- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 24, 2000

The Washington Redskins' offense has executed virtually every facet of its package this season but rarely at one time.

Things finally came together Sunday as the 2000 season's first half closed with a 35-16 victory at the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Redskins enjoyed their most complete offensive performance of the year, perhaps signaling the return of the dangerous versatility that was their trademark in the first half of 1999.

Receiver Albert Connell had seven catches for 211 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Stephen Davis had 114 yards and two scores on 24 carries. Fullback Larry Centers and tight end Stephen Alexander got three catches apiece. And quarterback Brad Johnson completed 66.7 percent of his passes, averaging an impressive 11.2 yards an attempt.

Most importantly, the Redskins (6-2) finally scored more than 21 points, something they hadn't done in a game this season. Washington hadn't generated 35 points in a game since Oct. 31, 1999, when it beat the Chicago Bears 48-22 to improve to 5-2 and raise its scoring average to 34.6 points.

"You could put that game in last year's [first half], and it would fit right in," right tackle Jon Jansen said yesterday. "We've got a lot of things hitting at a high level right now."

The key Sunday was Connell. His performance was the seventh-best ever by a Redskins receiver and the best by an NFC receiver this year. Only Jacksonville's Jimmy Smith, who had 291 yards receiving against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 2, has piled up bigger numbers in an NFL game this season.

But there's a difference between Connell's catches Sunday and the "deep attempts" that area media have harped on this season, Johnson made sure to point out. Of Connell's catches, only the 49-yard touchdown, on a pump-and-go route, was a true deep attempt. Otherwise Connell used his speed to turn short completions into big gains.

It happened on his two other touchdowns. On the first he took a short dump-off in the middle of the field and raced to the left side for an 11-yard score; on the second he caught perhaps a 15-yard pass and turned it into a 77-yard touchdown.

"People get fascinated by the wrong things sometimes. We only threw one deep ball," Johnson said. "[Yards after catch] is actually where you get the big plays. The long bombs are really low percentage. If you hit two out of five you're really beating the odds. [Sunday] we had the yards after the catch, and that really made a big difference for us."

The Redskins' receiving corps has been a concern since top target Michael Westbrook was lost to a season-ending knee injury in Week 2. But Washington now has six players with 17 or more catches, and their average gains range from 8.2 yards (for Centers) to a league-leading 22.7 yards (for Connell).

"Really the key to our passing game right now is the balance we have," coach Norv Turner said. "We haven't gotten the big plays, but our passing game has been productive. And then [Sunday] we got the big plays."

Davis, meanwhile, continues to pile up rushing yards despite a variety of injuries to the offensive line. Davis leads the NFL with 802 yards, thanks to another strong effort after halftime. Davis gained 88 second-half yards Sunday, raising his average yardage after halftime to 62.5 (vs. 37.8 before).

"He expects to go out and have success; he expects to go out and rush for over 100 yards," Turner said. "So when he gets the football, he's going to run that way."

Now the Redskins' challenge is to duplicate Sunday's versatility. Both Johnson and Turner believe the best offensive performances are still to come, arguing that the unit is struggling with turnovers (two Sunday), penalties (six for 59 yards) and uncertain personnel combinations because of injuries.

"We're completing a high percentage of balls, [and] a lot of different guys are catching balls, but we haven't been in a lot of rhythm," Johnson said. "[Sunday] we finally got some big plays… . We're making strides."

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