Washington: OK, Tampa Bay has the No. 1 defense in the league. I know, I know. But, come on. The Redskins' so-called offense was much more brutal than advertised. Once Derrick Brooks and the rest of Tampa Bay's defense did the job on Clinton Portis -- finally -- the Redskins were absolutely lost. Portis, who ran for 144 yards on Tampa Bay in November, was fresh off five straight 100-yard games, but he was stopped from the start by the middle of the Bucs' line. And when Portis flamed out (53 yards on 16 carries, a pathetic 3.3-yard average), the team's lack of receiving depth was painfully evident. Big playmaker Santana Moss caught only two passes for 18 yards -- and he was the big playmaker on Saturday. Mark Brunell threw only 15 passes and wasn't very good with any of them (thus the 25.7 passer rating). Really ... 120 total yards of offense? (Which, by the way, is the worst ever by a winning playoff team.) Only 42 yards in the second half? And this is a winning playoff team? We knew the 'Skins had issues. But, man, that was a no-show, even given the fact that it was against the top-ranked defense.
Tampa Bay: Clearly, the Bucs are no ball-pounding juggernaut, either. Rookie Cadillac Williams was worse than Portis (18 carries, 49 yards, a more-pathetic 2.7 average). Young QB Chris Simms was efficient, if not especially bold, and the Bucs were patient enough offensively to win this game. If not for a dropped pass in the end zone in the final minutes by Edell Shepherd -- a beautiful throw by Simms -- the Bucs could have won this game, despite the early turnovers.
PLAYER WHO IMPRESSED ME
It's maybe a little strange, given the defensive nature of Saturday's game and the last killer interception that he threw off a tipped ball, but I'm going to give some credit to Simms. He's still young, and he has a long way to go, but he showed a nice touch against a good defense in the first playoff game of his career. He didn't make too many completely dumb throws, his timing was good with his receivers and when he had to make the big pass to Shepherd to get the Bucs back in the game, he did. (It's not Simms' fault the guy dropped it.) He took an early sack he shouldn't have, but he showed a knack for escaping the pocket in a couple of instances. He overthrew a guy or two, too, and he wasn't very bold with his throws (his long was 24 yards). But, all in all, after his 25-for-38 passing effort, Tampa Bay fans have to think good things are ahead for Simms.
LOCKER ROOM CONFIDENTIAL
Nobody in the Washington locker room was bold enough to defend safety Sean Taylor and his spitting on Bucs running back Michael Pittman. Instead, most fell back on the ol' "heat of the moment" line. Better, I guess, than "Spit happens" ... A couple of Redskins players, in the dingy Washington locker room after the game, were having fun acting like Buccaneers. Or, I guess, that would be buccaneers. "Arrrrrr, get off my bag," one said. "Arrrrrr," the other replied. Some pirates, somewhere, are probably offended by that. Daggone PC police ... Portis said after the win that his shoulders were "killing him" going into the game, which might account for his poor day. Or, of course, it might have been an excuse ... Best play by the Tampa Bay defense -- and there were plenty -- was SimeonRice's embarrassment of left tackle Chris Samuels on the first play of the fourth quarter, bull-rushing him back into Brunell. Rice then reached around Samuels, grabbed Brunell by the front of his jersey -- Samuels was still kind of between them -- and pulled the QB down for the sack ... Why, I have to ask here, was Brunell throwing on 3rd-and-three with less than four minutes left, deep in Redskins territory, leading to an interception by Brian Kelly? If Shepherd would have caught the pass from Simms on the next Tampa Bay possession, that was a call ripe for ripping.
THE BIG PICTURE
There was nothing "wild" about this wild-card game. A couple of early turnovers -- both of them flukish, if you want to get right down to it -- sealed Tampa Bay's fate, leaving us to watch a game with two suspect offenses against two fairly formidable defenses.
The Bucs, to their credit, turned things around from last season and have to be thinking that they're on the right track. Williams should mature as a back, Simms will be fine and the aging defense probably still has some good years left in it. This might have been fullback MikeAlstott's last game -- that's still TBD -- but NFC South champion Tampa Bay should be fine for the 2006 season.
The Redskins don't need to look nearly that far ahead. In fact, they may not want to look as far ahead as Saturday, when they face the Seahawks in Seattle in the next round of the playoffs. No one knows better than the 'Skins that the effort against the Bucs will not cut it against Seattle. If Portis plans on showing up with sore shoulders again, the 'Skins might just as well skip the whole thing and save the cross-country airfare.