Game typifies season
As the game drifted out of their reach Saturday, the Bucs got a strange, unsettling feeling, like they had all been here before. Not here as in Jack Kent Cooke Stadium, but "here" as in that nebulous, uncharted realm where precious few things go the way they should. And, as always, whenever they've gotten themselves here, they've left with a loss, much like the 20-16 defeat to the Redskins. John Lynch spotted it right away. "This game kind of typifies the season," he said. "We had opportunities out there, but we weren't able to take advantage of them. We've had a lot of games like that, where we dominated most of the game, but we couldn't put them away."

Missed opportunities? Where shall we begin? On a day when the Bucs had so much riding on the outcome, they didn't play with the precision consummate with the importance of the moment. It was as baffling to the players as it probably was to Bucs fans. "I can't explain it. It's been like that the whole year," safety Charles Mincy said. "When stuff starts happening all over the place, you kind of feel like you're fighting against something you can't explain."

CASE NO. 0001: Cornerback Donnie Abraham was about to make what would have been a routine interception near the Redskins goal line in the first quarter. As he waited for the ball to arrive in his hands, Mincy sprinted in front of him, trying to intercept the ball, too, but neither could hang on. Retaining possession of the ball, the Redskins score on the next play, a 16-yard reverse by Leslie Shepherd that ties the score at 7. "I didn't see Donnie," Mincy said. "But that's how it's been. Routine plays you should make, but you don't."

CASE NO. 0002: The Bucs, staring at chances to pull away, get turnovers in Washington territory in the first and second quarters, but can't convert either into a touchdown, settling instead for field goals. After the first turnover, a forced fumble by Lynch, the Bucs get first and goal at the Redskins 2. But they don't gain a yard and Dilfer leads an open Karl Williams too much in the end zone.

CASE NO. 0003: Unquestionably the most crucial one: After the Bucs stop a Redskins drive at the Bucs 17, forcing Washington to settle for a 35-yard field goal, Jacquez Green fumbles the kickoff, his second muff of the game. Green said the ball was knocked from his grasp, but from TV replays, it didn't appear that Washington's Chris Thomas touched the ball as he tackled Green. The Redskins need just one play to score the game-winning touchdown on Green's pass to Stephen Alexander. "It's tough," Green said, "but that happens sometimes."

For the Bucs, though, it's happened a lot, in losses to Detroit, New Orleans, Tennessee and Jacksonville. And Washington.

Darrell Fry, The St.Petersburg Times 1998