- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 8, 2006

TAMPA, Fla. — They couldn’t run or throw, and one of them couldn’t keep his composure. But the Washington Redskins had their defense, as usual, and a little luck, and as a result they are moving on in the playoffs.

The Redskins were missing safety Sean Taylor late in the game — he was ejected for spitting in an opponent’s face — and an offense throughout. But their smothering defensive pressure created one touchdown and set up another. Along with a few fortuitous bounces of the ball and a close call late, it was enough for a 17-10 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers yesterday at Raymond James Stadium.

The victory, in the Redskins’ first playoff appearance since the 1999 season, set up a divisional playoff game in Seattle at 4:30 p.m. Saturday against the Seahawks, who had the best record in the National Football Conference at 13-3 and earned a first-round bye.

For the Redskins, who beat the Seahawks at home Oct. 2, even when they do everything wrong these days, it seems to turn out right. How many teams can gain just 120 yards and still win? In the playoffs, it never had happened before.

“Our defense played outstanding,” said Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, whose first playoff victory since Jan. 2, 1993, pushed his postseason record to 17-5. “I’m really proud of them. Certainly, our defense kept us in it.”

More accurately, Gibbs’ defense was entirely responsible for the victory. Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell completed just seven of 15 passes for 41 yards and threw a potentially costly interception late in the game. Running back Clinton Portis, who exceeded 100 yards nine times this year, gained 53 yards in 16 carries. Wide receiver Santana Moss, the team’s only deep threat, was held to two catches for 18 yards.

Yet the Redskins are going to Seattle, and the Bucs are going home.

“Hey, we got the victory,” Moss said. “I’m gonna take it how it comes. When it comes down to these games in the postseason, it really doesn’t matter. As long as you get that ‘W,’ you get to move on.”

A key play in that “W” occurred late in the game when replay officials upheld a call that Edell Shepherd did not hold on to a pass from Bucs quarterback Chris Simms in the end zone for a game-tying touchdown.

Redskins fans probably will consider that payback for their 36-35 loss to Tampa Bay here in November, when the Bucs’ Mike Alstott won the game with a two-point conversion run. The Redskins said the ball never crossed the goal line, but the play stood.

The Redskins led 17-3 at halftime despite gaining just 78 yards. Both touchdowns came early. The first was set up when defensive tackle Joe Salave’a deflected Simms’ pass into the hands of linebacker LaVar Arrington, who returned the interception to the Tampa Bay 6-yard line. Portis then ran in for a touchdown.

On the Bucs’ next possession, linebacker Marcus Washington stripped the ball from Carnell Williams, picked it up and started running. Washington was tackled by Anthony Becht and fumbled himself, but Taylor picked up the ball on the bounce and ran unencumbered into the end zone to give the Redskins a 14-0 lead with 4:15 left in the first quarter.

That pretty much was all they needed. Tampa Bay put together the game’s only drive, going 51 yards in the third quarter to close to 17-10, but the Redskins held firm.

“We knew it was gonna be a physical game, and that’s the kind of game we like,” said Washington, who was credited with eight unassisted tackles and whose interception late in the fourth quarter ended Tampa Bay’s last hope. “We have a motto: We don’t want anybody to outhit us. We try to be the most physical team, and we try to hang our hats on that.”

Taylor, the talented but erratic second-year player, was ejected in the third quarter for spitting at Bucs running back Michael Pittman. The play, which came on third down, also cost the Redskins a 15-yard penalty and gave the Bucs a first down. But the defense, as usual, shook it off.

The defense also held after Brunell threw an interception that gave Tampa Bay a first down on the Redskins 35 with 3:43 to play. Aided by Shepherd’s failed catch, the drive ended right there.

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