GAME OF THE WEEK: Redskins, Buccaneers aim to bolster playoff hopes Print
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Wednesday, 21 November 2007 14:41
NFL Headline News

 TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -Joe Gibbs joked that he needs to talk to his athletic director.
Washington visits Tampa Bay for the fourth time in three seasons Sunday, desperately needing a victory to bolster its playoff hopes. The Hall of Fame coach said it would have been nice to have a little help from someone responsible for the NFL schedule.
``I want to find out why he keeps scheduling us down there,'' Gibbs cracked. ``I want a home and home.''
Even though the Redskins (5-5) and Buccaneers (6-4) play in different divisions, they are meeting in the regular season for the fifth straight year. Throw in close playoff games between the teams in 1999 and 2005, and there's a budding rivalry of sorts between the franchises.
``It feels like we're in the NFC East. This is a common opponent for us,'' said Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden, whose team sits atop the NFC South standings and has won two of the past three matchups against Washington.
``There is some familiarity among the players,'' Gruden added, ``and I think it does breed for a certain sense of rivalry.''
Gibbs is 2-2 against the Bucs since ending a 12-year hiatus from coaching and returning to the Redskins in 2004.
The three-time Super Bowl winner began his comeback with a victory over Tampa Bay at home, then the following season beat the Bucs at Raymond James Stadium for his first playoff win since 1992.
All of the games have been decided by a touchdown or less. Tampa Bay won 36-35 on a 2-point conversion in the final minute two years ago, and the Bucs prevailed 20-17 in Jason Campbell's debut as Redskins quarterback last November.
``Some kind of way we find each other, but it's just kind of hard to use the word rivalry with someone who's not in your division,'' Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks said.
``It's been some good games, though. You can play somebody a lot, but if the games are not good, it doesn't matter. Our games have always been hard-fought. It's been exciting.''
The Redskins, coming off a 28-23 loss to Dallas, have lost two straight to tumble into a last-place tie with the Eagles in the NFC East.
Tampa Bay, which has already exceeded its win total for last season, has won two straight to take control of the weak NFC South.
Campbell set career highs for pass attempts (54), completions (33) and yards (348) and threw for two touchdowns in the loss to the Cowboys. He led a fourth-quarter TD drive to trim Washington's deficit to five points, then marched the Redskins to the Dallas 19 before throwing an interception with just under two minutes to go.
The Bucs are impressed with the progress the third-year pro has made since facing him last season. Sunday will be Campbell's 18th pro start.
``He's a way different player. If we even look at that game and try to say he's the type of player he was then, we're setting ourselves up for failure,'' Brooks said. ``He's gotten so much better.''
Gibbs feels comfortable enough with Campbell's development that the Redskins have played less conservatively on offense the past two weeks, putting the game into the hands of the young quarterback.
Washington has been most successful against Tampa Bay when it has been able to get running back Clinton Portis involved. However, the Bucs' resurgent defensive players say they also respect what Campbell can accomplish with a talented group of receivers led by Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El.
``He's a coach's son; he's a great kid; he's a great guy; he loves football. He has all the intangibles that you're looking for in terms of getting people around him to play for him,'' Gruden said.
The Bucs' defense poses a formidable challenge.
While Jeff Garcia's solid play at quarterback generally is regarded as the main reason Tampa Bay has rebounded from last season's 4-12 finish, the defense is just as responsible for the team leading the NFC South by two games.
The Bucs have allowed the second-fewest points in the NFL and are tied for seventh in turnover margin (plus-5), big improvements over 2006.
``The defense, I don't know what else you can say,'' Gibbs said. ``I hate going against them.''
The Redskins coach said he respects the job Gruden has done to get the Bucs back on track after a down year, and the Bucs coach relishes the challenge of trying to keep it going against a Hall of Famer.
``I have a lot of respect for every coach in this league,'' Gruden said. ``When you see a guy like coach Gibbs, who's been on the cutting edge of pro football for as long as he has, it's a great opportunity for all of us to see if we're any good. He's a measuring stick.''
 

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