TAMPA, Fla. -- The Washington Redskins didn’t make mistakes. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers did. Over and over. That, in a nutshell, is why the Redskins won a game in which the numbers would suggest they had no business doing so.
But their 16-3 win over Tampa Bay wasn’t about beauty. When you have three starting offensive linemen sidelined with injuries as well as a starting corner -- and a host of other players -- beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And as far as the Redskins (6-3) are concerned, they just won a damn beauty contest.
It doesn’t matter how anyone else perceives the game; a team coming off a loss and playing wounded won a game on the road and maintained its lead in the NFC East. The Redskins were outgained by 215 yards. They were bad on third down -- again. They gave up 398 yards passing.
“That’s what it takes to win a game, I really don’t care,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “I’ll save the fantasy football for the guys who play that. We just try to get a win. I told the team last night if we win 6-3 or 50-49 I don’t care. We’re winning ugly, but I don’t know if there is such a thing as winning ugly.”
Washington forced four turnovers and benefited from two missed field goals, and just as important, the Redskins never turned it over. Tampa Bay reached the red zone five times ... and scored one field goal.
Washington will have to survive this way for a while -- maybe for the rest of the season. The Redskins will get some players back, notably left tackle Trent Williams. But at this point the Redskins are a team that must turn games into punching matches in order to win.
It’s not ideal, and against some teams it’ll become difficult to win unless the offense does more. But what Washington showed Sunday is what it showed last year when winning a game at Seattle with a makeshift line: a mindset that responds well in tough situations. They also let it be known they weren’t thrilled with how everything unfolded.
“We have to tighten up as a defense,” defensive end Jonathan Allen said. “We made the plays when it counted and they didn’t. But for us as a defense we want to dominate and we didn’t dominate today.”
Here’s how they got it done:
Alex Smith played an Alex Smith-like game: The Redskins quarterback was careful with the ball, and he used his legs when necessary. On the Redskins’ lone touchdown pass, he extended a play in the red zone, sliding to his left to avoid pressure. He then hit receiver Josh Doctson for the 6-yard score.
“Alex did a great job of not making any negative plays,” Gruden said. “The touchdown was a great, great play.”
Later in the game, the Redskins picked up a first down using a speed option pitch from Smith. It didn’t result in anything beyond killing the clock for a couple of more minutes.
Smith didn’t do more than what was required of him. He completed 19 of 27 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown.
Ryan Fitzpatrick turnovers: Corner Josh Norman was looking forward to this matchup because he knew Fitzpatrick would give him a chance to intercept a pass. Sure enough, on the first series of the game, after Tampa had driven to the Redskins’ 19-yard line, Fitzpatrick overthrew his intended receiver, and Norman made an acrobatic interception. Later, with the Redskins leading 13-3, corner Josh Stroman stepped in front of another Fitzpatrick pass to pick him off and set up a field goal.
“We know Fitz was going to throw interceptions,” Redskins linebacker Zach Brown said. “He’s a gunslinger. With gunslingers, you throw interceptions.”
Heads up play: After gains of 18 and 29 yards, Tampa was once again in prime scoring position at the Redskins’ 28-yard line. But on an underneath pass to running back Jacquizz Rodgers that would have resulted in a first down, linebacker Ryan Anderson raced from behind and punched the ball out. Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix recovered in the end zone for a touchback. Later, linebacker Preston Smith forced a Fitzpatrick fumble with the Bucs inside the Redskins' 5-yard line.
The Redskins needn't apologize for how the game looked. After all, nobody felt sorry for them when they lost multiple starters to injuries.
“Put up 1,000 yards,” Norman said. “You get a W when you [give up] three points. It really doesn’t matter; the only stat that matters is the W.”