LANDOVER, Md. (AP)—If John Beck and Rex Grossman were truly just about even, then Grossman might have won the Washington Redskins starting quarterback job just by standing on the sideline.
Given a chance to make a closing argument in his case to be No. 1, Beck turned in a spotty performance Thursday night, completing 10 of 21 passes for 108 yards with an interception in a 29-24 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the teams’ final preseason game.
Beck played the entire first half with the starting offensive line and backup running backs and receivers, while the Buccaneers gave all of their first-stringers the night off. The Redskins’ offense produced 10 points in Beck’s eight series, but the touchdown and the field goal both came on short fields after the defense forced a turnover.
The Redskins pulled out the win on Kellen Clemens’ 41-yard touchdown pass to Donte’ Stallworth with 1:07 remaining. The score came exactly one minute after the Buccaneers had taken the lead on Jonathan Crompton’s 20-yard pass to rookie free agent Armando Allen Jr., followed by Crompton’s completion to Ed Gant for the 2-point conversion. Gant, a bottom-of-the-depth-chart first-year player, also had a 96-yard catch-and-run touchdown in the third quarter as he makes his bid to be included in the 53-man regular season roster when the final cuts are made in the next couple of days.
Beck and Grossman have been in a tit-for-tat battle since the opening of training camp. Both played well through the first three preseason games, prompting coach Mike Shanahan to call the competition “very close” in the final days before he decides on a starter for the Sept. 11 opener against the New York Giants.
Shanahan sat Grossman and most of his first-teamers Thursday, a mild surprise after hinting earlier in the week that many of his starters would play. Beck missed a game earlier in the preseason with a groin injury.
Beck made a couple of nice throws under pressure against the Bucs, but he also had two passes nearly intercepted in the first quarter. The touchdown drive he led was all of 2 yards — and it took three plays because he fumbled the snap on first down. It didn’t help that he didn’t have Santana Moss or Jabar Gaffney as targets — some of the incompletions appeared to result from miscommunication with the receivers.
Beck’s most dubious lowlight came when he unwisely heaved a pass up for grabs while under pressure from a blitz on a third-and-6 from Tampa Bay’s 15-yard line. D.J. Johnson made the interception in front of rookie receiver Niles Paul in the end zone.
Beck finished the preseason 30 for 48 for 356 yards with one touchdown, two interceptions and a 74.7 rating. Grossman was 34 for 53 for 407 yards with two touchdowns, one interception and a 92.3 rating.
It might not matter whether Beck or Grossman comes out on top unless the offensive line plays better. Perhaps the most worrisome development for the Redskins was the play of the front five, who frequently gave ground against Tampa Bay’s backups and allowed Beck to get hit several times. Beck’s nimbleness helped him avoid the pressure when he could, showing a mobility that could give him the nod ahead of Grossman.
The Redskins’ highlight came on a 95-yard punt return by Brandon Banks, whose roster chances have slipped this preseason because of a sore knee. The bad news for Banks was that he celebrated too early and let go of the ball at the goal line. The touchdown was confirmed only after a replay review, and Banks subsequently got an earful from Shanahan and special teams coach Danny Smith.
Notes: The Redskins started two first-teamers on defense — CB Josh Wilson and DE Adam Carriker. Both have been limited this preseason because of injuries. ... Washington CB Phillip Buchanon (right shoulder) and Tampa Bay CB Myron Lewis (ankle) were injured during the game.