- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 26, 2000

Receiver James Thrash made just one reception, but it may have been a season-saver.

With coach Norv Turner saying for weeks the beleaguered offense simply needed one big play to regain momentum, Thrash's 46-yarder proved the catalyst in the 16-6 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday. Suddenly, the Redskins followed with a 23-yard touchdown pass. Two snaps into the following series, a 38-yarder led to a 10-0 lead.

One big play became three of the team's four longest completions this season. Six receivers caught at least a 20-yarder. The Redskins made more big plays against the Giants than the first three weeks combined.

"Once we did that [long reception] we started rolling as an offense and things started clicking together," Thrash said. "I hope it was a little booster for the guys on the sideline. From then on out, guys started making plays. The receivers stepped up to show what they can do."

Said receiver Irving Fryar: "That's what we needed to get going. You'll see a different team now. We'll play with a different energy. It's tough when you're down. It's tough practicing when you're down. We needed somebody to make a play to get us going."

What happened? The Redskins (2-2) largely struggled through the first three games because opposing safeties dropped back and forced the Redskins to move the ball in small doses. Drives were often ended by penalties or turnovers as Washington's second-ranked offense last year that averaged 27.6 points per game managed only 46 points in a 1-2 start. However, the Giants chose to play the Redskins more honestly and were beaten in single coverage. Once the deep balls started raining like El Nino, the Redskins regained their confidence and momentum.

Quarterback Brad Johnson's confidence hadn't wavered over the past week when a potential quarterback controversy dominated talk radio and newspapers. Turner steadfastly supports the 1999 Pro Bowler who led four comeback victories last year.

Still, Johnson needed a jump start after regularly missing downfield passes, including one to Fryar earlier Sunday. Johnson threw 45 passes for 25 or more yards last season. After just one in the first three games, he suddenly attacked the Giants secondary with renewed passion.

Albert Connell caught a 53-yarder among his four catches for 122 yards. Fullback Mike Sellers caught his 12th career pass for 24 yards. Andre Reed collected four receptions in his second game, including a 21-yard touchdown. Fryar caught a 23-yard touchdown. Tight end Stephen Alexander caught a 20-yarder. Along with Thrash, 20-yarders were gained by all six players who caught at least one pass.

"When you're on a roll, those things flow. When you struggle they're a little harder," Turner said. "I don't think Brad looked downfield more than he has. We got some things up the field from a cover standpoint we haven't been getting."

Said guard Keith Sims: "It was the first game of the year where the offense had fun out there. We made a lot of mistakes, but when you see A.C. going up to catch the ball like that it's the stuff that makes us go."

That running back Stephen Davis managed 89 yards on 30 carries on a slick grass field that made him yearn for the former artificial turf surface kept the Giants defense from dropping back too often. Davis improved as the game progressed, gaining 61 yards on 18 carries. Four of the Redskins' five longest completions were preceded by a Davis run.

"We caught them in coverage situations where they were defending the run or doubling Irving Fryar," Turner said.

But can the Redskins repeat the downfield dynamics against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday? Tampa Bay's defense didn't allow Washington a touchdown in the 14-13 playoff loss last season or the 13-12 preseason loss on Aug. 4. The Bucs will repeat past Redskins opponents and drop back to prevent the long completions.

"Each week as you do different things people have different priorities in terms of defending you," Turner said. "There's some teams that feel they can match up with our wideouts [and] we'll continue to see the eight-man fronts. The teams like Detroit and Dallas that say 'If we single up on them too many times they'll make big plays' will play us a little softer."

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