TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Washington yielded 501 yards and forced Tampa Bay to punt once all day.
Sounds like a blueprint for a lopsided loss, yet there the Redskins were in the visiting locker room Sunday celebrating a 16-3 victory that kept them alone atop the NFC East.
That’s what four takeaways, three of them foiling scoring opportunities, will do for a team that struggles to score points.
“We gave up some yards. They had great time of possession and some great drives, but we were able to keep them out of the end zone,” coach Jay Gruden said. “You’ve got to keep playing until the drives are over, and good things will happen. We did that.”
Alex Smith threw for 178 yards and one touchdown, while Dustin Hopkins kicked three field goals for the Redskins (6-3), who improved their turnover differential to plus-11 and rebounded from a 38-14 loss to Atlanta despite playing with a makeshift offensive line because of mounting injuries.
“I promise you this: If we were even or minus-11, we wouldn’t be 6-3,” Gruden said. “It’s been the difference so far. It’s why we are where we are.”
Smith, who was 19 of 27 with no interceptions, threw 6 yards to Josh Doctson for the game’s only touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
Hopkins kicked field goals of 43, 43 and 26 yards, the last set up by Greg Stroman’s fourth-quarter interception and 24-yard return to the Bucs 14.
“You can (give up) 1,000 yards, but if you get the ‘W,’ three points, it really doesn’t matter,” Washington cornerback Josh Norman said. “It goes down in the stat sheet, but the only stat that matters is the ‘W.’ “
Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 406 yards for Tampa Bay (3-6), but was intercepted twice and lost a fumble on a sack inside the Washington 10.
The Bucs, who have the NFL’s top passing attack and are second in total offense, fell to 1-3 in games they’ve gained 500-plus yards this season.
Just as discouraging for coach Dirk Koetter and his players: Tampa Bay, which has lost three in a row and six of seven following a 2-0 start, failed to force a turnover on defense for the sixth straight game.
“”Four-zero in turnover margin is going to kill you every time,” Koetter said. “We had a lot of chances. … We weren’t good enough today, and that’s plain to see.”
Meanwhile, three of their four giveaways thwarted scoring opportunities, including Jacquizz Rodgers’ fumble on a reception that rolled 18 yards into the Washington end zone, where it was recovered by safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix for a touchback.
The Redskins were outgained 279 yards to 136 in the first two quarters, yet led 6-3 at halftime after getting two field goals from Hopkins.
The Bucs moved into Redskins’ territory on all five of their first-half possessions, but had little to show after Norman made a leaping interception on the goal line of a pass intended for Chris Godwin, and Chandler Catanzaro missed a 30-yard field goal.
Catanzaro, who’s missed four field goals and four extra points through nine games, also had a 47-yarder sail wide right early in the second half.
“I feel bad for my teammates. I’m just not performing well enough right now for this team,” said Catanzaro, whose 33-yarder in the second quarter accounted for all of Tampa Bay scoring. “Right now they’re not going through (the uprights). I’ve done my best to fix it up until now and it hasn’t been fixed.”
Fitzpatrick completed 29 of 41 passes and topped 400 yards passing for the fourth time this season. He was sacked twice.
Rodgers finished with eight receptions for 102 yards for Tampa Bay. Godwin had seven catches for 100 yards.
Redskins: With Trent Williams recovering from surgery on his right thumb, Ty Nsekhe started at left tackle along with guards Jonathan Cooper and Tony Bergstrom, replacements for Shawn Lauvao and Brandon Scherff, who were lost for the season against the Falcons. Cornerback Quinton Dunbar (shin) also missed the game, with Fabian Moreau filling in.
Buccaneers: Played without defensive end Vinny Curry for the third time in four games. Safety Justin Evans (toe) left in the second quarter and linebacker Lavonte David (knee) departed in the third, though both returned.
Washington’s patchwork offensive line held up fairly well. Washington rushed for 116 yards, with Adrian Peterson helping run out the clock and finishing with 68 yards rushing on 19 carries.
Smith was sacked three times, but thought the group performed well under the circumstances.
“It wasn’t like there was a ton that was off-limits, and I think that’s a credit to those guys and how they were playing,” Smith said.
“Certainly you wanted to get them into the flow of the game and that took a little bit,” the quarterback added. “But I thought in the second half, we were able to get into that rhythm and we were able to execute.”
Redskins: Home vs. Houston next Sunday.
Buccaneers: at New York Giants next Sunday.
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