TAMPA, Fla. (AP)—Instead of sulking this season, a frustrated Carnell “Cadillac” Williams vowed to keep on running.
Last year’s NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year broke a slump with his most productive game of the season Sunday, rushing for 122 yards to help Tampa Bay beat Washington 20-17 and spoil the debut of Redskins quarterback and former college teammate Jason Campbell.
“It really has been a while,” Williams said after topping 100 yards for only the second time this season.
“First of all, it’s good to get a win. And for me to go over 100 yards, for me to get 20-plus carries, it’s just a big day.”
Campbell looked poised and confident in his first regular season action for Washington, but the second-year pro might have fared better if he still had a player like Williams behind him to make his job easier.
The Redskins, who lost running back Clinton Portis for the season last week, were held to 64 yards rushing—placing the burden on Campbell to carry an offense that’s sputtered all year.
“When I went out there I didn’t know what to expect, but a lot of guys were telling me it’s just like riding a bicycle. You never forget,” Campbell said.
“It’s just a matter of getting back in to the rhythm. Once I got into the flow of the game, everything seemed to come naturally to me.”
Rookie Bruce Gradkowski, making his seventh start, threw touchdown passes of 2 yards to Anthony Becht and 34 yards to Joey Galloway, the latter snapping a 10-all tie midway through the fourth quarter.
Williams’ 26-yard run set up Matt Bryant’s 31-yard field goal, giving the Buccaneers (3-7) a 10-point lead with less than four minutes remaining.
But Campbell and the Redskins (3-7) weren’t finished.
Showing why coach Joe Gibbs drafted him in the first round and benched veteran starter Mark Brunell this week, Campbell led a 14-play, 80-yard drive that he capped with his second TD pass, a 4-yarder to Todd Yoder.
“He showed a lot of poise. He’s got a big arm. He showed good command,” Bucs coach Jon Gruden said. “I thought the Redskins rallied around him, too. I was impressed.”
“I wish we could have found a way to win it for him,” the Hall of Fame coach said. “But there just wasn’t something there to get it done today.”
Tampa Bay ran out the clock after Michael Clayton recovered an onside kick with 32 seconds left.
Campbell completed 19 of 34 passes for 196 yards and no interceptions. He threw a 3-yard TD pass to tight end Chris Cooley for a 10-3 Washington lead in the third quarter.
Williams amassed his season-high rushing total on 27 carries and also caught two passes for 34 yards.
Tampa Bay has fallen behind early in most of its games, reducing Williams’ role in the offense. His anxiety mounted when he carried a total of 35 times for 103 yards the previous three weeks.
“I told him: `You’re not the Lone Ranger of frustration. You’re not the only guy frustrated,”’ Gruden said. “He’s a great back, and we hope he’s on schedule to get another thousand yards.”
Gradkowski was 14-of-21 for 178 yards and one interception, one of two turnovers the Redskins forced after going five games without causing any.
Campbell, the 25th player selected in the 2005 draft, took a snap in a regular-season game for the first time since leading Auburn to a victory in the Sugar Bowl to finish the Tigers’ 2004 unbeaten season. Williams and Miami’s Ronnie Brown were the star running backs on that team.
While many of the young quarterbacks selected before—and after—him got a chance to play in the season and a half that he rode the bench, Campbell patiently waited his turn. Brunell led the Redskins to the playoffs in 2005 and was given nine games to get the offense on track this year.
“Being able to sit for a year and a half, that helped me a lot,” Campbell said. “I didn’t feel like I was rushed into a situation.”
Arm strength is one of Campbell’s strongest attributes, and the Redskins tried to exploit it on their first play from scrimmage. Campbell’s deep throw to Brandon Lloyd was on target, but the receiver dropped the pass racing up the sideline just ahead of cornerback Ronde Barber.
Campbell was sacked twice, but for the most part handled Tampa Bay’s pass rush fairly well. He was hurt by the absence of two of Washington’s biggest offensive weapons, Portis and receiver Santana Moss.
Portis broke his hand last week. With Moss sidelined with a hamstring injury, Cooley and running back Ladell Betts were Campbell’s leading receivers with five catches apiece. ^Notes: T.J. Ducket led the Redskins in rushing with 26 yards on five carries. His 18-yard run helped set up Campbell’s first TD pass. … Bucs TE Alex Smith and CB Juran Bolden left with ankle injuries. … Washington’s Troy Vincent suffered a hamstring injury in the first half and did not return.