This week’s foe: Bucs vs. Redskins means oddity

by Gary Shelton on October 19, 2015 · 1 comment

in general

Evans had 207 yards receiving against Washington last year../JEFFREY S. KING

Evans had 207 yards receiving against Washington last year../JEFFREY S. KING

Monday, 6 a.m.

To some opponents, they are  the team of  Joe Gibbs and Joe Theismann and the Smurfs. To some opponents, they are all about  Dexter Manley and  Doug Williams and the Hogs, a massive group of offensive linemen that once stirred fans to wear hog snouts, a silly enough idea  until one of them came up with the idea that they should all wear dresses.

To some opponents, they are the team of Vince Lombardi (his next one) and Larry Brown and George Allen. To some, they are the team that has disintegrated into Steve Spurrier and RG3 and Little Danny Snyder.

Here, however, they are wacky Washington, a team as weird as the politicians who live there. And it has been one of the oddest rivalries in the NFL.

Sometime Sunday, perhaps in the third period, perhaps at a particularly tense moment in the game, it will happen. A quarterback will approach the line of scrimmage, and he will look for the safety to help identify the defense, and he will look to the ground. And there they will be: Snakes in the grass. Maybe spiders.

Hey, these are the Bucs and the Redskins. Strange things happen. Great players play bad. Bad quarterbacks play great. Kickers go wiggy. Fumblerooskies happen. Receptions are ruled not to be receptions. And so forth.

There have been other rivalries for the Bucs – the Packers, the Eagles, the Rams – over the years that are a testament to the greatness of one franchise or the other. Then there is the one that will be reignited Sunday when the Bucs visit the Redskins.

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Okay, okay. It has been some time since either team really mattered in the NFL. But when they play each other, it seems that is always third-and-wacky and common sense need not apply. This has been a series where Edell Shepherd didn't catch the ball but John Davis did, where Michael Clayton said hello and where Chris Simms said goodbye, where the Bucs lost a game despite one of their greatest defensive stands.

The greatest Bucs have had starring roles in this series: Alstott and Brooks and Rice and Sapp and Evans and Rhett.

Given all of that, how can you not expect weird on Sunday? This game ought to be played with Yackety Sax in the background.

Start with one of the Bucs' biggest wins. You could grade it as high as the third best in franchise history, behind the Super Bowl and NFC title win over the Eagles if you want. It ended up 14-13, a freaky kind of win that feels good to remember.

Shaun King was the quarterback that day. The best play King made all day was a blind jump pass to Davis for a yard for a touchdown. The second-best play he made all day was a fumble when he was sacked, which Warrick Dunn picked up and ran 13 yards for a key first down. The Bucs overcame a 13-point deficit that day and took their second playoff win under Tony Dungy, one that would get them to the NFC title game against St. Louis. John Lynch had a key interception.

But if you're going to start with that, you have to follow with one of their toughest losses. That one was 10 years ago, when the Bucs fell 17-10 to Washington. They lost despite holding the Redskins to 25 yards passing and 120 total. They lost when Shepherd failed ot hang into a pass in the end zone. In their good years, there were a lot of days when the Bucs' offense let the defense down. None were more pronounced than this one.

What else? There was Mike Alstott, running for a two-point conversation in a 36-35 victory. “I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I didn't give the ball to Alstott,” said coach Jon Gruden. There was Michael Clayton -- and boy were we wrong about him – with seven catches to ignite his 80-catch season. There was Mike Evans, last year, with 207 yards receiving and two touchdowns.

There was the missed extra point in 2010 by Washington that allowed the Bucs to win 17-16, and coach Raheem Morris to insist that the Bucs weren't lucky. Right.

This is a series where Josh McCown is a star. He had his best game as a Buc last year. There was the year that the Bucs had one yard rushing on 10 tries. And there was the year that Errict Rhett had 192 yards on 40 carries. There was Simeon Rice with four sacks and Warren Sapp with two. Ronde Barber took over the lead in interceptions for the Bucs against Washington. Lee Roy Selmon had a sack against Washington in their first-ever meeting in 1977, his best-ever sack season with 13.

There was Deion Sanders, returning a punt 57 yards in overtime to set up a winning field goal. There was the birth of Bruce Gradkowski, filling in for an injured Jeff Garcia. There was a weird sack by Eric Curry, who barely made a play, of Heath Shuler, who rarely got to play. There was the loss in 1998 that knocked the Bucs out of the playoffs.

Now, they get to go at it again in a series that has been defined more by oddities that awesomeness.

Maybe Jameis Winston breaks loose for a long touchdown run.

Maybe he laterals to Ali Marpet at the goal line.

Maybe Marpet scores and howls at the moon.

In this series, stranger things have happened.

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