DETROIT | Clinton Portis‘ day began with a pair of 17-yard runs. It finished with a 31-yard run that gave him a record-tying fifth straight 120-yard game and a gimpy left ankle. In between, Portis jawed with his coach and averaged fewer than 3 yards a carry.
But the NFL’s leading rusher still hit midseason with numbers as shiny as the red leather shoes and gaudy red sunglasses he sported on his way back to Washington after he helped spur the Redskins to a come-from-behind 25-17 victory over the winless Detroit Lions.
“It was a grind-it-out day,” Portis said. “Things started great and finished great. Anytime you can get that and wind up with a win, it’s a good day.”
It didn’t appear that way in the second quarter. The Redskins coaches had inserted backup Shaun Alexander on first-and-10 at the Washington 11 because Portis had an equipment problem. With that fixed and the second quarter starting, Portis expected to go back in, but when that didn’t happen, he snapped at coach Jim Zorn. The coach responded in turn. Portis did go in on third-and-10 and gained 8 yards on a draw.
“I take it personally, and I shouldn’t have,” Portis said of the “miscommunication” with Zorn. “I’ve got to be accountable to my teammates. It was blown out of proportion. [Zorn] was excited, and I was excited.”
Said Zorn: “In my mind, Shaun is in there until Clinton goes to [running backs coach Stump Mitchell] or Stump comes to me and says Clinton’s ready to play. I’m calling the game based on who’s in there, so he misunderstood the situation. We had a sweet exchange of words. It was the heat of the game. He explained what happened. I explained what my deal was. We talked about it at halftime. I talked about it in front of the team at halftime.”
Portis hurt his ankle on his final carry, which left him with 126 yards and set up Shaun Suisham’s game-sealing field goal.
“I thought my knee went, so I kind of jumped and rolled my ankle,” Portis said. “My ankle was already tweaked, so there was a sharp pain for a second, and I had to let it calm down. It’s going to hurt, but I’ll be ready for the game Monday [against Pittsburgh].”
Portis’ second career run of five straight games with at least 120 yards - he did so in his final four games with Denver in 2003 and his Washington debut in 2004 - equaled a mark held by Hall of Famer O.J. Simpson, who accomplished the feat in 1973 and 1975. Portis has 696 yards on 122 carries (5.7-yard average) during this streak and a league-leading 944 yards on 187 carries this season.
Chris Samuels was listed as probable Friday, when he missed practice for personal reasons, not for his ailing right knee. But the five-time Pro Bowl left tackle was declared inactive Sunday when the knee flared up during pregame warmups.
“I was expecting to play, but my knee has been bothering me, and when I went out there today, it didn’t feel that great,” Samuels said.
Samuels sprained the knee in the Oct. 12 loss to St. Louis but started last week against Cleveland. Stephon Heyer, who opened the year as the starter at right tackle, started in his place against the Lions. It was Samuels’ first absence since Dec. 14, 2003, a span of 76 consecutive starts (including three playoff games).
“I’m proud of [the streak] and disappointed it’s over,” Samuels said.