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Bruce Arians: Some younger defenders “might have relaxed” with Alex Smith out

Tom Brady and the Buccaneers got all they could handle with Taylor Heinicke and WFT, but got the job done in a 31-23 win to advance to the Divisional Round.

The Buccaneers got a better game from the Washington Football Team than most expected on Saturday night. Coach Bruce Arians, who isn’t bashful about pointing fingers, points his finger at the defense for a subpar showing against a Washington offense that relied on Taylor Heinicke at quarterback.

“I think some of our guys -- I don’t think veterans did, but some of our younger guys -- might have relaxed when Alex Smith wasn’t playing,” Arians told reporters after the 31-23 win. “I kind of kept preaching at them, ‘This kid can run, he can do a lot of things.’ He almost beat us with his legs.”

Arians had plenty of praise for Heinicke, whose surprisingly strong performance won rave reviews and had some considering the possibility of a second straight Tom Brady exit from the wild card round.

“He was very elusive,” Arians said of Heinicke. “We knew he was going to scramble around [and] there was going to be bootlegs and scrambles. We were really hoping for Alex because we knew that part of the game wasn’t going to be in there. He got out of some really good spots and he made some really good plays. He had a lot of poise.”

They were hoping for Alex Smith? During the week, Arians sounded fearful of Alex Smith.

“We’re not playing a 7-9 team,” Arians said. “We’re playing a 4-1 team. When Alex Smith plays they’re a 4-1 team. We’re playing Alex Smith.”

What Arians didn’t say was that he apparently feared Washington would become a 1-0 team with Heinicke starting. If Arians said that to his players, he didn’t say it loudly enough.