- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 21, 2000

REDSKINS 33, RAMS 20

ST. LOUIS The maligned special teams of the Washington Redskins, believed to be blocking the $100 million club's journey deep into the playoffs, keyed last night's enormous victory against the defending Super Bowl champions.

Newly signed kickoff specialist Scott Bentley recovered his own onside kick, and defensive back David Terrell caused a turnover on the following kickoff to keep the St. Louis Rams' powerful offense off the field and allow the Redskins to score 13 straight points late in the third quarter and early in the fourth.

Throw in a downed punt inside the 5-yard-line by linebacker Greg Jones, which set up the safety by Bruce Smith that essentially ended the game, and it was a night for embattled special-teams coach LeCharls McDaniel to stand proud. The performance of his units, including new kicker Eddie Murray's four of four performance on field goals, led to a 33-20 victory before 56,087 at the TransWorld Dome.

"When we don't make mistakes, we can be as good as anybody," Redskins coach Norv Turner said. "We knew we'd have to have our best effort to be in this ballgame."

Redskins cornerback Champ Bailey also scored a key interception in the end zone with 5:38 left, squelching the Rams' drive to trim an 11-point deficit. After a brief series, Jones downed Tommy Barnhardt's punt and Smith recorded his safety by sacking Rams quarterback Trent Green on the next play.

It was an impressive night all around for Washington (7-4) after a shaky start. Backup quarterback Jeff George completed 24 of 34 passes for 269 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. The erratic wide receiving corps made huge plays. And the Redskins' second-ranked defense held its own against the Rams' offense, which remains on course to challenge a variety of NFL records.

The Redskins now are tied for second place in the NFC East with the New York Giants, trailing the Philadelphia Eagles (8-4) by a half-game. Washington, which hosts the Eagles and Giants in its next two games, also stands in a four-way tie for the final wild-card playoff berth with the Detroit Lions, New Orleans Saints and Giants.

In beating St. Louis (8-3), Washington finally won a "Monday Night Football" game in its third attempt of the season. Earlier the Redskins lost 27-21 to both the Dallas Cowboys and Tennessee Titans. In the latter, the Titans' 69-yard punt return for a touchdown played a big role in the defeat.

But the special teams turned it around last night. Washington's 13-point scoring binge began with a 34-yard pass to wide receiver Irving Fryar, who beat Dre Bly on a deep crossing pattern in the end zone with 25 seconds left in the third quarter. An interception by Dexter McCleon on the two-point conversion attempt left Washington up 25-20, but Murray quickly connected on a 41-yard field goal after Bentley recovered his own onside kick.

Terrell then knocked the ball from Tony Horne on the kickoff, setting up another field goal by Murray, this one a 39-yarder that made it 31-20 with 10:38 left. A holding penalty by center Mark Fischer on the series' first play nullified a 24-yard scoring run by running back Stephen Davis, his second negated touchdown of the game.

Davis finished with 85 yards on just 19 attempts, surpassing the 1,000-yard barrier in the first quarter. He suffered a bruised forearm in the second half but returned to play.

The Rams struck for a 20-19 lead after losing the edge early in the third quarter. Green hit four of five passes on a 79-yard drive, including a 26-yarder on the first play to Marshall Faulk, a 32-yarder on the second play to Isaac Bruce and a 15-yarder to Ricky Proehl to score on third-and-goal. Proehl's catch came when he got loose in a deep middle seam with Matt Stevens trailing.

The Redskins, after looking shaky to start the first half, took their first lead on the second half's first possession. George completed six of seven passes on the 58-yard drive, capping it with a 4-yard scoring swing pass to fullback Larry Centers on third-and-goal. Murray, however, hit the left crossbar on the extra point attempt, leaving Washington ahead 19-13.

An incredible goat-to-hero play by cornerback Deion Sanders led to a 13-13 score at halftime. Washington was trailing by three points when Torry Holt caught a deep pass over Sanders, who slipped. Holt got up and ran, en route to a 64-yard gain, but Sanders snuck up behind him and knocked the ball free. Stevens recovered at the Redskins 23, and George guided a 48-yard drive in the half's final 1:31. Murray booted a 47-yard field goal as time expired.

James Thrash's second career touchdown, an over-the-shoulder 19-yard reception, cut the Rams' lead to 13-10 with 1:50 left in the first half. Thrash started the 70-yard drive with a 12-yard reverse and nullified a 16-yard touchdown run by Davis with a holding penalty. His score, beating McCleon, was just the sixth by a Redskins wide receiver this season.

A third-and-7 sack by Smith stopped a nearly nine-minute drive by St. Louis short of the end zone, though a 43-yard field goal by Hall increased the Rams' lead to 13-3 with 6:45 left in the half. Smith's sack made amends for a third-and-1 moments earlier in which he hit running back Robert Holcombe hard but failed to make the tackle, yielding a first down.

The Rams' only punt of the half came on their third possession, two plays after Sanders suffered a mild knee sprain while covering Bruce. A solid return by Thrash, coupled with a 17-yard run on the first play by Davis, set up a 37-yard field goal by Murray, which cut St. Louis' lead to 10-3 with 43 seconds left in the first quarter. Sanders returned on the Rams' next possession.

Davis surpassed the 1,000-yard barrier on his second rush of the game, a 14-yard pickup on Washington's second possession. George, though, followed with consecutive incompletions and the Redskins were forced to punt.

The Rams' second score came just 1:14 after their first, with Green, a Redskin from 1995 to 1998, hitting Faulk for a 24-yard touchdown after McCleon intercepted George's first pass. George was trying to hit Stephen Alexander on an out-pattern, but the pass was well underthrown. Faulk scored by racing past linebacker Shawn Barber and catching Green's first-play pass while backpedaling into the end zone. Free safety Mark Carrier was late with his help, and St. Louis led 10-0.

Bentley's opening kickoff to just the 12-yard line led to a 29-yard return by Horne and solid field position for the Rams. Eleven plays later, Jeff Hall, a former Redskins sixth-round draft pick, kicked a 30-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.

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