- The Washington Times - Monday, September 15, 2008

The disapproval from the crowd was noticeable. Jason Campbell’s response to it was, too.

After hearing the boos from the FedEx Field crowd, the young quarterback led the Washington Redskins to a fourth-quarter comeback and a 29-24 win over the New Orleans Saints.

“I heard the boos from fans,” Campbell said, referring to when his team was down 24-15 going into the fourth quarter and he had mediocre numbers at that point. “I heard some guys yelling and screaming some crazy things. You have to laugh it off and move on to the next play.”

Campbell moved on, all right - leading his team to two touchdowns, including a 67-yard scoring pass to Santana Moss, the longest touchdown pass of Campbell’s career. He completed eight of nine fourth-quarter passes for 165 yards.

“Anytime you play quarterback in the NFL, it is the most scrutinized positions in all of pro sports,” Campbell said. “You have your ups. You have your downs. You get criticized for a lot of things you can’t control. You have to have tough skin and not worry about it. You have to keep your focus on the next play. … You just have to keep fighting. Every great quarterback I’ve known has faced adversity at some point in time in their career.”

It’s hard not to connect Campbell’s words with the actions of another young NFL quarterback who heard the boos as well and had a different reaction. Tennessee’s Vince Young was so shaken by the boos he heard from the home crowd in his performance during last week’s 17-10 win over Jacksonville that his family and friends feared he would hurt himself.

Young may be going through some personal and medical struggles that go beyond the football field. But whatever he is going through, one way or another, Young could use the strength Campbell found within himself to fight off his doubts and let confidence win.

It was that sort of confidence that led Campbell to approach Redskins coach Jim Zorn this week and say: “Just trust me.”

Zorn’s response: “I’ve got to trust you more.”

Zorn did just that, giving Campbell more responsibility as proved by the play call that led to the 67-yard scoring pass to Moss.

You would have been hard-pressed to find that trust and confidence outside of Redskin Park. Fans still remember it was Todd Collins, not Campbell, who led the run to the playoffs last season. And Campbell’s lackluster opening-game performance in the 16-7 loss to the Giants on Sept. 4 at the Meadowlands only raised more questions about whether Campbell had what it took to be an NFL quarterback.

Sunday was one game, but two things became clear about Campbell: His teammates believe in him, and he is mentally tough enough to be an NFL quarterback.

“He took a big step forward today in several areas,” said Zorn, the rookie coach who earned his first NFL win. “I think he grew this whole week.”

Campbell seemed to grow with every pass he completed in the first fourth-quarter drive, which started when he was sacked for a 12-yard loss, putting the Redskins on their own 6-yard line down by 24-15.

He completed a 23-yard pass to Chris Cooley. Then he hit on a 17-yarder to Antwaan Randle El and followed that with a 6-yard completion to Fred Davis. A 25-yard pass to Moss and an 11-yarder to Randle El and the Redskins had the ball first-and-10 at the New Orleans 12. Two plays later, Portis punched it in to cut the Saints’ lead to 24-22.

The next time the Redskins had the ball, Campbell let loose on first-and-10 from the Washington 33 with the long scoring pass to Moss.

Zorn said it was important for his teammates to see Campbell direct the comeback drive.

“The thing that our players will see is that our quarterback was in much more command of the line of scrimmage,” Zorn said. “He really took control at the line of scrimmage, did a nice job with the snap count today. Even those little things like that make a difference.”

At one point during the game, Chris Samuels said to Campbell, “Don’t worry about what people are saying about you. We are behind you 100 percent.”

That is the life of an NFL quarterback - to fight off doubt and feed off confidence. Jason Campbell did both Sunday.

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