It was nice to finally experience another win.
The Bucs turned in a first half reminiscent of the Monday Night Football loss to the Carolina Panthers. The defense played well, limiting the Redskins to under 100 yards of offense, but the Bucs' offense scored only 3 points because of two turnovers in Redskin territory.
Fortunately, the second half was far different than on Monday night. The Redskins were the team committing the costly turnover in the second half, and the Bucs came from behind 10-3 to win the game 20-17.
Carnell Williams atoned for some mistakes in Monday's game by running extremely well, picking up about 120 yards on the ground. He also caught two passes and turned in good YAC on those.
Though it won't look like it on the stat sheet, however, Mike Alstott was a huge key in the game. The Bucs had trouble running against the Redskins early, but Alstott's number was called three consecutive times in the first half and turned in nice gains while breaking tackles and leaving various Redskin defenders in his wake.
Part of the key is that Alstott got the running game going and put the fear of the run into the Redskins. The other thing was that whenever Alstott gets a sniff of the football at a Tampa Bay home game, the crowd goes nuts. He's an incredibly popular player--it seems like most TB fans think that Alstott would have numbers like Barry Sanders' if he carried the ball often enough.
Who knows what Alstott would have done if Gruden had tried at all to feature him in this offense? We'll never know. Maybe he would have been beaten up and retired three seasons ago. He still shows some impressive skills running the ball, however. The way he shrinks the target while closing in on shrinking defensive backs is a joy to behold. If the defender tries to hit him above the ankles, he'll have to contend with Alstott's shoulder pads. The guy has an inhuman ability to punish tacklers that way.
Props to the defense for playing pretty well despite missing quite a few bodies. Dewayne White made some splash plays filling in for Simeon Rice. That was nice to see. Barrett Ruud made you forget that Shelton Quarles was taking up space on the sideline. That provides some hope for the future. Much-maligned (by superficial fans, anyway) Juran Bolden kept filling in capably for the out-for-the-season Brian Kelly. Bolden got his ankle rolled on a tackle--it could end up being a bad injury--but I want to give him props for showing up every nickel corner (or would-be Kelly substitute) we've had since Dwight Smith (now with the Vikings after a stint with the Saints).
And, finally, the Gradkowski report.
Grads turned in a pretty solid game--it would have been downright great if we could take away the pass near the goal-line that was intercepted by Shawn Springs and the fumbled exchange from center in Redskin territory that gave Washington the ball instead of a possible touchdown or field-goal attempt.
Grads threw accurate short and intermediate-length passes (no bombs today unless we count the lob to Galloway that burned Washington's blitz late in the game), showed good command of the offense, scrambled for some key first downs, and did a nice job with the hand-offs and play fakes.
I was hoping for this type of game against the Giants and the Panthers. If he can complete the short passes, it won't matter if he misfires on the long ones--though of course the defense has plenty to do with where the ball ends up most times.
In summary, this game offered hope for the future--and the fact that Atlanta and New Orleans both lost today even supplies a fleeting hope for this season if the Bucs can turn in a miraculous string of great performances.
Next up: Dallas, fresh off an impressive win against formerly undefeated Indianapolis. Short week for both teams--Dallas played in late afternoon while the Bucs played early, but the Cowboys don't have to travel while the Bucs need to hop on a plane Wednesday.
It's really a brutal schedule right now, with the Bucs playing three games (two on the road) in the space of 11 days.