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Portis, Cartwright run all over Rams
Question of the Day
ST. LOUIS -- Clinton Portis hurt his shin and Rock Cartwright lost a critical fumble seven weeks ago in a loss to the Chiefs in Kansas City.
Yesterday, on the other side of Missouri, the results were far more satisfying: Portis and Cartwright each rushed for more than 100 yards to lead the Redskins to a 24-9 victory over the St. Louis Rams in the Edward Jones Dome.
The Redskins pounded out 257 yards rushing on 40 carries.
"We wanted to come out and run the ball, and we did. ... The offensive line got an opportunity to fire off the ball, and it opened up lanes for us," said Portis, who gained 136 yards on 27 carries and scored two touchdowns.
Portis certainly had a lane in which to run behind guard Randy Thomas, tight end Robert Royal and H-backs Mike Sellers and Chris Cooley on the second play of Washington's second series.
"Once I turned the corner, I saw Randy out ahead of me running full speed," Portis said of his 47-yard touchdown run. "He's our best puller. I knew that little DB didn't want to take him on. He wiped the DB out. Anytime I get back that deep, it's going to be off to the races."
Portis was shaken up after a collision with defensive tackle Damione Lewis later in the first half. Cartwright stepped in, tearing off a 52-yard run that set up a 38-yard field goal by John Hall. That score put the Redskins on top to stay at 10-7 with 3:11 left in the first half.
"I came out for a couple of plays and saw Rock break, so I had to shake the cobwebs off because I couldn't let him have all the yards," Portis said with a grin.
Cartwright gained a career-high 118 yards on just nine carries even though he had a 25-yard run on the last play of the first half wiped out by a holding penalty on Casey Rabach.
"I've never had that much open space since I've been in the league," said Cartwright, a four-year veteran. "The O-line did a great job. [On my 52-yard run], they pretty much parted like the Red Sea, and all I had to do was run. I should've scored, but I got caught on the 5-yard line."
Just as important as the long runs was Portis' work near the end zone: He punched it in on third-and-goal from the 1 to put Washington up 17-7 with 13:46 left.
"Third down has been killing us the last three weeks," Portis said. "Usually on third-and-short, we come out trying to pass, and we haven't been converting. This week, we stuck with the run all game long, and it proved out. With the goal line run, I just cut back and dove over the top."
Portis said the Redskins knew they had to play ball control to keep the explosive St. Louis offense off the field. That's just what they did, keeping possession for nearly seven minutes longer than the Rams.
Williams addresses buzz
Gregg Williams, the Redskins' assistant head coach-defense, was talked about in the St. Louis media this weekend as a candidate to be the Rams' next coach.
Mike Martz, the team's coach since 2000, is on medical leave and isn't expected to be retained.
Williams served as coach of the Buffalo Bills from 2001 to 2003.
"I'm going to be a head coach some day. There's no doubt about that," Williams said. "But my job right now is to coach the best defense I can and get things going with the Redskins. I really like what I'm doing here. At the end of the season, we'll cross those bridges if they come up.
"Right now, for me, the three most important questions are: What am I doing? Where is it at? And who's it with? I really like what I'm doing with the Redskins and who I'm coaching with. I get a chance to learn every day from a Hall of Fame coach, and those are the reasons why I decided to come to the Redskins. This was the best opportunity for me to learn to be a better head coach the next time around."
Another pick for Rogers
Carlos Rogers produced a solid game after taking over for Walt Harris as a starting cornerback yesterday. The rookie recorded a team-high six tackles and made a game-sealing interception -- his second in as many weeks -- with 2:34 left.
Rogers made three starts earlier in the season when Harris was injured, but yesterday's game was the first for which Rogers was called upon because of his superior performance.
"It was all right," Rogers said of his play. "When I watch the game, I'll be able to look back and see that I did some good things and also see some things that I need to work on."
Rogers was matched up against both Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. He allowed completions of 19 and 10 yards to Holt in the first half and a 9-yard catch by Bruce in the second.
"You have to know against a team like them, with one of the best offenses in the league and good receivers, they're going to get some things. But I had to put it behind me quickly," Rogers said.
Cooley back in end zone
H-back Chris Cooley scored a touchdown for the first time since Week 6 at Kansas City, a 4-yard reception with 5:50 left that clinched the win for the Redskins.
Cooley made a team-high five catches (for 58 yards), the majority coming on throws to the flat where he could avoid safety help.
"I think I've been pretty consistent in our offense, but it helped that we were able to run the ball today because it affected what their linebackers were doing in coverage," Cooley said.
The touchdown was Cooley's third of the season, and he now has 54 catches for 629 yards.
Rough outing for rookie
The Redskins defense brought Rams rookie quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick down to earth.
Fitzpatrick was the toast of the NFL last week after he came off the bench to lead the Rams from a 24-3 halftime deficit to a 33-27 victory in overtime over the Houston Texans. Fitzpatrick, a seventh-round draft choice from Harvard, replaced starter Jamie Martin in the second quarter when Martin got hurt.
Showing the poise of a veteran, Fitzpatrick threw for 310 yards on 19-for-30 passing with three touchdowns. Although he had an interception, Fitzpatrick compiled a quarterback rating of 117.4 in his NFL debut.
Martin, who had replaced the injured Marc Bulger, was scratched this week because of blurred vision. That enabled Fitzpatrick to make his first start. The Redskins welcomed him to the NFL and handed the Rams a defeat.
As good as he was against Houston, Fitzpatrick was just as average against Washington. He completed 21 of 36 passes for 163 yards and no touchdowns. He was sacked three times and threw one interception for a quarterback rating of 58.
"The bandwagon is gone now," Fitzpatrick said. "I'll just have to take this game as a learning experience and get better."
The Redskins threw a variety of blitz packages and coverage schemes at him. Watching film helps, but Fitzpatrick admitted it all changes during a game.
"When you get out there and do it, things move a little bit faster," Fitzpatrick said.
In his first series, Fitzpatrick threw a pass for a 7-yard loss. A running play lost 2 yards. And Washington sacked Fitzpatrick for a 9-yard loss to force a punt.
He scored the Rams' lone touchdown on a 7-yard scramble in the second quarter. In all, Fitzpatrick had five rushes for 22 yards.
"It was a learning experience for me," Fitzpatrick said. "I'll take a lot away from this game. But unfortunately this team right now was in a do-or-die situation. We can't be waiting for people to learn."
The loss dropped the Rams to 5-7 and all but killed their chances for the playoffs.
Rams can't stop run
St. Louis' defensive unit entered yesterday's game ranked No. 30 against the run, allowing 248.5 yards a game. The Redskins added to their miseries: Washington gained 257 yards on the ground, led by Clinton Portis with 136 and Rock Cartwright with 118.
Allowing two backs to top 100 yards embarrassed the Rams.
"Man, it definitely hurts," nose tackle Ryan Pickett said. "We gave up too many big plays. It's hard to win like that."
Portis scored on a 47-yard touchdown run that began as a simple sweep around the right end. Cartwright bolted 52 yards on a third-and-1 situation in the second quarter.
"You want to scream," Pickett said. "You almost want to cry."
Defensive end Tyoka Jackson credited Washington runners with being good. However, he said the Rams can do better against the run.
"If you [mess] up, you know your opponent will take advantage of it," Jackson said. "We made some mistakes, and they took advantage of them. We knew they had two good backs going in. We've beaten good backs before. It takes every down, every snap doing your job. It's consistency. We didn't have that today. They exploited it.
Barker sees old teammates
Rams punter Bryan Barker, 41, knows a thing or two about playing against old teammates. Barker has been in the NFL for 16 seasons, and the Rams are his sixth team.
Barker spent three seasons (2001-03) with Washington and played for Green Bay in 2004.
Yesterday's game marked the first time Barker has played against the Redskins since he left. It was a pretty good day for Barker, if not his team: He averaged 46.6 yards on eight punts, put three inside the 20-yard line and had a long kick of 63 yards.
"I'd trade it all for a win," Barker said.
He did manage one career first, however.
"This was the first time that I watched an opponent's punter with the jersey that I wore when I was there," Barker said. "That's never happened before. That's kind of weird. I was No. 4 in Washington, and this is the first time I've played any former team [on which the punter] wore the number that I wore when I was there.
"I'm proud of what I've done wearing No. 4. The only time I didn't wear No. 4 was when I was in Green Bay. I couldn't get Brett Favre to give it up."
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