- The Washington Times - Monday, October 27, 2008

DETROIT | For a split second, after he crashed into a teammate and lost his balance, putting him at a 5-yard loss and heading in the wrong direction, Santana Moss thought about going down to end his second punt return of the season.

“But then I saw everybody lined up, so I tried to see what I could do,” he said.

The Washington Redskins are glad he gave it a shot.

Just as quickly as the play seemed doomed, Moss regrouped after he collided with Devin Thomas. He broke one tackle and dodged another pursuer to score an 80-yard touchdown, the highlight of Washington’s 25-17 win over the Detroit Lions and one of two home run plays by Moss.

Earlier in the second half, Moss caught a 50-yard touchdown pass from Jason Campbell that put the Redskins ahead for good and helped Washington avoid the indignity of losing to two winless teams in three weeks. But the Redskins recovered from a sloppy first half by playing a relatively efficient second to start 6-2 for the first time in eight years.

The Redskins remained tied with Carolina for the NFC’s second-best record behind the New York Giants (6-1).

“The good part is that we’re 6-2, but I think with these close wins, people don’t want to look at like it’s 6-2,” cornerback Fred Smoot said. “Six-and-two is 6-2. It’s not the BCS. You’re not coming here trying to blow anybody out by 60. You’re just trying to leave with a win.”

Down 10-3 early in the second quarter, the Redskins scored 19 unanswered points, then ended the Lions’ hopes by stopping a fourth-down try from the Detroit 45 with 48 seconds remaining.

Playing without starters Cornelius Griffin, Shawn Springs and Chris Horton, the defense allowed only 141 yards through three quarters and held dangerous Calvin Johnson to four catches for 57 yards.

Playing without left tackle Chris Samuels, whose balky knee is scheduled for an MRI this week to determine whether he has cartilage damage, the offense made up for three sacks and a turnover with big days by Moss (nine catches, 140 yards), Campbell (23-for-28 for 328 yards) and Clinton Portis (24 rushes, 126 yards).

Things turned for the better late in the first half when Shaun Suisham connected from 47 yards for the second of his four field goals as time expired to cut the Lions’ lead to four points. It helped soothe the sting of an opening 30 minutes during which the Redskins committed six penalties and lost a fumble. The Lions turned Campbell’s fumble into an 11-yard touchdown by Rudi Johnson, their initial first-quarter points of the season.

“There are things we had to overcome,” coach Jim Zorn said. “I was so mad, and our team was mad, too. We’re looking around [thinking], ‘Oh my gosh, what are we doing?’”

Said left guard Pete Kendall: “We were pressing a little bit. I don’t think we overlooked Detroit just like I don’t think we overlooked St. Louis, but that didn’t change the fact we didn’t play the way we like to play. Sometimes you have to take a deep breath and realize what’s done is done and we’re running out of time to get things the way they need to be.”

After settling for Suisham’s 45-yard field goal early in the third quarter, the Redskins started their next possession at their own 5. It ended with their longest drive of the season.

On first down at midfield, Moss lined up against Ramzee Robinson in the right slot. At the snap, Robinson blitzed, and the Redskins had nobody to block him. While Campbell deftly dodged him, Moss - knowing he was in man coverage against safety Kalvin Pearson - used an inside-outside move to get open. He corralled the pass near the 25-yard line, ran away from Pearson and dragged Daniel Bullocks into the end zone.

“Perfect throw, perfect play call, perfect situation,” Moss said. “The thing in my mind was ‘Don’t give in now, just score.’”

His performances in the last two games have re-established Moss. After a two-game stretch during which he caught just two passes, Moss has 13 catches and two touchdowns the last two weeks.

Moss’ punt return for a touchdown was his first in nearly six years.

Detroit closed the lead to 22-17 with 6:39 remaining on Johnson’s 11-yard touchdown catch. But the Redskins used the remaining 4:43 to add a field goal by Suisham.

Portis sustained an ankle sprain on his final carry, a 31-yard burst that put him over 120 yards for the fifth consecutive game. Earlier in the game, Portis and Zorn engaged in a sideline confrontation that both blamed on a miscommunication about when Portis could re-enter the game.

The Redskins now get an extra day off to prepare for next Monday’s game against Pittsburgh, followed by a week off. They will face the Steelers (5-2), who lost to the Giants on Sunday, knowing many of the mistakes made the last three weeks need to be corrected.

“We put ourselves in holes time and time again, and it’s off the little things,” Moss said. “When we do have those little miscues or those little hiccups, we just have to say, ‘Let’s pull though and let’s make a play.’”

Moss certainly did Sunday.

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