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Redskins Sink Bucs Late, 24-22

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Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman takes a closer look at Sunday afternoon's Week 4 game against the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay:

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The Redskins wrapped up a challenging first quarter of the season with a 2-2 split, impressive for any team playing three-of-four games on the road.  Faced with another intriguing quarterback matchup this week, Redskins rookie Robert Griffin III rose to the occasion once more, taking advantage of a struggling Buccaneers' secondary to the tune of 323 yards.

This game looked all but finished with Connor Barth's Buccaneers' field goal inside of two minutes.  Griffin III's story continues to grow, as he leads his team 80 yards down the field for the game-winning field goal with seven seconds left on the clock.

REVEALING MOMENT

With the game on the line late in the fourth quarter, outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan sniffed out a screen pass, dragging the receiver down for a 7-yard loss.  The stop came on third down, forcing the Buccaneers to punt, and setting up an opportunity for the Redskins to get the ball, drain the clock and win the game.

PLAY OF THE GAME

With 32 seconds left and the game on the line, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III tucked the ball and ran 15 yards up the middle for a huge first down.  It put the Redskins in field goal range with 26 seconds left on the clock, setting up the eventual game-winning field goal.

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Running back Alfred Morris faced a tall task this afternoon, taking on the NFL's top rushing defense (47.3 yards-per-game) in his fourth career start.  Morris averaged 88 yards and a touchdown per game through the first three games; he registered 88 yards and a touchdown in the first half today, as part of a 21 carry, 113 yard afternoon.  The Buccaneers will not be the NFL's top rushing defense in Week 5.

UNSUNG HERO

Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan has been a sensational sophomore, collecting 3.5 sacks and at least a half-sack in every game this season.  Better yet, he is rushing predominantly from the left side of the line, where quarterbacks can see him coming.  Most of his sacks have come on third down, forcing the opposing offense off the field.  In 20 career games, he has never missed a snap on defense, and had found sustained success despite the loss of Brian Orakpo for the season.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

--The Redskins red zone offense was a sore subject last season, even when the team was winning early.  With a shortened field, it's a shortened playbook, and playmakers take precedence over playcall.  The Redskins have an army of playmaker available this season, and none more important than Griffin III, who has four rushing touchdowns from inside the 20-yard line.  The Redskins are no longer hampered by receivers unable to get open; whether by design of as a last resort, Griffin III leads the NFLwith four rushing touchdowns.

--Tight end Fred Davis was eligible for the missing persons report after starting 2012 with 64 yards in the first 10 quarters of the season.  His dominance began after halftime in the Bengals game, when he tallied 78 yards in the second half.  It continued early in today's contest, as he went 24 yards on his first catch-and-rumble of the day.  He finished with three catches for 50 yards, and 128 yards in the last six quarters.

-- The Redskins succeeded in getting the running backs involved in the passing game, with fullback Darrel Young catching his first passes of the year for 24 and 16 yards.  Morris backed this up with his first NFL reception, and Evan Royster added 15 yards on three catches in the fourth quarter. Running backs are not the prototypical receiver, but when left uncovered, the results are productive.  Getting more receivers involved forces the defense to stay honest and creates opportunity elsewhere.

--Redskins left tackle Trent Williams was a candidate for unsung hero of the game today, returning from a bone bruise in the leg that knocked him out of last week's contest to play the whole game today.  The Redskins offensive line depth was somewhat exposed last week, as Jordan Black gave up sacks on back-to-back plays after entering the game.  With Williams in the game, the line opened big holes for Morris and consistently gave Griffin III time to throw the ball, solving the problems from last week.

--The Redskins entered Week 4 with a plus-six turnover ratio on the season, good for No. 2 in the NFL behind the Atlanta Falcons.  The Redskins won the turnover battle today, picking off Freeman once while protecting the ball consistently on offense, moving to plus-seven on the season.

--Punter Sav Rocca is another candidate for unsung hero of the game, hanging five punts for a 44.6-yard average, including a season-long 61-yarder, surpassing a pair from 58 already this season.  One of these fell inside the 20-yard line, his fourth of the season, compared to only two touchbacks.

--For the third time in four weeks, the Redskins won the time of possession battle, controlling the clock for 32:10 compared to the Bucs' 27:50.  With the Redskins' defense finding success against Josh Freeman and the offense, the Washington's offense played a game of keep-away and let the defense rest up on the sidelines.

WHAT WENT WRONG

--With ten missed field goals last year and three missed field goals tonight, the Redskins have critical problems in the field goal department.  The game-winner aside, the Redskins need to correct whatever caused Billy Cundiff to miss from inside of 45 yards.  In a game decided by fewer than nine points, such kicks have to be automatic. --The Redskins defense played three strong quarters of football before melting down in the fourth.  The team did not allow the Bucs into the red zone until two minutes remained in the third quarter.  From there, the Bucs moved the ball at will, tallying 140 yards of offense and 16 points for a hectic ending.

STATS GEEK

According to Elias, Redskins rookies Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris became the first teammates to score four rushing touchdowns each in their first four career games.  Before the 4 p.m. games ended today, Griffin III and Morris were tied for the NFL lead in rushing touchdowns.

WHAT'S NEXT

The Redskins get home cooking for only the second time this season, returning to FedExField to battle with the Dirty Bird Atlanta Falcons.  The Falcons bring their undefeated record to Washington, after narrowly escaping with a 30-28 win over Carolina earlier today.  The Redskins have struggled at FedExField, with their last win coming in Week 2 against the Arizona Cardinals last year.  The current seven-game home losing streak is the longest in the NFL.  The Redskins will be home for two weeks, hosting the Vikings in Week 6. 

LAST WORD

It's very difficult to win in the NFL, but the Redskins nearly let a big one get away this afternoon, sacrificing their second 15-point lead of the season.  The defense went from strong to porous in the fourth quarter, as the Buccaneers scored 16 unanswered for the lead.

On the other hand, the Redskins put up points early and held on for the win, a testament to the character of the young players and veterans on the sidelines.  Raymond James Stadium became a hostile environment late in the game, and the Redskins kept their poise when it counted.  This was a big step forward from two weeks ago in St. Louis, and the Redskins get a great Litmus test next week with Atlanta.

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