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Redskins' defense leads Washington past Tampa Bay

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Joe Gibbs' teams have a knack for peaking at
the right time, and these Washington Redskins are no different.

With the Hall of Fame coach back in the playoffs for the first
time in 13 years, the Redskins -- at least on defense -- looked like
a Super Bowl contender again in beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
17-10 in the NFC wild-card round Saturday.

The victory was the sixth straight for the Redskins (11-6), who
won despite gaining only 120 yards on offense -- the lowest total in
NFL history for a winning team in a postseason game, according to
the Elias Sports Bureau.

"It's been a tough fight these last six weeks," said
linebacker Marcus Washington, who recovered a fumble and had a
fourth-quarter interception. "We ain't ready to go home yet, so
we're going to keep sawing wood."

LaVar Arrington's interception set up Clinton Portis' 6-yard
touchdown run, and Sean Taylor returned a fumble 51 yards for
another first-quarter score for the Redskins, who rebounded from a
three-game losing streak to win five straight to get into the
playoffs.

"I go to work with a great bunch of guys, and they have a lot
of fight to them," Gibbs said after his first playoff game since a
divisional-round loss to San Francisco on Jan. 9, 1993. "They
never gave up no matter what the circumstances."

Taylor was later ejected for spitting in the face of a Bucs
player, further depleting an injury-riddled unit that held off two
Tampa Bay scoring threats in the closing minutes, including a near
catch in the end zone that could have tied the game with just less
than three minutes to go.

Chris Simms lofted a perfect spiral to Edell Shepherd on
third-and-10 from the Washington 35, but the Tampa Bay receiver
lost control of the ball as he was coming down in the end zone.

Simms, unaware the pass was ruled incomplete, began celebrating
near the sideline -- and the Bucs' stadium crew set off premature
fireworks. Tampa Bay asked for a video review, burning its final
timeout, but the call was correctly upheld by instant replay.

"It's unfortunate," coach Jon Gruden said. "He was open, he
had his hands on the ball, and he was in the end zone."

The Redskins advanced to a divisional round game next Saturday
at Seattle (13-3). They also avenged a 36-35 loss to Tampa Bay
(11-6) this season, a game the Bucs won on Mike Alstott's 2-point
conversion run with less than a minute remaining.

"This is great," quarterback Mark Brunell said. "We've played
our best football in December, and to get a playoff win on the
road, as you know, is very difficult to do. Our defense was
incredible. You can't say enough about them. They won the game for
us."

Gibbs, who came out of retirement two years ago, took over sole
possession of third place on the career playoff wins list for a
coach, improving to 17-5 in the postseason, including three Super
Bowl titles during his first stint with the Redskins from 1981-92.

The Hall of Famer is known as an offensive innovator, but the
Redskins were outgained in this one 243-120.

"Our guys on offense were giving it everything we had," Gibbs
said. "We tried a little bit of everything, and we couldn't get
anything to work."

Brunell went 7-of-15 passing for 43 yards and one interception,
and Portis was limited to 53 yards rushing on 15 carries -- stopping
his streak of consecutive 100-yard games at five.

Simms threw for 198 yards in his first playoff start for Tampa
Bay but was intercepted twice and sacked three times.

The Bucs were stopped on downs when Simms threw an incompletion
on fourth-and-1 at the Washington 18 midway through the fourth
quarter.

Tampa Bay's Brian Kelly intercepted Brunell's pass at the
Redskins 35 four plays later. But Simms was stopped again when
Shepherd failed to make his potential game-tying catch on third
down, and the quarterback overthrew the same receiver in the end
zone on fourth down.

The Bucs got one more chance, taking over at their 46 after a
14-yard punt with 1:05 to go. But Simms' first-down pass was tipped
at the line and intercepted by Washington, and the Redskins ran out
the clock.

"I don't even know if it's sunk in yet," Arrington said.
"This is unbelievable, to come and win in such a great arena.
Wow."

Gibbs came out of retirement in 2004, and it's only taken him
two years to rebuild a franchise that made the playoffs once during
his 11 seasons away from football -- and that trip ended with a
14-13 loss at Tampa Bay in the divisional round six years ago.

Arrington picked off Simms' first pass of the game and returned
it 21 yards to the Tampa Bay 6 to set up Portis' TD run on the next
play for a 7-0 lead. Less than five minutes later, the Redskins'
defense struck again.

Washington stopped Carnell "Cadillac" Williams for a 1-yard
gain, forcing a fumble that the linebacker recovered before
scrambling to his feet and taking off with the ball.

Tampa Bay's Dan Buenning punched the ball loose from Washington
at the 41 before Taylor scooped it up at the 49 and raced to the
end zone for a 14-0 lead. The Bucs challenged the TD, arguing that
Washington was down by contact when he recovered the ball, but the
score was upheld by replay.

After the teams exchanged field goals, Tampa Bay trailed 17-3 at
halftime. But the Bucs drove 51 yards in seven plays on their first
possession of the third quarter to trim the deficit to 17-10 on
Simms' 1-yard run.

The Redskins' defense, already without injured cornerback Shawn
Springs, lost defensive end Renaldo Wynn with a broken right
forearm in the first quarter and was further depleted when Taylor
was tossed for spitting in the face of Michael Pittman as the two
stood face-to-face after a 3-yard scramble by Simms in the third
quarter.

Pittman hit Taylor in retaliation, but referee Mike Carey did
not penalize the Tampa Bay running back.

"There was a lot of trash-talking the whole game," Pittman
said. "He spit in my face, and no man is going to spit in my face.
... He'd get a lot worse if it was on the street."

Game notes
Taylor declined to speak with reporters after the game. ...
Gibbs snapped a tie with Chuck Noll for third on the career playoff
wins list. Tom Landry is first with 20, followed by Don Shula at
19.