It's not quite as Clinton Portis goes, so go the Redskins. But it was not mere coincidence that Washington won its first game in the franchise record-setting running back's first start of the season.
"Clinton's an exceptional player," coach Joe Gibbs said. "He's a proven product, 1,500 yards every year. When you have a player who's that physical as a running back, it means a lot to your team. He consistently makes the right cuts. Sometimes, you ... say somebody else could've done that, but the reality is not many people could do it. Clinton certainly means a lot to us."
Portis certainly meant a lot in Sunday's 31-15 victory at Houston. Portis had gained 39 yards on 10 carries and 11 yards on two catches in a reserve role in the opening 19-16 loss against Minnesota in his comeback from a partially dislocated left shoulder. He was held out of the 27-10 loss at Dallas with a re-injured shoulder before returning against the Texans.
Portis gained 13 yards on Washington's first five plays before he ignited the Redskins by scooting 74 yards with a shovel pass from Mark Brunell. Two plays later, Ladell Betts tied the game with the first six of Washington's 31 unanswered points.
"Clinton meant a lot in that game," Gibbs said after Portis had run 16 times for 86 yards and two touchdowns and added 78 yards on two catches. "To get the play out of there, that little shovel pass, was huge. That got us going and got the momentum back on our side."But as center Casey Rabach said, "Any time Clinton gets the ball in his hands, you expect big things."
Quotes and Notes
--As practice ended last Thursday, veteran right guard Randy Thomas gathered the winless Redskins around and delivered one of his usual impassioned speeches. Three days later, the Redskins, who had opened with losses to Minnesota and Dallas, beat Houston 31-15.
Downplaying any part he played in the victory, Thomas said, "We were going to play hard anyway."
--T.J. Duckett, acquired from Atlanta for two draft picks in August when fellow running backs Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts were hurt, was inactive in Houston after dressing but not playing in the opener. Duckett carried five times for 24 yards against the Cowboys. His contract expires after the season and his value goes down as he continues to be a Redskins afterthought while the Falcons lead the league in rushing without him.
"I was definitely surprised," said Duckett, who was scratched because coach Joe Gibbs wanted to keep three tight ends active. "Of course, (not playing) eats at me. You want to play. But it's a team sport. You have to be a team player. Everything off the field would give me a headache if I thought about it every day."--The victory in Houston ended a 10-game losing streak to AFC teams for Washington. The last previous one was the unlikely triumph for Steve Spurrier over Bill Belichick and eventual Super Bowl champion New England on Sept. 28, 2003. The Patriots didn't lose again for an NFL-record 21 straight games.
--RB Clinton Portis went over 6,000 career rushing yards in Houston. Portis is 11th among players on active rosters. The 10 backs ahead of him have all played longer than Portis.
--CB Shawn Springs, who strained a groin last Wednesday in his first practice in pads since undergoing abdominal surgery on Aug. 15, is unlikely to be ready to face the Jaguars after missing so much time. The Redskins are 2-3 without Springs during his three seasons in Washington.
--DT Joe Salave'a was inactive in Houston for just the fourth time in his three Redskins seasons with a strained calf he suffered the previous week at Dallas. Salave'a is questionable for Jacksonville. The Redskins are 4-0 without Salave'a.
--QB Mark Brunell had a couple of stitches put in his left elbow after the Texans' game. Brunell might miss some practice time but is expected to start against his old team, the Jaguars. Brunell was sidelined for more than two months with an infected elbow during his last season in Jacksonville (2003).--CB Kenny Wright had the Redskins' first interception, and just the seventh of his 8-year career, in Houston. Wright played for the Texans from 2002-04 and still lives in the Houston area during off-seasons.
Report Card vs. Texans
PASSING OFFENSE: A -- The guy barely threw a ball past the down marker, but QB Mark Brunell's screens, dink and dunks produced 261 yards, a touchdown and an NFL-record 22 consecutive completions. Portis got things going with a 74 yard-shovel pass. Third WR Antwaan Randle El's dazzled on his 23-yard score. Even WR David Patten showed up with a leaping 25-yard grab as Brunell found seven targets among his 10 first-half passes. The blocking was superb.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- RB Clinton Portis had a huge impact in his return to the lineup after missing last week with an ailing shoulder. RB Ladell Betts went over 100 yards for the third time in his career and second in two games against the Texans. Houston's tackling was poor, but the run blocking was excellent as Washington churned out 234 yards on 41 carries (an impressive 5.7-yard average). RB Rock Cartwright, a Houston-area native got in late and fumbled.
PASS DEFENSE: C -- This aspect continues to be a sore spot minus injured ace CB Shawn Springs. Not only did the rush only get to Texans QB David Carr -- usually the king of being sacked -- once, but WR Andre Johnson toasted the secondary for 11 catches for 152 yards. Starting CB Carlos Rogers and backup Mike Rumph both committed bad penalties and FS Sean Taylor was beaten for a TD. SLB Marcus Washington was excellent in coverage.
RUSH DEFENSE: A -- Burly RB Ron Dayne carried twice for 11 yards on Houston's opening drive. The Texans ran for just 34 yards on their next 14 carries until Washington had put the game away with a 31-7 lead as the fourth quarter began. Rookie DTs Kedric Golston (starting for the injured Joe Salave'a) and Anthony Montgomery were particularly impressive. WLB Warrick Holdman continues to play much better than he did in 2005.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- P Derrick Frost had another big day in what is promising to be a much stronger second season in Washington than his first. He averaged 56 yards with a 48 net on his two punts. K John Hall's struggles from beyond 40 yards were erased at least for the day, with a 46-yarder. The kickoff and punt coverage were both solid. The return game wasn't impressive after a penalty on Demetric Evans negated Cartwright's impressive opening kickoff runback.
COACHING: A -- After the poor opening drives for both the offense and the defense, this was the Redskins' team that we've expected to see since it was assembled during the offseason after last year's playoff finish. Washington dominated in almost every facet of the game, at least until the outcome was no longer in doubt. Coach Joe Gibbs and his staff deserve credit for keeping the team together, but the lousy Texans played poor than a small part for the renaissance.