- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 25, 2008

As early as last Wednesday, center Casey Rabach had an idea the Washington Redskins‘ two-game losing streak would end Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.

When coach and play caller Jim Zorn gave the offense his game plan, the mandate was clear: The Redskins would re-emphasize the running game.

“The whole offensive line was really excited when we listened to Coach Zorn speak about running the ball, running the ball and running the ball,” Rabach said Monday at Redskin Park. “He stuck to his word.”

The Redskins rushed 41 times, their second-highest total of the season, and gained 187 yards in a 20-17 win in Seattle that helped the Redskins keep pace with Dallas and Atlanta in the NFC wild card picture. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, teams that rushed 40 or more times since 2004 are 189-8 - including the Redskins on Sunday and in Week 4 at Dallas.

Clinton Portis (29 carries for 143 yards) posted his sixth 120-yard game of the season.

“We felt like we would match up well against them in the run and [that] other teams had,” Zorn said. “As we were running the ball - because [the Seahawks] know me - I think in their mind they had me throwing the ball. But I kept running it. I think that might have been a little bit of a surprise to them.”

The Redskins likely will need a strong ground game to win their next three games against the New York Giants, Baltimore and Philadelphia. The Giants rank sixth, the Ravens fourth and the Eagles 11th in rushing defense.

Controlling the clock is another key to the Redskins’ success. When they win time of possession, they’re 6-1. When they have more rushes than pass attempts, they’re 5-1. During the two-game losing streak, the Redskins rushed 33 times and attempted 78 passes.

Portis’ injuries were healed enough against Seattle to allow Zorn to place a heavy load on the league’s leading rusher. Clinging to a three-point lead, the Redskins took over at their 4-yard line with 7:05 left. Portis ran for 9, 11 and 20 yards to start the drive. The possession ended with a Ladell Betts fumble, but the Redskins had burned all but 1:28 and forced Seattle to use its last two timeouts.

“That was good to see,” quarterback Jason Campbell said. “We won a lot of games earlier this year running the clock out. Before we went to the field, Coach Zorn asked if he could run the clock out, and we were like, ‘Sure.’ We moved the ball by running the ball.”

Said Seattle coach Mike Holmgren: “They kind of pounded it at us pretty good. That’s where it showed up most glaringly.”

Portis injured his rib cage in the win, adding to his knee, ankle, leg and hip woes. But he may be able to practice this week, Zorn said.

“He really is interesting because I told him, ‘You did so well, but you don’t like to practice,’” Zorn said. “He said, ‘Coach, I love to practice.’ But he really is injured and is really listening to what his body is saying, and the trainers have got it in high gear with his treatments.”

The next step is scoring more points. The Redskins posted four drives of at least 10 plays against Seattle - but scored only 13 points on those drives. The Giants are the highest-scoring team in the NFL, averaging 29.9 points a game; the Redskins are 27th at 18.3, well below the league average of 24.5.

Zorn said he’s more likely to mention the scoring average than the ranking.

“I don’t want to go into our meeting and say, ‘Guys, we have to rise up! We’re 27th in points! Come on, men!’” Zorn said. “It can’t be like that. It has to be like, ‘We have to continue to press on.’

“At some point, I’m hoping we can develop a high level of point production, but maybe we’re only that good right now. I don’t feel that way, but something’s not happening.”

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