LANDOVER -- The Washington Redskins narrowly missed wrapping up their first perfect preseason in 14 years last night and nobody seems disturbed by some surfacing flaws.
Since Redskins Stadium appeared less than half-full, many fans didn't have to endure an uneventful 16-13 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in which the Redskins' offense folded under the weight of blitzes in the red zone, as well as kicker Brett Conway slicing two attempts wide right just five days after being handed the starter's job.
The night was punctuated by Tampa Bay's Darnell McDonald hauling in a Shaun King pass deep in the left corner of the end zone with 12 seconds remaining as the Buccaneers' reserves completed a 12-play, 75-yard game-winning drive.
Still, most of the concern can be pinpointed early.
Redskins quarterback Brad Johnson, in particular, had his pocket frequently collapse and was forced to hurry or scramble on his last four passing attempts. Johnson, who had his past two seasons with the Minnesota Vikings shortened by injuries, stood on the sideline after his one-quarter appearance with ice wrapped around his left knee, a usual routine for him after practices.
He found his rhythm early in a no-huddle offense, completing five of his first six passes for 46 yards. But an offensive front line, which was retooled after allowing a franchise-worst 61 sacks last season, provided little time for Johnson, who missed on his last five attempts.
But Johnson and coach Norv Turner blamed the only sack yielded by the starters on Johnson, who misread Tampa Bay's eight-man blitz and should have thrown the ball away. Nevertheless, the Buccaneers' attacking defense caused the Redskins to leave two red-zone opportunities without scoring a touchdown.
"They brought a lot of different blitzes at us in the red zone," Johnson said. "They did a great job of it. It just kind of happens down there. They bend but don't break. Overall, I felt like we performed very well tonight."
Said Turner: "In a way, it's not a concern. The first group handled [the blitz] really well. I think in the last three weeks, the offensive line has played better each week and is coming together."
Pressure from the Tampa Bay defense, however, was expected. The Buccaneers had allowed only 24 points, best in the NFL after three preseason games, and had recorded nine sacks.
The surprise of the night came from Conway, who was previously 5-for-5 on field-goal attempts before missing on two of his four chances last night.
Team officials were so impressed by the third-year player out of Penn State that they released Cary Blanchard, last season's kicker, on Aug. 30. And five days later, Conway showed plenty of leg strength on his kicks but failed to hook the ball inside the right upright from 45 and 46 yards.
"Brett's been outstanding," Turner said. "I think he may have been too careful. He left a couple kicks out to the right and he has not done that throughout this training camp and I expect him to have a great year."
Despite those problems, the Redskins can't complain too much after completing a 3-1 preseason, their second winning exhibition record in Turner's six years with the club.
NOTE: Charley Casserly officially ended his 10-year tenure as the Redskins' general manager as his resignation took effect yesterday. Casserly, who began his Redskins career as an unpaid intern for former coach George Allen in 1977, has agreed to be a consultant for new owner Daniel Snyder for the remaining two years of his contract and will be a studio analyst once a week for Westwood One radio this season. He was not expected to attend last night's game.
Pub Date: 9/04/99