By Terrance Turner
Jan. 9, 2021
Tonight, the last game in a Saturday tripleheader kicked off on NBC. The Washington Football Team took on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a stadium just 10 miles from the U.S. Capitol — the site of a deadly riot on Wednesday. Inside the (mostly empty) stadium, the game unfolded. Somehow, an 11-5 Buccaneers team had trouble competing with a 7-9 Washington team. But Tampa Bay held on, cementing its first playoff win in over 17 years,
Tampa Bay scored first with a field goal. Washington QB Taylor Heinicke started for the team; QB Alex Smith was out with a calf injury. Heinicke performed gamely, drawing several compliments from announcers Al Michaels and Tony Dungy. But he was intercepted by Bucs defender Murphy-Bunting.
Tampa Bay took over. Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady quickly made a first-down throw to Scotty Miller. Within minutes, Brady found WR Antonio Brown for the touchdown. The extra-point kick was blocked, but Tampa Bay still led, 9-0.
Washington ran right through the Tampa Bay defense, racking up yards on the ground and through the air. That drive culminated in a touchdown by Washington running back J.D. McKissic. It was 9-7 when the Bucs began their next drive. Tampa Bay had a 22-yard catch by Brown and another first down from running back Leonard Fournette before a touchdown by WR Chris Godwin. The two-point conversion attempt was no good. So it remained 15-7.
On their next drive, Tampa Bay made it to 1st and goal, but couldn’t score. They settled for a field goal, which kicker Ryan Succop drilled. Washington embarked on a race-against-time drive, but couldn’t convert before time ran out. That made it 18-10 at the half.
In the second half, Tampa Bay’s defense utterly failed to contain runs or passes. On what should’ve been a sack — Heinicke was surrounded by the Bucs defense — the QB somehow managed to break free and dive across the end zone for the touchdown. Tampa Bay’s subpar defense — and Heinicke’s deft escape — made it 18-16.
A touchdown by Bucs tight end Cameron Brate was overturned. But Fournette dashed into the end zone for the TD. That put the Bucs up 25-16. Heinicke suffered a shoulder injury on Washington’s next drive; he was seen running off the field. But after a brief spell in the locker room he returned to the field of play. He rallied his team to another score, lobbing a TD pass to Steven Sims. It was 28-23.
With their lead slimmed down, the Bucs put together another scoring drive. WR Mike Evans had a 40-yard catch, followed by a Fournette first down. The drive culminated in a 37-yard field goal by Succop. That gave Tampa Bay a 31-23 lead. Though Heinicke valiantly tried to lead Washington to victory, a questionable fumble by a receiver and a sack by the Bucs defense stymied him. Escaping pressure from the defense with under two minutes left, Heinicke heaved the ball on fourth down. But the pass was incomplete. That sealed the win for Tampa Bay. They won, 31-23, for their first playoff win since 2003.