- The Washington Times - Monday, September 15, 2008

The Washington Redskins were mounting a comeback after driving for a touchdown and forcing a three-and-out, But time was getting precious, and they were 67 yards from the end zone. The play was supposed to go to Antwaan Randle El. But when the safety jumped his crossing route, fellow receiver Santana Moss was one-on-one with New Orleans rookie cornerback Tracy Porter, and that meant trouble for the Saints and victory for the Redskins.

“I didn’t want to get all fat and happy,” Moss said of his reaction when he heard the play call in the huddle. “I just told myself, ‘Run the precise route and if you get the ball, make the play.’”

Moss certainly did, grabbing the ball in stride from quarterback Jason Campbell and racing the rest of the way for the touchdown that gave the Redskins the 29-24 victory.

“[Porter] has some speed, but what he did wrong was he took the first move I gave him, a little [fake] to the outside,” Moss said. “You want to see [defensive backs] settle their feet, and once they settle their feet, it’s you and the ball, and Jason threw it up there pretty good.”

Porter, starting only because veterans Mike McKenzie and Randall Gay were hurt, took the blame.

“That touchdown was solely on me,” Porter said. “I tried to undercut the ball, but I shouldn’t have.”

The Saints didn’t exactly tug on Superman’s cape, but the speedy Moss did leave them twisting in the wind.

“You can tell in his eyes the guy wanted to make a play,” said Washington guard Randy Thomas, a teammate for all but two of Moss’ eight seasons with the New York Jets and Redskins.

“Santana’s a guy that has a lot of courage,” said Campbell, who had waited too long to throw to the open Moss in the end zone in the second quarter, allowing the coverage to get there to break up what should have been a touchdown. “He really believes in his ability and what he can do. He’s always asking for the opportunity [to make a play].”

Running back Clinton Portis, who played with Moss at the University of Miami, said he knew early on that his longtime pal was in for a big day.

“When Santana got started early in the game on that screen pass and picked up the first down, that lets you know he’s on,” Portis said. “When he makes people miss, [they’re] in trouble.”

After a spectacular debut for the Redskins in 2005 in which he set a team record with 1,436 receiving yards, caught a career-high 84 balls and scored nine touchdowns - including two late ones that gave Washington its first victory in Dallas in a decade - Moss dealt with troublesome muscles the past two seasons. Although he missed only four games, it seemed his groin and hamstrings were always ailing. He totaled just 116 catches, 1,598 yards and nine touchdowns - Pro Bowl numbers for one season but rather pedestrian for a pair.

But Moss, who turned 29 in June, has been healthy throughout 2008 and is enjoying the transition to new coach Jim Zorn’s offense as much as any Redskins player. Moss got wide open in the final minute of the first half to score Washington’s only touchdown in its season-opening loss at the defending champion New York Giants. Through two games, Moss leads the Redskins with 12 catches, 201 yards and two touchdowns. Projected over a full season, those numbers would be wonderful: 96 catches, 1,608 yards and 16 touchdowns.

“I’m loving it,” Moss said of Zorn’s West Coast passing scheme. “All you want is opportunity. When you have the plays that we have, Coach is going to call ‘em up, and you just got to do your part. Those plays come up randomly throughout a game, and you have to be ready.”

Moss was. Porter wasn’t. And the Redskins are feeling a heck of a lot better than they were staring at an 0-2 start with trips to Dallas and Philadelphia coming up fast.

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