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Redskins Defense Shut Down Bucs Offense When It Counted Most, in the Red Zone

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Usually allowing 501 yards to the NFL’s best offense would spell out a long day for a defense, but that was not the case Sunday for the Washington Redskins. Their defense rebounded from a dreaded performance a week ago to hold the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense to three points despite five trips into the red zone.

As Tampa Bay’s quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick piled up 406 passing yards, taking advantage of a bend but don’t break approach by the Redskins, Greg Manusky’s defense stepped up inside the 20-yard line when it needed to the most. There was a good deal of miscues by the Buccaneers, but Washington’s defense deserves credit as well.

On the opening drive of the game, the Buccaneers drove 56 yards to the Redskins’ 19-yard line. However, Fitzpatrick tried to fit a pass to running back Shaun Wilson as Redskins linebacker Mason Foster trailed underneath with cornerback Josh Norman sitting over the top. Instead the pass sailed high as Fitzpatrick tried to avoid Foster underneath right into the hands of Norman, killing a great scoring chance for the Buccaneers.

That was huge considering the Redskins have not experience a lead change this season and are 0-3 when opponents score first.

While Washington failed to score on the ensuing drive, the seed was planted of what kind of game was in store, an ugly one. The Redskins defense would force a punt and the offense would score a field goal to follow.

On Tampa Bay’s next drive, they were back into the red zone. However, another Fitzpatrick miscue helped erase a good scoring chance. Facing a 2nd-and-8, Fitzpatrick scrambled ahead with nothing open in the end zone. He appeared to run about seven yards before he inexplicably cut his run to the left due in large due to linebacker Zach Brown filling the lane. Fitzpatrick coincidentally ran backwards about three of four yards and was tackled. Instead of a 3rd-and-1 or a first down, the Buccaneers were facing a 3rd-and-4.

The next snap, a Fitzpatrick pass went through the hands of tight end Cameron Brate. Then kicker Chandler Catanzaro forced a 30-yard field goal wide right.

The Buccaneers would get as close as the Redskins’ 12-yard line on its next possession. However, Redskins defensive end Matt Ioannidis beat right guard Caleb Benenoch and his hold with a great swim move to sack the Fitzpatrick on first down. Two incomplete passes later, the Buccaneers had to settle for its lone field goal.

The Redskins enjoyed a 6-3 lead into halftime despite the defense getting pushed around into the 20s.

The second half was no different. Three more trips deep into Redskins’ territory, no points. The first highlighted by a snap that went over Fitzpatrick’s head on 3rd down backed the Buccaneers up 18 yards, leading to a 48-yard missed field goal by Catanzaro, his second of the game.

In the fourth quarter, Linebacker Ryan Anderson was rushing the passer when he recognized the check down pass to running back Jacquizz Rodgers. Anderson chased Rodgers down, punching the football out of his hands at the Redskins’ 19-yard line, sending the ball flying into the end zone into a convey of Redskins defenders to recover for a touchback.

And finally, with the game getting away from Tampa, Fitzpatrick — at the Redskins’ two-yard line, was stripped sacked by Preston Smith, putting a bow on the game late in the fourth quarter.

The sack came one play after Mike Evans dropped a would-be touchdown. Fitzpatrick was forced to throw the pass low to sit Evans into a tight window with two Redskins defenders sandwiching him. The high degree of difficulty was too much for Evans hands.

Yes, the yards are concerning, but they went within the game plan of the Redskins. They kept the football in front of them. The 501 yards were a byproduct good decision making underneath the coverage. But as the Buccaneers ran out of real estate, the Redskins defense closed the windows and forced Tampa Bay to be near perfect. They were not even close.

Fitzpatrick has made magic happen all season, but one of his deficiencies remain his struggles to fit tight window throws. The Redskins took advantage of that Sunday and with five trips into the red zone — six deep into their territory — they yielded one score, a field goal.

The win keeps the Redskins in first place of the NFC East for at least another week at 6-3. And a large dose of the credit goes to their red zone defense.

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