Rice had a career-high four sacks, Sapp had two while avoiding any pregame antics, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers broke loose in the second half to beat Washington 35-13 Sunday.
All eyes were on Sapp before the game, because Washington's LaVar Arrington objected to Sapp's routine of prancing through the opposing team's exercise formations. The NFL warned both teams to avoid pregame hostilities, and Sapp obliged by waiting until the Redskins had finished stretching before skipping onto the field about 40 minutes ahead of the kickoff.
"I didn't need to run through their stretch," Sapp said. "They've got a whole 53-man squad that we were coming after. That's what we were after -- the game. It wasn't the pregame."
Actually, the defending Super Bowl champions waited a little longer before they really got going. Down 10-7 at halftime, the Bucs outgained the mistake-prone Redskins 295-112 the rest of the way.
"He got the last laugh, for now," said Arrington, who shared a hug with Sapp after the game. "This is going to turn around, I promise that."
Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson, returning to Washington for the first time since his bittersweet departure in 2000, threw four touchdown passes and completed 22 of 30 passes for 268 yards. And that was with Joe Jurevicius out injured, and Keyshawn Johnson playing with a bruised thigh.
The Bucs' QB went 14-for-18 for 205 yards after halftime. Tight end Will Heller and Keyshawn Johnson caught touchdown passes, and Derrick Brooks returned an interception 44 yards for a score -- all in the second half. Keenan McCardell, the Bucs' only healthy starting receiver, made two incredible over-the-shoulder catches on touchdown drives and finished with five receptions for 77 yards.
The unlikeliest hero was tight end Todd Yoder, who got wide open for his first two NFL touchdowns after starter Ken Dilger left in the first half with a sprained right ankle. Yoder, known more for his special teams play, also set up another touchdown by dragging Champ Bailey and David Terrell past the first-down marker on a third-and-8 deep in Washington territory.
The Buccaneers (3-2) rebounded from a stunning 38-35 Monday night loss to Indianapolis, when they blew a 21-point lead in the final four minutes. In this game, Tampa Bay took a 22-point lead with 6:55 to play.
"I've never been more uncomfortable with a 22-point lead in my life," coach Jon Gruden said, grinning.
Tampa Bay's six sacks were one fewer than it had in the first four games combined.
"Once we get the lead, we usually can seal it from that point," Sapp said. "And we needed to seal it, because we let a big one out the door" against the Colts.
It was the Redskins' first game this season decided by more than three points. The penalties that plagued their earlier losses showed up again. Washington (3-3), which had committed a league-high 55 penalties entering the game, got flagged nine times for 72 yards.
On one drive, Washington's penalties allowed Tampa Bay first-and-goal plays from the 9-, 5- and 1-yard lines. Personal foul calls on Regan Upshaw and Arrington kept touchdown drives alive.
Washington's Patrick Ramsey completed 21 of 32 passes for 211 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Redskins QBs have been sacked 23 times this year.
"Hopefully, we can block a little bit better as we go through the season," said Redskins coach Steve Spurrier, who didn't have starting guard Dave Fiore (knee) for the third straight game. "If not, we are in trouble. I don't think we are doing it well enough to beat a lot of teams right now."
- Brad Johnson's nose was black and bruised after the game, but not broken.
- He has thrown 150 passes without an interception.
- With Tampa Bay CB Brian Kelly injured, Dwight Smith moved from safety and started at cornerback.
- Redskins injuries: RB Trung Canidate (sprained right ankle), CB Fred Smoot (bruised chest) and TE Robert Royal (right hip).
- Heller's TD catch was his first in the NFL.
- Washington's Laveranues Coles caught six passes, making him the first player since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to catch at least five passes in 19 straight games.
- Rice hit Ramsey from the left side, forced a fumble and recovered it early in the first quarter. In that one play, he extended the Bucs' streak to 46 games with at least one sack and one takeaway.
The Associated Press News Service
Copyright 2003, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved