- The Washington Times - Monday, September 25, 2000

REDSKINS 16, GIANTS 6

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. Team Turmoil finally discovered the long ball and what it feels like to come up big in a big game.

After two straight losses in which deep completions were conspicuously absent, the Washington Redskins picked up yardage in giant swathes last night against the New York Giants. The much-needed 16-6 victory before 78,216 at Giants Stadium showed the Redskins' record payroll may still yield its $100 million worth.

"We got us a win this week," defensive end Marco Coleman said, echoing the subdued comments of his teammates. "We got ourselves going in the right direction. There's still a lot of football to be played, so we'll just prepare ourselves for next week."

Brad Johnson, the focus of an intense quarterback controversy during the past week, completed passes of 53, 48 and 46 yards after entering the game with a long throw of just 26 yards. Johnson also had touchdown tosses of 23 and 21 yards and overall completed 14 of 20 passes for 289 yards.

"We were able to get some big plays in the passing game, which we haven't been getting," Redskins coach Norv Turner said. "That made a big difference."

The Giants' defensive strategy seemed to help the Redskins in that endeavor.

Explained wide receiver James Thrash, who made the first big play with a 46-yard catch in the second quarter: "It was pretty much one-on-one coverage, and we took advantage of it."

Johnson agreed.

"Like I've been saying for the past four weeks, we finally got some coverage where we could take some shots," he said. "They really made an emphasis to stop the run, and when we took our shots we hit them."

Thrash's catch, which came one play before Johnson hit Irving Fryar for a 23-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead, seemed to loosen up the offense.

"When the Thrash play happened, I kind of saw Brad kick it into another gear," running back Stephen Davis said. "He kind of looked relaxed."

The quarterback controversy headlined the Redskins' turmoil in a week that ranked among the most tumultuous in team history. The stretch started with an uninspired 27-21 home loss to the Dallas Cowboys on "Monday Night Football," which sparked the quarterback controversy and questions about Turner.

Disharmony continued when kicker Brett Conway discussed internal finger-pointing after being placed on injured reserve, defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield was arrested for domestic battery, center Cory Raymer reinjured the knee he is rehabilitating and two former groundskeepers filed a lawsuit against owner Dan Snyder.

Against that backdrop the Redskins played a game considered make-or-break to the Super Bowl hopes that seemed so viable just two weeks earlier. Even Giants coach Jim Fassel called it a "huge game," aware like everyone else that the outcome would reveal much about a Washington club that was perhaps not as bad as it seemed and a first-place New York team possibly not as good.

Johnson was booed in the loss to Dallas, completing no throws of at least 20 yards. Entering last night's game, he had just four such completions. Fans and observers were divided on whether $18.25 million backup Jeff George should have started against the Giants.

But George stayed on the bench, and Turner was vindicated for sticking with the embattled Johnson. The victory allowed the Redskins (2-2) a big sigh heading into a daunting October schedule that involves five opponents a combined 12-6 not to mention 3-1 yesterday (Jacksonville plays at Indianapolis tonight).

Turner called last night "a big win" but shot down virtually every implication outsiders might read into the victory. For example, asked if the deep completions affected the Redskins' confidence in any way, Turner replied: "If you want it to. If you want to write that and think that's the case, that's fine with me. I don't think it is [the case]."

The loss kept New York (3-1) from starting 4-0 for the first time since winning the Super Bowl in 1990. The Giants entered the game with the NFL's top-ranked rushing offense and rushing defense, but Washington's Davis had more yards (89) than New York's touted Thunder and Lightning combo of rookie Ron Dayne (23) and Tiki Barber (65).

Redskins rookie linebacker LaVar Arrington made his first career start over fourth-year veteran Greg Jones. Arrington lost the strongside starting job during summer minicamps and did not regain it until the surprise announcement last night.

The Redskins led 16-0 in the fourth quarter when cornerback Deion Sanders picked off a throw by Giants quarterback Kerry Collins in the end zone. The interception, Sanders' first as a Redskin, ended New York's last drive with a chance to make the game competitive.

The Giants picked up a touchdown with 2:25 remaining on a 7-yard pass to Ike Hilliard. The shutout would have been the Redskins' first in nearly nine years, dating to a 23-0 win over Philadelphia on Sept. 30, 1991.

The margin would have been larger if not for Redskins kicker Michael Husted, who missed an extra point and a 30-yard field goal in the second half. Husted became Washington's kicker two weeks ago when Conway suffered a flare-up of a quadriceps strain.

The Redskins led 10-0 at halftime, but their second half nearly started in disaster, when Mike Sellers stepped in front of Adrian Murrell and botched the kickoff return. Fortunately for Washington, David Terrell recovered.

Johnson then guided the offense 81 yards in just four plays. Albert Connell made an acrobatic 53-yard grab on the left sideline, and Andre Reed followed with a 21-yard touchdown catch over his shoulder. Husted, however, missed the extra point and the Redskins led 16-0.

The Redskins led 10-0 at halftime after Johnson set up scores with two passes of more than 40 yards. Johnson finished the half 8-for-11 for 158 yards, while Washington's defense yielded just 84 total yards.

Johnson hit Connell for a 48-yard completion with about 9 and 1/2 minutes left in the half. Connell enjoyed a breakout game (four catches for 122 yards) after entering with a season long of just 17 yards. The fourth-year veteran became the club's top target when Michael Westbrook suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 2.

The Redskins, however, failed to gain a first down after Connell's catch, and the possession ended with a 25-yard field goal, the first of Husted's career as a Redskin.

Johnson, after three weeks of settling for underneath routes, found his first deep ball on the fourth play of the second quarter, connecting with Thrash for the 46-yard gain. The pass was the Redskins' longest of the season by 20 yards.

That big play was followed by the 23-yard scoring strike from Johnson to Fryar, capping a seven-play, 92-yard drive. Before that score, the Redskins netted a total of just 13 yards on their first two possessions.

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