 24 points in the two recent losses. “They didn’t blitz much in the second and third quarter. We came out in the fourth quarter, and they gave us some all-out pressure.

“The deep one I hit to Edell Shepherd, those were situations where the offensive line pass-protected great and gave me enough time to get the ball up in the air for those guys to run under to get it.”

Simms is showing he may be an asset as the Bucs gain confidence for a playoff push. The unproven quarterback proved he can be effective when the game is on the line.

“This is a big game for him to put in his cap,” Galloway said. “From the experience of being down a touchdown, couple minutes left, going against a defense like Washington, that is huge for a young quarterback and for an offense that struggled the last couple weeks.”

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