- The Washington Times - Monday, September 25, 2006

HOUSTON — Mark Brunell certainly knows how to answer his critics.

The quarterback of the Washington Redskins took much of the blame for poor performances that left his team winless after its first two games of the season.

Yesterday, Brunell responded with a nearly flawless, record-setting outing that helped the Redskins to an easy 31-15 victory over the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium.

Brunell set a National Football League record for consecutive passes completed in a single game by connecting on his first 22 attempts against the Texans. By the time Brunell finally misfired, the final seconds of the third quarter were ticking away and the Redskins held an insurmountable 28-7 lead.

Brunell finished 24-for-27 for 261 yards and a touchdown, good for a stellar 119.3 quarterback rating.

Brunell deflected the post-game praise, crediting his teammates for his accuracy. He did, however, admit that he had been through a rough patch.

“It was a tough week, a lot of things being said,” Brunell said. “You do your best to block those out knowing that they’re not true, and you go forward and you keep working hard. With the guys that we have on this team, it makes things easier.”

The victory definitely makes things easier for the Redskins (1-2), who entered this season with high expectations and yesterday’s game desperately needing a win.

The Redskins got the win — it was their first, including preseason games, since the first round of the playoffs last season — and now embark on a difficult stretch in which they play three of their next four games against teams that qualified for the postseason last year.

Brunell, who turned 36 last week, entered yesterday’s game ranked 14th among the 16 starting quarterbacks in the National Football Conference.

He failed to throw a touchdown pass in an anemic upset loss to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 1 and performed dismally in a loss to the Dallas Cowboys last week.

Skeptics wondered whether Brunell was too old to compete effectively any longer and whether he should be benched in favor of backups Todd Collins, who hasn’t started a game since 1997, or Jason Campbell, who never has played a down in the NFL.

“You’re not always going to have your best day every game,” Pro Bowl receiver Santana Moss said. “Mark’s been winning for years. So when people have doubts, it kind of makes you scratch your head. …

“Whatever you say about him — he can’t do it, he’s too old — he’s going to line up next week and still show you that he’s capable.”

Brunell certainly looked capable yesterday, helped by a few favorable conditions: Star running back Clinton Portis, who did not play in the loss to the Cowboys last week because of injury, returned to the lineup and scored two touchdowns. And, the Texans defense that Brunell faced ranks last in the league.

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