Was this the start of something? Or was it just a matter of beating a bad team on the road? The Redskins won't know the answers to those questions until they return after the bye week against Green Bay, then head on the road to Detroit. Certainly the Redskins still have problems and the meat of their schedule is approaching.
But they'll take the win. It sure beats what they'd taken the previous four weeks. Which is why there were smiles all over the locker room Sunday. And it's why the players lingered longer before heading to the bus that would take them to the airport. Two of the last people to leave were coach Joe Gibbs and corner Fred Smoot. As they walked out together, Gibbs told him, ''That was a nice job.''
Best move: Opting to spread the field, taking an extra defender out of the box and providing more running lanes for Clinton Portis. For the first time Portis resembled the back he had been in Denver, using his vision. On a first and 10 from his own 32, Portis zigged and zagged for a 19-yard gain out of a four-receiver set, with tight end Walter Rasby split wide right. That was just one of many times Portis had success on that play. Also, Washington used him more on draws, allowing the holes to form, giving Portis more options. Portis had not run patiently, allowing some holes to form. The draws allowed those holes to form before he got started.
Nice to see: Washington's defense come through in the final minutes. On Chicago's last nine plays, the Redskins recorded three sacks, a deflected pass and an interception. Granted, the Bears' offense stinks, but one of those possessions started near midfield and went backward. Also, Baltimore's offense is bad, too, but it had no trouble moving at the end. The difference today was Washington's defense remained fresher, getting knocked back on only a handful of occasions.
Little things: Did you notice how well the receivers blocked downfield? Particularly Rod Gardner and Laveranues Coles. Hey, if they're not going to have many passes thrown to them, they might as well do something. But they do this very well. Sunday, it helped as Portis gained untold yards because of their help, as did Ladell Betts. Here's a perfect example: On third and 9 from the Redskins' 3, Betts ran off-tackle to the left. Thanks to a Coles block, he picked up the 10 yards, digging Washington out of a hole. Also, receiver James Thrash spends more time helping in pass protection than going out on routes. He's become a small h-back.
Problematic: Mark Brunell stunk again. There's some realities to his situation: he's still getting used to this offense and these receivers after spending so many years in another offense. He's also been a little banged up. That said, he was grossly inefficient Sunday. The Redskins had several downfield opportunities that he badly missed. As good as Portis was yesterday, the Redskins still needed lots of help from the defense to win, thanks to the putrid passing attack. Remember, this is a passing league now. Having a top runner is great, but look at what it did for Miami and San Diego last year. At some point Brunell must make plays. Or Joe Gibbs must make a change.
Defensive MVP: Lots of players stood out, but tackle Cornelius Griffin had a fantastic day, with eight tackles, two for a loss and a sack (the stat sheet gave him credit for one that was by Marcus Washington). Speaking of Washington, he had a strong day as well. He was around the ball often, played good coverage and forced the run well.
Defensive MVP, II: Bears QB Jonathan Quinn. Here's how bad he was: Brunell was the better of the two.
Real or not?: The Redskins' defense held their sixth straight opponent under 300 yards, a great start no doubt. But they haven't faced one offense that could be considered good. They'll get their first test against a balanced attack vs. Green Bay on Oct. 24. They also get the Eagles twice and Minnesota.
Clutch: Kicker Ola Kimrin spent 20 hours in the air late last week, first going to Sweden and then returning to kick for the Redskins. He was only home for a half hour when Washington called, so he hopped on another plane seven hours later. Then he booted two field goals and kicked off well. Someone will like what they saw and sign him once John Hall is healthy.
Finally: Some big plays by safety Sean Taylor. The Redskins rarely ask him to blitz, but did so on a third and 2 late in the third quarter, one play after his poor angle allowed Thomas Jones to gain nine yards. But Taylor made up for the mistake, sacking Quinn for an eight-yard loss. Later, Taylor clinched the game with an interception. He contended late last week that the big plays hadn't occured because no one was testing them deep. But coaches said it was more than that, that Taylor was still getting comfortable. Quinn hung the pass up for him and Taylor did what he's supposed to do, swoop in and grab the ball.
Redskins Win By 3
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