The questions about his disastrous nine-game tenure as the Washington Redskins' quarterback continued last week for Mark Brunell after he was given a second chance as the starter. And Brunell expected it, saying repeatedly that the only way for him to stop talking about 2004 was to "score some points and move the ball" in 2005.
Flummoxed by a swarming Dallas Cowboys defense for 55 minutes Monday night, Brunell threw two touchdown passes to Santana Moss in the final 3:46 to stun the Cowboys 14-13, move the Redskins to 2-0 and exorcise a plethora of demons.
"For our offense, which has struggled for a long time, to get this win and get it against the Cowboys in front of the whole country, it does a lot for our morale and confidence," Brunell said after the game. "Hopefully, it will launch us into the rest of the season."
That's what Joe Gibbs hopes for as well. Seventeen hours after the memorable win, the coach admitted work remains, chiefly in the area of touchdown production -- the Redskins' first didn't come until the offense's 21st possession -- and turnovers. Washington is minus-5 through two games.
"I would certainly hope this victory would be one where the guys say, 'We're never out of something,' " Gibbs said yesterday at Redskin Park. "I can only hope as a coach that we can build on this and correct the things we did poorly. ... We've been riding a ragged edge and it's not good football."
The Redskins return to practice today and tomorrow before getting three days off. Their next game is Oct. 2 against Seattle.
For 31/2 quarters Monday, it appeared the bye week would be a long week as the Redskins crossed midfield only twice and never got inside the Dallas 27-yard line.
"They were stuffing us," said Brunell, who was sacked five times and threw a careless first-quarter interception.
Brunell turned the game around with his first defining sequence as a Redskin, leading Washington back by making three Pro Bowl-quality plays -- one with his legs and two with his arm -- in the fourth quarter.
4:48 remaining. One play after getting sacked for a 17-yard loss, Brunell faced a third-and-27 from the Redskins 21. Out of the shotgun, Brunell rolled right and had decent pass protection, but when all of his targets were covered, he started to scramble.
At the 30-yard line, Brunell looked ready to slide, but he looked left toward the middle of the field and made a quick cut to get past a Dallas linebacker. He dived head-first for a 25-yard gain.
"He looked like the Mark Brunell of old -- I just love seeing that," Moss said. "When I saw him doing the things he was to make sure we stayed in the game, you have to go all out yourself to help out."
Said Brunell of his scamper: "Chicken with his head cut off." On the next play, Brunell hit James Thrash for a 20-yard gain to the Dallas 34.
3:46 remaining. The first Brunell-to-Moss touchdown went for 39 yards. The Redskins were in a three-receiver set and Moss was split out to the right. Dallas rushed four defenders. Again from the shotgun, Brunell got good protection and that allowed Moss to use a variety of moves to lose Aaron Glenn and confuse Roy Williams.
Moss got Glenn to bite on a corner route with an inside-outside move and followed with an inside move that got him behind Williams.
"They asked me during the week about the double move and I thought we could make some plays with it because their safety [Williams] is aggressive and I thought I could get behind him," Moss said.
2:35 remaining. After going their first 126 offensive plays of the season without a touchdown, the Redskins scored for the second time in three plays when Brunell hit Moss for a 70-yard, game-winning score.
Although it appeared to be the same play as the first touchdown, it wasn't -- Moss ran a straight post and got free because of his speed and because Glenn had to stay outside to respect the corner pattern.
"Those plays are in our game plan and you hope for the right coverage," Brunell said. "If you get the wrong coverage, you won't get that play. We were very fortunate."
Brunell's pass traveled 52 yards in the air before Moss caught it in stride.
"I knew he could throw, but I was like, '[Dang!] Oh man, he let this go," Moss said. "He put it on the money."
Brunell threw for 138 yards and one interception in the first 54:02, and 153 yards and two touchdowns in the final 5:58. He was 20 of 34 and his 94.1 passer rating was 36 points better than his previous Redskins high, against Dallas last September.
"For three quarters, nothing good was happening for Mark but then he makes three of the best plays I've seen by a quarterback and in the same quarter," Gibbs said. "During the game, you say, 'It's just not going to happen.' But we've got a bunch of people that worked hard and made it happen in the end."