- The Washington Times - Monday, October 23, 2000


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. The Washington Redskins have found a big-play wide receiver, for one game at least, and with it perhaps the final ingredient to their Super Bowl potential.
Petulant and erratic Albert Connell enjoyed one of the biggest games in team history yesterday, catching seven passes for 211 yards and three touchdowns. His performance, combined with a resurgent defensive effort and the Jacksonville Jaguars' suspect ball handling, led the Redskins to a 35-16 victory before 69,061 at Alltel Stadium.
Washington (6-2) had been winning this season with a strong running game and a stingy defense, but yesterday's offensive onslaught demonstrated the missing element that had kept it from being a complete team. It was the first game in which the 2000 Redskins scored more than 21 points.
"If you want to score points you have to be able to make big plays," Redskins coach Norv Turner said. "With the way our games have been, I don't know if we would have scored 35 points in very many of them. But we have been leaving points out there."
The Redskins reach their season's midway point with a five-game winning streak only their second under Turner. Also Washington grabbed sole possession of first place in the NFC East, as it now leads the New York Giants, who had an open date, by a half-game.
A perfect October now is near, even though the month's five-game schedule was expected to be brutal. The Redskins could get another break if Tennessee Titans running back Eddie George (strained knee) can't play next Monday not to mention another one if St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt Warner (broken finger) is out for the Nov. 20 meeting. Both players were injured yesterday.
"We have been relying on our defense and it was just a matter of getting our passing game going," Connell said. "As a whole, we're not there yet, but it's coming together. If we come together we can play some ball and win some games."
Meanwhile, Jacksonville (2-6) officially can begin an eight-game death march after its season began with similar Super Bowl dreams. The Jaguars were plagued by injuries and miscues yet again. They played the second half without star wide receiver Jimmy Smith and right tackle Zach Wiegert, and overall committed four turnovers.
The absence of Smith and Wiegert helped the Redskins' second-ranked defense give up just 128 yards and no points in the second half after yielding 257 and 16 in the first. Turner credited better tackling and third-down play (holding Jacksonville 1-for-6 after a 7-for-11 first half).
Redskins running back Stephen Davis also enjoyed a second-half surge actually for the second straight week picking up 88 yards after intermission to finish with 114 on 24 carries. He scored on a 1-yard run in the first quarter and put the game away with a 16-yard rush in the fourth. On Oct. 15 Davis gained 89 yards after halftime against the Baltimore Ravens' top-ranked run defense.
But the Redskins' offensive key was Connell, who had no catches against the Ravens. In that game Connell dropped two passes in the first quarter and had a second-quarter attempt knocked away in the end zone. The week before, frustrated with his involvement in the offense, he got into a sideline jawing match with passing coordinator Terry Robiskie.
But yesterday Connell tied a team record with his three scoring catches, caught the seventh-most yards of any player in club history, and became the first Redskin to enjoy a 200-yard receiving game since Gary Clark (203 yards) in 1991.
"Now you understand why he went off a couple weeks ago, why he's upset," Washington cornerback Deion Sanders said. "He's more than capable of making those plays week in and week out if the defense allows him to, and if our offense allows him to."
Connell's third touchdown catch put the Redskins firmly in control of the game, giving them a 28-16 lead with with 4:38 elapsed in the third quarter. Connell turned perhaps a 15-yard completion by Brad Johnson into a 77-yard score, thanks to a Jaguars zone blitz and an inadvertent pick by strong safety Donovin Darius on cornerback Kiwaukee Thomas.
Johnson overall completed 16 of 24 passes for 269 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. It was Johnson's first three-touchdown performance in 22 games, and it came the week he broke off negotiations for a contract extension, greatly increasing the likelihood that he will play for another team in 2001.
Jacksonville kicker Mike Hollis had two field goals in the first half's final 2:15 to cut his team's deficit to 21-16. The first kick, 33 yards, came after wide receiver R. Jay Soward dropped a touchdown catch on third-and-13. The second, a 51-yarder, came after Redskins tight end Stephen Alexander fumbled.
Tony Brackens, the Jaguars' Pro Bowl defensive end, was disqualified for kicking Redskins right guard Jay Leeuwenburg after Alexander's fumble with 1:50 left in the half. Brackens had recovered the fumble but apparently lost his cool when a scrum followed the play.
A 25-yard punt return by James Thrash positioned the Redskins near midfield with 6:23 left in the half. Connell scored a 49-yard touchdown two plays later, getting free safety Mike Logan to bite on a fake out-pattern, then catching Johnson's pass over his shoulder as Logan and Darius chased him toward the end zone. The score made it 21-10.
Soward fumbled a punt with 10:41 left in the second quarter, setting up the Redskins for another two-play touchdown drive, this one just 12 yards. Connell caught this pass, too, a dump in the center of the field that he raced to the left corner of the end zone for a 14-10 lead.
The Jaguars took a 10-7 edge on a 33-yard touchdown reception by Soward. The scoring play came on a slant to the center of the field against Sanders, who never got within a step. The 80-yard drive was the Jaguars' second straight of 80 or more yards.
Hollis kicked a 23-yard field goal to cut the Redskins' lead to 7-3. The kick capped a 16-play, 86-yard drive. Tight end Kyle Brady had the possession's key play, catching a 30-yard pass while being covered by strong safety Sam Shade.
Davis put the Redskins up 7-0 with a 1-yard run in the first quarter. The drive went just 38 yards after Sanders picked off a pass a tip by Soward and returned it 21 yards. A 17-yard reception by Connell and a 16-yard sweep left by Davis set up the 1-yard score off tackle.

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