- The Washington Times - Monday, October 24, 2005

LaVar Arrington got to play, Clinton Portis got to dance, and the Washington Redskins got to relax in the closing seconds — finally.

Thanks to five first-half touchdowns by the offense and a five-sack, two-takeaway tour de force by the defense, the Redskins experienced their first stress-free game of the season, a 52-17 victory yesterday over the lowly San Francisco 49ers that was so decisive Portis was cooling down before the third quarter ended and was soon joined by Mark Brunell and Santana Moss.

Installed as 13-point favorites, the Redskins did what good teams are supposed to do against absolutely bad teams: took control early and didn’t let off the throttle until garbage time.

“They were on edge all week,” assistant head coach-offense Joe Bugel said. “You can’t take anybody lightly in this league. Our players bought into that and responded by playing with a real chip on their shoulders.”

The Redskins, Giants and Philadelphia — all 4-2 — are tied for the NFC East lead, a half-game ahead of 4-3 Dallas. The Redskins and Giants meet Sunday in the Meadowlands.

The 52 points were the most for the Redskins since a 56-17 win over the Atlanta Falcons in 1991 and the most by a team in FedEx Field history. The 35-point margin of victory was the largest since a 41-3 win over the Cardinals in 1992.

The win was especially critical because the Redskins’ next three games are against the Giants, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay (5-1).

“This is one of those games where you enjoy going in and watching the film,” right tackle Jon Jansen said. “You sit there and tell your buddies, ‘Watch this coming, look what I did on this one.’”

There were plenty of those moments for the Redskins as they battered a San Francisco (1-5) defense that entered last against the pass and an offense that had a rookie quarterback in Alex Smith.

The offense scored touchdowns five of their six first-half drives, traveling 61, 60, 74, 67 and 19 yards.

The defense was led in tackles by Arrington’s nine stops. Arrington played more than 20 snaps, following two games where he was limited to two special teams snaps.

“It was an overwhelming experience,” he said. “I was just happy to be out there, more than anything else. To be a part of it was a beautiful thing.”

The Redskins overwhelmed San Francisco by using all of their weapons: Portis rushed for 101 yards, Moss had 112 yards receiving and Brunell compiled a 147.9 passer rating (13-for-20 for 252 yards and three touchdowns).

“Everything was clicking today and we got a big win and a win we needed,” Brunell said.

Brunell started things by throwing a 2-yard touchdown pass to Mike Sellers on the opening drive and Portis — on his 110th carry of the season and the offense’s 164th attempt — followed with a 5-yard touchdown.

“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be a good rush team down there,” coach Joe Gibbs said. “We feel like we can be a good rushing team, but we hadn’t been productive inside the 20-yard line.”

Following Kevan Barlow’s 17-yard run, the Redskins scored the next 38 points. Before halftime, Portis scored on a 1-yard run, Brunell found Moss for a 32-yard score and — a play after the Redskins forced their first turnover in nearly 271 minutes of game action — Brunell found Sellers over the middle for a 19-yard touchdown. The Redskins led 35-7 at the half.

“To get a lead and have the momentum in the first half, that felt really good,” right guard Randy Thomas said. “But we couldn’t sit back and relax. We kept playing and the defense kept playing.”

Before the starters departed, Portis scored again from a yard out. He debuted different dances after his touchdowns, including cartwheels following his second score.

Portis, who rushed 19 times for 101 yards, had his third three-touchdown game (first with the Redskins) but he fell 43 yards short of joining Jim Brown, Eric Dickerson, Earl Campbell and Terrell Davis as the only backs in league history to gain 5,000 yards in their first 100 games.

“It was good to get in there, to get back on track, to get into the swing and take ourselves to 4-2,” he said. “We didn’t want to get behind the eight ball at 3-3.”

The Redskins’ problem recently has been moving the ball but not scoring touchdowns. They entered sixth in yards, but 25th in scoring. That situation was resolved for at least one game — the Redskins were 5-for-5 in the red zone.

“We were really thrilled with that — we had been making yards and first downs but not scoring points,” Gibbs said. “I hope we didn’t use them all up.”

The second half was a leisurely affair, highlighted by Rock Cartwright’s first touchdown in two seasons. These kinds of days are probably over — the Redskins are likely to be underdogs the next three weeks.

“It gives the team more confidence,” Brunell said. “Lack of points were a problem and we talked all year about scoring points. Maybe it will kick start some things for the games coming up.”

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