- The Washington Times - Monday, December 10, 2001

TEMPE, Ariz. Making a strong case that last week's loss to Dallas was a momentary dip in the team's ultimate rise, the Washington Redskins got back to Marty Ball and stayed alive in the NFC playoff race.
The Redskins rode a strong running game, solid defense and sharp work from special teams to push aside the Arizona Cardinals 20-10 yesterday before a sparse crowd of 40,056 at Sun Devil Stadium. The win kept alive the playoff hopes of Washington (6-6) and all but ended those of the Cardinals (5-7).
Running back Stephen Davis rushed for 110 yards to become the first Redskin with three straight 1,000-yard seasons. The defense held Arizona's talented offense without a touchdown until garbage time. And the special teams helped Washington to an average starting position 21 yards better than that of the Cardinals.
The all-around performance came just a week after the Redskins were thoroughly outplayed by struggling Dallas to snap a five-game winning streak. The two results, according to linebacker LaVar Arrington last night, absolutely were linked.
"We were madder than a rhino with a hernia," Arrington said. "We really had a lot that we needed to get off our chests. I think it showed out there with the way we played."
The Redskins kept pace in the NFC East title race, which Philadelphia (8-4) leads by two games, and the final wild card bid, which Tampa Bay and New Orleans (both 7-5) lead by one game. Atlanta is tied with Washington in the wild card race.
Now comes the season's toughest three-game stretch, against teams with a combined 24-12 record: Philadelphia, Chicago (9-3) and at New Orleans. But the Redskins are trying not to view the stretch collectively, acknowledging that a loss to Philadelphia this weekend probably will leave the latter two games all but meaningless.
"By winning, it makes each game more and more important," defensive end Marco Coleman said. "The thing is to worry about this one coming up this week. This is big enough to take up all of our attention right now. Then, if we want to go to the playoffs, each and every week is going to be extremely important."
Davis' 110 yards came on 26 carries and included a touchdown, only his second of the season. His success laid the foundation for a balanced, if still limited, offense, which this week got some of the season's best work out of its wide receivers. Veteran Michael Westbrook had seven catches for 82 yards, rookie Rod Gardner two for 52.
"The last thing I said to [offensive coordinator] Jimmy Raye before the game was, 'Attack,'" coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "Of course, attack by our standards is not like [the league-leading offense of] St. Louis, for example. But I think Jimmy did a very good job with the play entry."
Marty Ball was enough to overcome the Redskins' 13 penalties for 99 yards and David Boston's eighth 100-yard receiving game of the season. Arizona's potent passing attack got its star wideout six catches for 132 yards mostly against Redskins Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey but not much more. The Cardinals rushed for just 80 yards.
A week earlier against Dallas, Washington surrendered 211 rushing yards, the third time this season it allowed 200 or more yards on the ground. But after watching film, the defense contended that it held its ground against the Cowboys that its problems were fixable mental errors.
"Last week it was missed tackles, blown assignments, things that can all be corrected," Coleman said. "Everybody just needed to be more responsible. In work this week, everyone was relaxed. We just knew we could play better."
Arizona's touchdown came with 1:16 remaining after Washington had all but sealed the win. Receiver MarTay Jenkins caught a 10-yard pass from quarterback Jake Plummer for the game's final score. David Terrell then recovered an onside kick and allowed the Redskins to run out the clock.
The Cardinals' score might have mattered if it had come on their previous possession, which ended with a Redskins fourth-and-goal stop at the 1. Arrington came from behind to tackle Michael Pittman with 4:49 left as Washington's defensive front held. A 40-yard completion to Boston had set up the Cardinals at the Redskins' 6, but they couldn't score.
Davis' 1-yard touchdown preceded Arizona's failed goal line bid and gave Washington a decisive 20-3 lead. Gardner had a 40-yard catch to propel that possession. The rookie, having battled dropped passes much of the season, leaped over turned cornerback Corey Chavous and did a nice job holding onto the pass. Davis' scoring rush off-tackle left came with 8:20 left.
The Redskins extended their lead to 13-3 early in the fourth quarter on Brett Conway's second field goal. Kevin Lockett made a sliding 18-yard catch on third-and-10 to put Washington in range. Westbrook then nearly drew a pass interference call against Chavous on third-and-4, but officials ruled a clean break-up. The call withstood a challenge, and Conway's 42-yard field goal came with 12:48 remaining.
An interception and 41-yard return by Arrington in the closing moments of the first half set up a Redskins field goal as time expired.
Preceding Arrington's pick was an exchange between him and Boston; the pair was flagged for offsetting personal fouls (taunting by Boston and retaliation by Arrington). Two plays later Arrington bumped Boston hard on a crossing route; Plummer's pass went off Boston's hands and settled into Arrington's. Conway, who missed two field goals earlier in the first half, hit a 22-yarder for a 10-3 halftime lead.
The Cardinals cut an early deficit to 7-3 on Bill Gramatica's 24-yard field goal with 6:16 left in the second quarter. Boston had two big catches early in the 74-yard drive, a leaping 32-yarder against Bailey and a 22-yarder from the line of scrimmage on which Smoot, covering in a zone scheme, got blocked immediately.
The Redskins took a 7-0 lead on tight end Zeron Flemister's second touchdown of the season, a 2-yard play-action pass on the first play of the second quarter. Davis carried six times for 29 yards on the possession and Westbrook, who had four catches for 48 yards on Washington's opening drive, caught a 21-yarder against safety Pat Tillman.
The teams traded missed field goals on their opening drives. Washington moved 63 yards in 12 plays and had a fourth-and-1 at Arizona's 22, but a holding penalty by Flemister negated Davis' conversion rush. Conway then hit the left upright on a 47-yarder. The Cardinals responded by driving 37 yards but Gramatica pulled a 44-yarder badly right.

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