Through four weeks of erratic play, the Tampa Bay Buccaneeers can look toward one player as the model of consistency.
Kicker Connor Barth extended his franchise-record streak of successful field goal attempts to 25 in Sunday's 24-22 loss to Washington, converting from 50, 57 and 47 yards out. The 57-yarder, which tied Michael Husted for the second-longest in Bucs history behind Matt Bryant's 62-yarder in 2006, had ample room to spare.
"It's nice to have coach's confidence like that,'' said Barth, who briefly put Tampa Bay ahead 22-21 on a 47-yard kick with 1:42 remaining. "He put me out there from 57 yards, that's awesome. But it's not about me – it's about the team.''
While Barth was adding to his streak, Billy Cundiff of the Redskins ended up kicking the game-winning field goal from 41 yards out with three seconds remaining. Cundiff had missed three previous attempts – from 41, 57 and 31 yards – before his 41-yarder helped the Redskins even their record at 2-2.
"That's what an NFL kicker is supposed to do, make field goals in the clutch,'' Barth said. "I'm happy for him as a fellow kicker.''
Barth's steady work has not been lost on his teammates.
"He's been Mr. Reliability for us,'' said Bucs center Jeremy Zuttah. "He's cool under pressure. It doesn't matter what the distance is, Connor Barth is going to boot that football right down the middle.''
Twenty minutes after his new club emerged on top in a frantic finish, Raheem Morris knotted his tie and walked out of the Redskins locker room, clutching a game ball.
"For a lot of guys on this football team, guys that work in this building and the owners, it's like family,'' said Morris, the former head coach of the Bucs, who now coaches Washington's secondary. "I don't have any ill will toward anybody here. Emotions wouldn't be anything hateful.''
Morris was fired in January after going 17-31 in three seasons with the Buccaneers.
"I just wanted to get a win with the Redskins to get us to 2-2 and it feels good,'' Morris said. "We played well in the first half and the Bucs got it going in the second half. I told our guys they've got really good wideouts and they made a push at the end before (rookie quarterback Robert Griffin) did some magical things.''
Standing on the visitor's sideline at Raymond James Stadium for the first time, Morris couldn't stop smiling during the pre-game warmups.
"That sun wasn't too bad in my eyes out there,'' he said with a smile. "Just seeing those guys come out in warmups, players like Aqib Talib and Ronde Barber, that was a lot of fun.''
Biggers is back
A foot injury at the beginning of training camp sidelined Bucs CB E.J. Biggers until Sunday, when he returned to the field and played a more extensive role after Eric Wright went out with a head injury.
"I'm just happy to be back with the guys,'' said Biggers, who almost intercepted Griffin deep in Redskins territory with nine minutes left. "I should have caught that ball. If it hits my hands, I've got to hold onto it. We all hold ourselves to a higher standard around here.''
Bucs rookie safety Mark Barron introduced himself loudly to Griffin early in the second quarter with the Redskins leading 7-3.
On first down from the Redskins 10, Griffin tried to dash around left end, but the first-round pick out of Alabama was waiting for him. Barron grabbed Griffin's legs, upended him and drove him into the ground for an apparent 2-yard loss as the crowd of 58,191 roared in approval.
But those cheers quickly turned to boos toward the recently returned regular officials as Barron was flagged with a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness.
"I hate to lose,'' said Barron, who finished with eight tackles and a forced fumble. "I don't like the feeling and it's as simple as that. He's (Griffin) a playmaker. He made some things happen for his team tonight and he played a big role in his team winning the game.''
The kid is alright
Now Tampa Bay fans know why the Redskins were willing to pay a heavy price to move up to the second overall spot in the draft before selecting Griffin, the Heisman Trophy winner out of Baylor with 4.3 speed and a rocket arm.
Griffin threw for 323 yards and posted a 102.4 passer rating Sunday while adding 43 yards in seven carries against the NFL's top-ranked rushing defense.
"You want the ball in your hands when something has to happen, and you make it happen,'' said Griffin, who led the Redskins on a 56-yard drive in the final minutes to set up Cundiff's winning field goal. "We all had a feeling he (Cundiff) was going to make it, even though the day wasn't so great for him. He redeemed himself with that kick.''
Griffin stayed poised throughout a steamy late-afternoon matchup. He was sacked twice but didn't throw a pick while completing 26 of 35 passes.
"I knew we were going to pull it out on that final drive,'' said Washington WR Joshua Morgan. "Heck, nobody has stopped us all year. We've been shooting ourselves in the foot, but when we're clicking, nobody has stopped us.''
Redskins CB DeAngelo Hall, who picked off a Josh Freeman pass in the second quarter, has six interceptions in his past eight games against the Bucs. …RT Jeremy Trueblood, who lost his starting job to Demar Dotson, didn't dress for Tampa Bay. …The Redskins rolled up 145 yards and 10 first downs in the second quarter. …Bucs rookie OLB Lavonte David led all players with 14 tackles, including three stops for losses. …After splitting runs and passes almost evenly in the first three games, the Bucs rushed only 18 times in 58 offensive snaps Sunday. …Vincent Jackson (6-100) and Mike Williams (4-115) became the first pair of Bucs to reach the 100-yard mark in receiving yards in the same game since 1992, when Mark Carrier and Lawrence Dawsey accomplished the feat against Green Bay.