A 10-point rally to force overtime goes to waste as big plays work for, and against, Tampa Bay.
By ERNEST HOOPER
© St. Petersburg Times, published October 2, 2000
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LANDOVER, Md. -- The Bucs went on an eight-minute roller coaster ride in their 20-17 loss to Washington, and the only disappointment was how the thrills came to a screeching halt.
Between the 3:57 mark of the fourth quarter and the game-ending field goal with 10:51 left in overtime, the Bucs experienced emotions that swung on every play.
"It is because we played really hard," said placekicker Martin Gramatica, who provided one big play with a 42-yard field goal with no time left to send the game into overtime. "Nobody gave up. Everybody probably expected us to give up when they scored the touchdown (to make the score 17-7). But we kept fighting and fighting to send it to overtime, but it wasn't enough."
The biggest play may have been what Bucs coach Tony Dungy appropriately called a fluke. After Redskins fullback Larry Centers caught an 8-yard touchdown to make the score 17-7, the Bucs made a startling 69-yard scoring march with the help of a 49-yard touchdown toss from Shaun King to Reidel Anthony.
King dropped back on third and 10 from the Redskins 46, but he fumbled when defensive end Bruce Smith stripped the ball. King picked it up, and by that time Anthony had scrambled behind the secondary.
"Luckily, I was able to pick it up," King said. "We were in a situation where we had to make a play. I knew it was the end that made the (strip), so I figured he still wasn't outside. I just went there and saw Reidel."
Anthony said normally he would come back for the ball. But with the Bucs down by 10 late, he made a different decision.
"I finally got a ball thrown my way and it just so happened I was wide open," he said. "We had another play called, a little play we had worked on for special situations. But King got flushed. I was looking back and I saw him drop the ball, so I stopped. Then I saw him pick it up and I saw Keyshawn run to the sideline, so I went deep and he found me."
A failed onside kick left Washington in field-goal range. But defensive tackle Warren Sapp blocked Michael Husted's 35-yard field goal and King guided the Bucs into field-goal range to enable Gramatica could tie the score. "I thought it was on then," Anthony said. "I thought we would go to our three wides, spread them out, run it and throw it and stay in that same little groove. But we went back to our basic offense and pounded on them a little bit. Then on third down the pass to Dave (Moore) just missed."
Even when the pass sailed over Moore's head, defensive end John McLaughlin still was enjoying the close battle.
"I enjoy games like that," McLaughlin said. "I like it tight like that. ... That's what we come out here for. I have butterflies in my stomach, I'm ready to fly around, I'm excited, I like it like that, but it was just a disappointing ending."
McLaughlin, who had helped the punt-coverage unit keep Deion Sanders blanketed all day, figured they would bottle up Sanders again. But his high swung to a low seconds later when he was blocked just before tackling Sanders, who ran to the right for 57 yards.
"I never saw that guy. I don't think it was (a legal block)," McLaughlin said. "That's where the return went, right where I was at, so I take responsibility for that.
"(Sanders) makes plays, but he really wasn't doing anything to us. On that last play, any return man could have done what he did. I'm a little bitter right now."
Anthony also went from elation to anger. In addition to thinking McLaughlin was clipped, he thought Dexter Jackson was illegally hit from behind in front of the Bucs bench. Jackson concurred.
"Deion made a great play, but I was there and I got clipped again," Jackson said. "Everybody saw that. It was open field. We just didn't get the calls to go our way this game."
It was all part of an up-and-down day for the Bucs, but Dungy said the mixed result was rooted in inconsistent play.
"We were close, but we didn't have enough good plays to win."
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