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BUCCANEERS-REDSKINS NOTEBOOK

No dispute, ruling still reverberates

The Redskins are one of the hottest teams entering the playoffs, so they're not spending a lot of time rehashing a midseason loss to Tampa Bay. Instead, they hope to settle the score when the teams meet again tomorrow in the NFC wild-card round.

''It took a little air out of us for that time, but it is what it is," receiver Santana Moss said, recalling the Nov. 13 thriller in Tampa, which the Bucs won, 36-35, on Mike Alstott's 2-point conversion run with 58 seconds remaining.

The Redskins still don't believe Alstott got into the end zone on the play, but have moved on.

After losing their next two games to fall to 5-6, they've put together a five-game winning streak to finish 10-6 and make the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

''When you look at plays like that, it makes you think what play you left on the field that caused yourself to be in that predicament," Moss said of Alstott's run. ''That's all you can really think about. Every play counts."

The victory was a turning point in Tampa Bay's season, sparking the team's second-half surge to the NFC South title at 11-5. The Bucs' 36 points were a season high.

Coach Jon Gruden followed instinct rather conventional football wisdom to go for the win instead of trying to send the game into overtime after the Redskins blocked an extra-point attempt but were called for being offside.

''I don't know if it was a no-brainer," Gruden said. ''I've never done that before, and you don't see it done very often, where a team goes for it. But we did get a penalty, and the ball wasn't at the 2, it was at the 1.

''We had previous success on the goal line, and they had been moving the ball quite well, honestly. We felt that was our best chance to win the game . . . Looking back on it, I feel like it was a logical decision more than anything."

The day after the game, Washington coach Joe Gibbs said he had video to support his claim that Alstott was tackled short of the end zone. Nevertheless, he feels Gruden made a heady call to hand the ball to the 250-pound fullback from the 1.

''It was smart on his part, but it still took guts," Gibbs said. ''I kind of admire him for doing that."

The victory stopped a two-game losing streak for the Bucs, and even more importantly bolstered the confidence of young quarterback Chris Simms, who struggled in losses to San Francisco and Carolina the previous two weeks.

Simms threw for 279 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions against Washington, including a 30-yard scoring pass to Edell Shepherd to set the stage for Alstott to finish the game in dramatic fashion.

Redskins defensive end Phillip Daniels doesn't blame the loss on the officials failing to see Alstott's elbow hit the ground before going over the goal line.

''But that's how it is in this league. You can't leave it up to the officials to make those kinds of calls because they're human, too," Daniels said. ''They're going to make mistakes. The official thought he got in, so he got in. We've just got to make up for it when we go back."

Linebacker Lemar Marshall also tried to be diplomatic when asked if Washington was robbed.

''I don't think we got robbed. We had a chance to win it. It didn't have to come down to it. When it did, it just went their way instead of ours," Marshall said, pausing a couple of seconds before muttering under his breath: ''But we did get robbed."

Snap broke their hearts

Washington's last playoff game six years ago was a 14-13 loss to the Buccaneers in Tampa, when a bad snap from the late Dan Turk thwarted a potential game-winning field goal attempt in the final minutes . . . The all-time series is tied, 7-7. Since Washington won the first four meetings, and Tampa Bay claimed the next four, the teams have split the last six games. Tampa Bay has five straight wins, including playoffs, at home against Washington . . . Tampa Bay's defense finished the regular season No. 1 in the league, allowing 277.8 yards per game, but its worst defensive performance at Raymond James Stadium came against the Redskins, allowing 389 yards and 35 points . . . Clinton Portis has posted rushing totals of 148 and 144 yards in two career games against the Buccaneers. Portis has five 100-yard rushing games to go with the Redskins' current winning streak and set the season franchise record with 1,516 yards . . . Gibbs's playoff record is 16-5, including 4-0 in wild-card games . . . Tampa Bay will face Chicago with a win, while Washington would face Seattle.

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