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Redskins in thick of division race
PHILADELPHIA | Who’s the odd team out in the NFC East? The Washington Redskins, with the least-experienced quarterback and head coach in the division, are doing everything in their power to say, “Not us.”
Running back Clinton Portis sliced and diced his way across the turf of Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday, powering the surprising Redskins to a 23-17 win over the Philadelphia Eagles and their second straight victory on the road against an NFC East opponent.
Portis ran for a season-high 145 yards on 29 carries - his crucial 3-yard run on a fourth down in the final quarter sealed the outcome - and helped the Redskins turn a 14-0 first-quarter deficit into another big win.
The victory was the fourth straight for the Redskins and, after last week´s win over the Cowboys in Dallas, placed the team comfortably in the thick of an ultracompetitive division race.
The Redskins now are 4-1 for the first time since 1999, when they went on to finish 10-6 and win the NFC East - a remarkable position for a team that opened the season with modest expectations and a cringe-inducing loss to the New York Giants, who lead the division at 4-0. Washington is tied with Dallas for second place at 4-1.
The club’s strong position after Sunday’s win also provides a measure of validation for Redskins owner Dan Snyder, who in the offseason gambled with the selection of Jim Zorn, who never before had served as a National Football League head coach or offensive coordinator, to lead the team.
“This is not a soft division,” said Mr. Zorn, who last year served as the quarterbacks coach for the Seattle Seahawks. “This is a very tough division. We’re certainly not the overriding favorite … so you count every win as a blessing if you can get it.”
Widely held opinion suggested at the beginning of the season that the NFC East is strong enough to send three of its four teams to the playoffs.
The Redskins, with their rookie coach and third-year quarterback, weren’t necessarily expected to be one of those clubs.
But last week’s inspiring victory over the Cowboys and Sunday’s win over the Eagles put the Redskins in strong position: They’ve beaten two of their three division foes and next face a trio of teams - the St. Louis Rams, Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions - that collectively have only one victory.
The Redskins got their win Sunday largely because of the efforts of Portis, who demolished an Eagles defense that had allowed an NFL-best 53.8 yards a game on the ground. Ladell Betts added 44 yards on nine carries as the Redskins racked up 203 total yards on the ground.
“We knew this is a tough team to run against, and I think our offensive line took it personally,” Portis said, deflecting praise to his teammates who repeatedly opened large holes.
Portis scored the eventual game-winning touchdown when he ran in virtually untouched from 4 yards out to put the Redskins up 23-14 as the third quarter expired.
Earlier in the quarter, wide receiver Antwaan Randle El gave the Redskins their first lead when he took a handoff and passed the ball 18 yards for a touchdown to tight end Chris Cooley.
Quarterback Jason Campbell, meanwhile, produced another solid if unspectacular effort, completing 16 of 29 passes for 176 yards. The Eagles’ secondary shut down deep threat Santana Moss, so Campbell found other targets: Cooley finished with eight catches for a career-high 109 yards facing coverage mainly from the Eagles’ linebackers.
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