Filling those "Big Shoes"

SEATTLE--He repeated his story throughout the week, a tale that will start to grow in stature. So here it is in a nutshell: he's an undrafted free agent from Penn State who did almost nothing memorable in college. In other words, nothing that would have predicted his recent success.

But there was Kenny Watson, picking up tough yards, making defenders miss. Just like the man he replaced.

And there was his team, getting a victory in part because of what Watson did.

Watson rushed for 110 yards on 23 carries, helping the Redskins to a 14-3 victory over Seattle. Washington improved to 4-4; Seattle is 2-6.

Not that everything was as pretty as Watson's statistics.

The Redskins didn't do much else on offfense. But they did just enough. Quarterback Shane Matthews completed 10 of 27 passes for 114 yards. Two of those throws resulted in touchdowns, an 11-yard post to Darnerien McCants and a 19-yard receiver screen to Rod Gardner.

And that was it. The Redskins managed just six first downs in the second half and only 108 total yards in the final 30 minutes. These aren't the types of games Redskins coach Steve Spurrier imagined when he signed with Washington.

''It was an unusual game,'' Spurrier said. ''I hope we can play better than this. It was a beautiful day to throw and catch.''

''We made enough mistakes to lose. But it didn't happen that way. We'll go back to the drawing board and try to do it better. I'm not sure I've ever won a game where my quarterback had only 10 completions.''

But they survived a somewhat sluggish effort by doing just enough right. Especially when it mattered most. And by getting a strong effort from Watson and his backup, Ladell Betts, who rushed for 37 yards on five carries.

''My first start was everything I thought it would be,'' Watson said. ''I had some big shoes to fill with Stephen out.''

Consider them filled. If only temporarily.

''The line made our jobs easier,'' Betts said. ''They opened up the holes; all we had to do was run through them.''

It came against the NFL's worst-rated run defense. Then again, especially in Watson's case, he wasn't exactly a proven back. Instead, he spent most of his time playing receiver at Penn State then made the Redskins a year ago as an undrafted free agent.

''Kenny is a good, tough running back who runs hard, breaks tackles and takes care of the ball,'' Redskins coach Steve Spurrier said. ''He really has come into his own this year.''

The Redskins opened their first possession by passing on seven of their first nine plays. Once they had Seattle guessing, the Redskins started to run draws and misdirections. It worked.

Often times, Watson and Betts had to run several yards downfield before getting hit--fullbacks Bryan Johnson and Rock Cartwright and tight end Walter Rasby blocked well, too. Other times, Watson worked for his yards.

Four times he carried the ball on either second and one or third and one. He made a first down each time.

''I'm more proud of that,'' Watson said. ''Those are hard-fought yards and those are the keys to keeping the drives going. . . The line did a great job blocking and that made it easy for me.''

''They delivered some of the blows,'' Redskins left tackle Chris Samuels, returning to the lineup after one week off, said. ''I was excited when I saw them running as hard as they were. It made me want to continue blocking that much harder.''

The passing game stumbled, except on two plays. And both resulted in touchdowns. On the first, Washington used five wideouts. Darnerien McCants lined up wide to the right with corner Ken Lucas playing nearly 10 yards off him. Slot receiver Chris Doering ran over the middle, occupying the safety.

Meanwhile, McCants ran a post pattern, easily beating Lucas to the inside for an 11-yard score and 7-0 first-quarter lead.

Then, leading 7-3, Matthews threw a screen on the left side to Gardner. Thanks to a block from Jacquez Green, Gardner turned it into a 19-yard touchdown.

Meanwhile, the defense stiffened at the right times. Like in the red zone, where Seattle ran 12 plays and managed just one field goal.

One drive ended when Redskins end Bruce Smith sacked quarterback Matt Hasselbeck on fourth and goal from the 2 with 12 seconds left in the first half.

In the fourth quarter, Seattle reached the Redskins' 15, but this time tackle Daryl Gardener sacked Hasselbeck, trying to run up the middle, on fourth and four.

And on the opening series of the second half Seattle reached the Washington 21--a yard out of the red zone--where Smith sacked Hasselbeck, forcing a fumble recovered by end Renaldo Wynn.

The Redskins also held Seattle to a second-quarter 23-yard Rian Lindell field goal.

''Our red zone play didn't work as well,'' Seattle coach Mike Holmgren said. ''They defended [the plays] better than we thought they would.''

Redskins corner Champ Bailey said, ''If we don't stop them in there, it's a guaranteed loss.''

The one thing Washington isn't about to do, nor should it, is apologize for a less-than-glamorous win. The Redskins know that they've returned to respectability. And they know an ugly win is much better than a pretty loss.

''We put 14 on the board, they put up three,'' Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington said. ''Do the math.''

The math says that Washington has won two straight and the defense has done its job, especially the past two games in which its allowed only three long scoring drives (the Colts scored on one drive after a fumble return inside the 5).

''We go out with the mentality to dominate,'' Arrington said. ''We're starting to believe [in the defense] and know where we have to be and handling our business. I'm excited. We had a dominant effort.

''It's taken time to get it in gear, but we're starting to climb uphill.''

Kenny Watson will be our guest in the Chat-Room on Tuesday Nov. 5th at 9PM EST.

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