TAMPA, Fla. — The Washington Redskins hoped to mount a strong rushing attack that would take the pressure off quarterback Jason Campbell in his NFL debut.
Instead, the Redskins got their worst effort of the year on the ground with a season-low 64 yards on 20 carries in a 20-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium.
With leading rusher Clinton Portis out for the rest of the season, the Redskins were unable to move the ball effectively on the ground using backups Ladell Betts and T.J. Duckett.
“Early on, we went to a lot of play-action passes and had some success,” running backs coach Earnest Byner said. “We were looking at [the Bucs’] thought process and knew they’d be looking for the run.”
Portis, who was placed on injured reserve Wednesday because of an injury to his right hand, led the Redskins through nine games with 523 yards rushing and a team-high seven touchdowns.
Betts, named to start in Portis’ place, rushed seven times for only 18 yards, a 2.6 average. Betts had averaged 4.5 yards through nine games on 82 carries in a backup role.
“We didn’t come out and establish the run the way we wanted to today,” Betts said.
Betts, who leads the Redskins with 35 receptions this season, also caught five passes for 48 yards. One of those receptions, however, resulted in a game-turning fumble that gave the Bucs the momentum for good.
Betts caught a short pass with 11:04 remaining in the game. He tried to spin away from a defender, was hit by safety Jermaine Phillips and fumbled. Cornerback Juran Bolden recovered for the Bucs on the Redskins’ 40-yard line.
“I got caught trying to make a play,” Betts said. “It was third-and-long. Just trying to get a first down.”
Three plays later, Bucs quarterback Bruce Gradkowski hit Joey Galloway down the middle for a 34-yard touchdown pass. That play gave Tampa Bay a 17-10 lead and transferred all momentum to the Bucs.
Duckett, acquired from the Atlanta Falcons before this season, had played in just three of the Redskins’ nine previous games, carrying only seven times. Against the Bucs, Duckett spelled Betts with some success, gaining 26 yards on five attempts.
“The offense really likes him,” Byner said. “He’s really worked hard for us. He’s been very diligent as far as the things we have asked him to do for the team.”
Most of Duckett’s success came on the opening drive of the second half. On his first touch, he ran 18 yards to the Tampa Bay 6.
“Every day I get more and more comfortable,” Duckett said. “You got to go out and play and do it on the field. We’ve got all the talent in the world. We work hard in practice throughout the week. We just need to find it [on Sunday].”