Redskins 20, Seattle 17 OT

The fans sensed something special. They voiced their excitement all day, creating the kind of noise FedEx Field hasn't had on a consistent basis. Finally, they're being given something worth cheering about.

The players sense something, too. As they have since training camp opened, expressing with confidence that those who doubted them would be proven wrong. More than one told me at that time, with firm looks in their eyes, that they would surprise people. They are.

OK, they're only 3-0 and much time is left. But the Redskins believe, in themselves and the coaches, and that's why they think this start is built on more than just good fortune. Two years ago they were 3-1, but it was a mirage. The coach (Steve Spurrier) already knew he would be leaving at season's end at this point. The players lacked confidence in too many of the coaches. And the backstabbing at Redskins Park was in full force, a tradition Joe Gibbs has ended. This time is different. (Not that good fortune should be dismissed: that ball bouncing off the left upright was certainly fortunate. And when you've been down for a while, those lucky bounces feed the players belief that this is their season). Have they defeated a power? No. But each week they've faced an opponent better than the next and won. It's a good start. Do they have a ways to go to become a solid contender? Absolutely.

But if Mark Brunell keeps passing the way he is and the defense keeps playing the way it is, good things will happen. Or, at least, Redskins fans won't have to suffer through another ugly season. For a change.

Kicking star: Rookie Nick Novak booted a 39-yarder in overtime for the game-winning points. He also made a 40-yarder earlier in the game, after having his first NFL field goal attempt blocked in the first quarter. Novak has made any decision regarding John Hall a little tougher. Hall is more proven, obviously, but he's also hurt. And it doesn't appear that he can even kickoff just yet. But you wonder how long the Redskins will stick with two kickers.

Offensive star: QB Mark Brunell. He made the big passes and the big runs when he had to. Brunell completed seven of 11 third-down throws for 108 yards -- all seven went for first downs. And six of those came on third and nine or longer. Brunell had plenty of zip on his passes and he's making his throws decisively. Perhaps that stems from trusting where the wideouts will be. Brunell also had the key 18-yard run in overtime for another first down on third and long.

Defensive star: Linebacker Lemar Marshall played his best game in the middle. Though he missed a tackle, he was still solid and was all over the place, finishing with a team-high seven stops. But give credit to the line, which kept blockers off him again.

First start: Rookie corner Carlos Rogers did a nice job in his first start. He had some rough moments -- he was toasted on an out-and-up but the pass was incomplete. But he caused a fumble with a perfect tackle -- helmet right on the ball. And he held his own most of the game. I love Rogers' speed, which he showed on a couple plays, including one where he came from the backside for a tackle near the line of scrimmage. He makes decisive decisions. He also could be a playmaker, something this defense needs more of. As well as they've played, they don't force many turnovers. Rogers also had a big hit on special teams.

Relaxed man: Brunell is having a lot of fun this season and is clearly playing without tension. That wasn't the case last year. He cracks jokes in the huddle, is loose in the locker room, and does things like this: on one play Sunday, while Brunell was calling out the cadence, the Seahawks yelled out what play was coming. Brunell, during mid-cadence, said, ''Yeah, that's what it is.'' And continued on.

Shy guy: Novak seems uncomfortable in the spotlight and is unable to relax in interviews. He's always been that way. At Maryland, the day after making a game-winning kick at Georgia Tech, he and a teammate walked into a cafeteria at the school. The teammate announced to the crowd, ''Here's the guy who beat Georgia Tech last night!'' As the students cheered loudly, Novak simply blushed.

Big help: Reserve Cedric Killings provided the Redskins with quality minutes off the bench. He helped stuff a couple runs and chased down one screen, showing excellent hustle throughout. For a unit missing Brandon Noble, such an effort was big. Best block: Receiver Santana Moss helped Chris Cooley pick up an extra seven or eight yards with a block on a pass play. Say what you want about guys from the University of Miami, but they want to win. It's the same attitude that Clinton Portis has; if he were a prima donna, he would not block in pass protection the way he does. Nor would he be as pleased as he is after wins, despite not posting big numbers. The one guy I was disappointed with his blocking was receiver David Patten. He did not hold a couple downfield blocks long enough, preventing potential long runs.

Best playcalling: The Redskins were much more balanced in their play calls, especially early. They used a variety of formations, running out of spread sets and passing out of tight one's. They kept the Seattle defense off-balance for a change.

Pass Protection: It was improved as Brunell was sacked only twice. But he also bailed them out with a number of throws off his backfoot or as he was falling back. On these plays, the receivers were usually open. A few times he just threw the ball away. Most of the pressure came on blitzes, but this is an area that still needs attention. Typical: The special teams did a decent job overall, with some good coverage, but they had their typical blunder -- something that's long been the case under Danny Smith. Guess there's a reason he was one of two coaches Buffalo allowed Gregg Williams to take to Washington. This time, Seattle blocked a field goal, its defender splitting between Chris Samuels and Derrick Dockery. Not sure if they overloaded that side or simply got through. Samuels wouldn't make an excuse on the play. These things happen seemingly once a game.

On the other hand: Punter Derrick Frost showed good hangtime on his second punt. He did on his first punt as well, but he booted it into the end zone for a 22-yard net. And, of course, there was Novak.

MIA: Linebacker LaVar Arrington unofficially played only two snaps from scrimmage, when Washington went to a 3-4 package. Don't think his presence stems from Warrick Holdman's outstanding play; it doesn't. Linebackers coach Dale Lindsey does not think Holdman is playing all that well. Clearly the coaches don't trust that Arrington knows the system. Either that or Gregg Williams is making a rather large point.

Breaking Burgundy Top Stories