Redskins steal overtime glory

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The Independent Online

It was billed as the game of the season so far, but while the meeting of the Washington Redskins and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at FedEx Field may not have been a classic, there was no shortage of drama.

It was billed as the game of the season so far, but while the meeting of the Washington Redskins and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at FedEx Field may not have been a classic, there was no shortage of drama.

The Buccaneers owe their strength to the meanest defence in the league, while team owner Daniel Snyder's gargantuan summer spending spree has transformed the Redskins into a side of considerable potency. Yet going into Sunday's contest both had looked less than impressive and, with difficult schedules looming, this was a game neither could afford to lose.

Predictably, it was a dour defensive struggle, but when the Washington quarterback Brad Johnson threw a touchdown to Larry Centers with less that four minutes remaining, the home side enjoyed a 10- point advantage. That should have been sufficient, but Tampa's ice-cool quarterback Shaun King recovered his own fumble and somehow contrived a touchdown to Reidel Anthony to bring his side back into contention.

When the Washington kicker Michael Husted had a 35-yard field goal blocked, Tampa had 43 seconds to move into field goal range. King made it look absurdly easy, and it was no surprise when Martin Gramatica converted a 42-yard field goal as time expired to send the game into overtime.

The teams swung at each other like spent heavyweights and stalemate looked inevitable until one of Snyder's big-money signings, Deion Sanders, collected a punt and raced 57 yards to Tampa's eight-yard line. From there Husted safely converted a field goal to give Washington a 20-17 win.

The Indianapolis Colts were engaged in an equally draining affair in Buffalo as the Bulls had edged in front by a point on Rob Johnson's touchdown to Eric Moulds with 68 seconds left.

The Colts' poised young quarterback Peyton Manning calmly moved his team 42 yards and it was left to the kicker Mike Vanderjagt to convert a 45-yard field goal as time expired to take his side to an 18-16 verdict. It was Manning's eighth fourth-quarter comeback and the fourth time he has conjured a victory on the game's final play.

"I'm just happy to be along for Peyton's ride, because he's one of the best in the league," said Vanderjagt. "As soon as they scored I knew we would be able to get into field goal range. That's plenty of time for Peyton."

No such late thrills in St Louis, where the defending champions crushed the San Diego Chargers 57-31 with ominous ease.

The Pittsburgh Steelers finally achieved their first win of the campaign, a surprise 24-13 victory in Jacksonville, where they had never previously won. Jerome Bettis was the key, the Pittsburgh running back scoring twice and rushing for 106 yards.

Like the Steelers, the New England Patriots and the Chicago Bears also opened their accounts on the road. The Patriots were indebted to Drew Bledsoe's four touchdown passes for their unexpected 28-19 result in Denver, while Chicago held out 27-24 against Green Bay.

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