With each game, Ladell Betts proves he might be worth a pay raise in the offseason.
The Washington Redskins running back rushed for 155 yards on 28 attempts, both career highs, in yesterday's 24-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons at FedEx Field. The performance marked the first time in Betts' five-year career he has rushed for 100 or more yards in consecutive games.
Betts, filling in for injured starter Clinton Portis, suffered a rough debut as the club's top running back, gaining only 18 yards on seven carries against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Nov. 19. However, he rushed for 104 yards on 24 carries in the Redskins' upset of the Carolina Panthers last week.
"The hard work is starting to pay off for the most part," Betts said. "Being the No. 1 guy, you have to get out there and run well on a regular basis because people are now counting on you more."
The Redskins have re-established their running game the past two weeks. They ranked fourth in the league (143.3 yards a game) after the first four games this season. But poor performances against the New York Giants and the Bucs dropped them to 12th (122.6) entering last week's contest. But the Redskins totaled 143 yards on the ground against the Panthers and 177 yesterday.
Betts rushed nine times for 56 yards on the Redskins' first two possessions, both of which resulted in touchdowns. He scored on an 8-yard run on the Redskins' first series of the first quarter, and wideout Santana Moss caught a 42-yard pass from quarterback Jason Campbell on the next series to give Washington a 14-0 lead.
"We've been able to see him do more, and he's an outstanding runner in that he has patience," associate head coach-offense Al Saunders said. "The more he gets an opportunity to do things, the better he'll get."
Moss back in form
Six weeks after straining his right hamstring against the Indianapolis Colts, Santana Moss finally played like the Pro Bowl receiver he was last year, catching a season-high seven passes for 123 yards and a touchdown.
Moss outjumped defenders DeAngelo Hall and Chris Crocker to make a reception at the Atlanta 2, tumbling untouched into the end zone for a touchdown that put the Redskins on top 14-0 with 2:43 left in the first quarter.
The 42 yards Moss gained on that one play were 13 more than he produced on six catches over the last four weeks, a span during which he also missed two games.
"We've been waiting for this day with Santana," quarterback Jason Campbell said. "He was coming out of his breaks quick, getting downfield, jumping, making plays. It was good to see."
Moss's final catch came with 2:48 left and was his 41st of the year, putting him one ahead of running back Ladell Betts for the team lead. Moss also reclaimed the team lead with 588 receiving yards. The touchdown, his fourth, put him one behind tight end Chris Cooley for the lead in that category.
Top cornerback Shawn Springs was not in uniform for yesterday's game. Springs, who had missed two months because of pelvic injuries, sat out Thursday with an ailing hamstring but practiced Friday. Kenny Wright, who sat out Thursday after injuring his knee the day before, started his eighth game in place of Springs.
"We brought Shawn out here and tried to loosen him up, but [the hamstring] was just tight," assistant head coach Gregg Williams said. "We really felt it was a risk as tight it felt."
Three of the other players declared inactive for yesterday's game -- linebacker Khary Campbell, safety Troy Vincent and receiver David Patten -- also have tender hamstrings.
Vernon Fox made his second straight start in place of Vincent. Tight end Brian Kozlowski, offensive lineman Taylor Whitley and third quarterback Todd Collins also were listed as inactive.
The Redskins reported five injuries. Joe Salave'a sprained his right knee but returned to the game, as did fellow defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin (shoulder), center Casey Rabach (bruised shin), tight end Todd Yoder (quadriceps) and Wright (knee).
Coach Joe Gibbs declared two kickers active for a game for the first time in his 15 seasons as an NFL coach. However, Shaun Suisham, signed Tuesday and promoted from the practice squad Saturday, took all the work, leaving incumbent Nick Novak to watch.
"What I wanted to do is let Shaun kick and see what he did, but I also wanted to keep Nick," Gibbs said. "I thought Shaun hit [the ball] well."
Suisham pounded his three kickoffs to the 1-, 3- and 5-yard lines, but he missed wide left on his 50-yard field goal try.
"I thought I hit the ball well, but you never feel good when you miss a field goal," Suisham said.
Novak has had significantly less distance on his kickoffs and is just 5-for-10 on field goal attempts with a long of 45 yards. Gibbs said the Redskins will re-examine the kicking situation this week.
Running back Rock Cartwright has filled a multitude of roles during his five years in Washington. He has scored on a run, a pass and a kickoff return. He has played on every special teams unit. And yesterday, the 5-foot-7, 223-pounder blocked the first punt of his life.
"We had seen some stuff early in the week that we thought we could take advantage of, but I wish we could have taken advantage of it earlier," Cartwright said. "... I was able to block the punt, and I was looking for the ball, but I didn't know where it went.
Teammate Reed Doughty recovered the ball and raced 15 yards to the Atlanta 27-yard line with 2:03 left. However, the Redskins failed to convert the break into points.