Bruised, Desperate, and Angry

The Tampa Bay Bucs come into FedEx Field this week an injured and upset team. They have five starters listed as questionable, doubtful, or out on their weekly injury report. A team that was arguing that it had one of the best defenses in NFL history was the victim of one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history.

Of course, battered and dazed has been the state of all of the Redskins' opponents so far this year. Four of the five teams they have played have been missing their starting quarterbacks and/or have had multiple starters missing from the lineup. The one relatively healthy team, the Giants, had been stunned the previous Monday night by losing in overtime to Dallas.

Obviously, the Giants were able to shake the effects of having lost after kicking a field goal for a three-point lead with 11 seconds left. Things like that happen rarely, but it's not unheard of. The manner in which the Bucs lost is unprecedented.

You have to wonder, though, what effect this will have on the Bucs, if any. There are multiple schools of thought. The most obvious is the "dangerous, wounded, angry animal" one, the one that says the Bucs will come out fired up and take out their anger over the loss on the Redskins.

Then there is the self-doubt theory, the one that says that a loss like the one the Bucs suffered will make the question their own abilities. That's never good for a team, especially one that has always has a certain swagger and relies on intimidation as Tampa Bay does.

A look back at some comebacks involving the Redskins shows that there doesn't tend to be a positive or negative effect from either blowing a big lead or coming back to win. In the 1999, they blew a 21-point lead entering the fourth quarter and lost to Dallas in overtime. The Skins were so devastated that they could only put up 50 points the next week in the Meadowlands as they destroyed the Giants.

In 1990, backup quarterback Jeff Rutledge led a comeback from a 21-point deficit to defeat the Lions in Detroit. A week later, Rutledge and eight other Redskins were knocked out of the game as the Eagles dominated what came to be known as the "Body Bag Game".

Based on this admittedly anecdotal evidence, the guess here is that the Bucs' Monday night collapse won't have much of an effect at all. This game kicks off an about 1:00 PM on Sunday and by a quarter after one the last game will be ancient history for Tampa Bay. They're pretty fierce hitters anyway, it's not like they need any more incentive to play aggressively. They'll do pretty much the same thing to cover Laveranues Coles as they did to cover Marvin Harrison. It will either work like it did for most of the first 56 minutes last Monday night or it won't like it didn't in the last four minutes and in overtime.

The injuries will play a bigger part, but not necessarily a decisive one. The Eagles were able to overcome the loss of three stellar defensive backs last week because its defensive line played well and got pressure on Patrick Ramsey. This put quite a crimp in Steve Spurrier's plans to burn the inexperienced Eagle DB's deep. The Bucs defensive line, the strength of their defense with Simeon Rice, Warren Sapp and Anthony McFarland, is intact and it's easy to envision a scenario similar to last week's.

Still, the Bucs need to score to win and that's where they'll have problems. Keyshawn Johnson is listed as questionable and if he can't go, John Gruden won't be able to call on #3 receiver Joe Jurevicius, who is listed as doubtful. Fullback Mike Alstott is out for the season, so both the running and passing games of the Bucs will be severely limited.

What this game should come down to is what most Redskins games this season have--turnovers and the kicking game. The Bucs shouldn't score much unless they get a short field to work with. When the Redskins do get into scoring range, they have to convert and that means that John Hall will need to be as good as he was last week against Philly.

It says here that he will be.

Redskins 16, Bucs 7


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