- The Washington Times - Monday, December 31, 2001

NEW ORLEANS The Washington Redskins boosted the case to keep Marty Schottenheimer as coach and in charge of personnel last night, dominating the lackluster New Orleans Saints in a battle of clubs recently eliminated from playoff contention.

Running back Stephen Davis rushed for 111 yards and a touchdown before exiting with a sprained knee and Washington's defense forced four turnovers to guide a 40-10 blowout of the Saints before 70,020 at the Superdome.

"We're not going to give up, no matter what the circumstances," cornerback Fred Smoot said. "That's the way it's been all year. We couldn't go to the playoffs; people say we're not going to play. No. We're going to play."

The Redskins (7-8), whose postseason hopes ended a week earlier with a third loss in four games, now enter the finale against Arizona with a second straight .500 record possible. New Orleans (7-8), knocked from the postseason Saturday night by a Tampa Bay win, lost for a third straight time.

A final victory could be enough to secure the dual roles of Schottenheimer, who is a season into a four-year, $10 million contract. Owner Dan Snyder is considering hiring a general manager, a move that would usurp Schottenheimer's oversight of the Redskins' personnel department.

Schottenheimer wouldn't comment on the greater significance of this victory, other than to praise the perseverance of his players, who earlier this season became the first team in league history to follow an 0-5 start with five straight wins.

"This football team has tremendous heart," Schottenheimer said. "At 0-5, this group could have mailed it in. They have continued to work with purpose, to find ways to improve. We didn't finish it off the [previous] two weeks, and that's what did us in. Tonight, we fell behind 10-0, it's the holidays, they could have said, 'Oh, well.' They didn't do that."

Davis' production came on 21 carries. He departed near the end of the third quarter after a 25-yard run. He wanted to return but Schottenheimer held him out. Davis said he expects to play next week. Also injured was wide receiver Michael Westbrook, who sprained an ankle.

Washington won despite the absence of linebacker LaVar Arrington, perhaps their only Pro Bowl selection when invitations are announced this week, and right guard Ben Coleman, who played a key role in Davis' big season. Both were sidelined by knee injuries. Arrington wanted to play but was inactive; Coleman got in for a few plays in the late going.

Even without Arrington the Redskins' defense handled the Saints' sixth-ranked passing attack, while minus Coleman the offense enjoyed its highest point total of the year. Thanks in part to standout field position, Washington topped 20 points for only the third time.

New Orleans looked sharp early, taking a 10-0 lead, but unraveled as the Redskins scored 40 straight points. Washington scored on its final seven possessions (excluding kneel-downs at game's end) starting late in the second quarter, capitalizing on Saints turnovers, penalties and poor offense.

Backup rusher Ki-Jana Carter pretty much sealed the decision on a 2-yard touchdown run, his first of two, with 24 seconds left in the third quarter. The rush put the Redskins up 30-10 and came three plays after Davis left the game. A failed fourth-and-1 by the Saints set up Washington's drive.

Redskins quarterback Tony Banks scored a 2-yard touchdown on a bootleg with 6:48 left in the third quarter, giving Washington a 23-10 lead. The 18-yard drive was set up by an interception by defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson, his second of the season, which occured when cornerback Darrell Green blitzed and tipped a pass by Aaron Brooks.

Brett Conway's third of four field goals put Washington up 16-10 on the second half's opening drive. Davis rushed for 11 and 21 yards to propel the possession early, but it went no farther and the Redskins settled for a 34-yard kick. Fullback Donnell Bennett dropped a third-and-12 pass to the flat and Washington was lucky he did, because if he held the ball for a moment longer it safety Sammy Knight would have had a fumble recovery and coast-to-coast touchdown.

The Redskins led 13-10 at halftime on Conway's 22-yard field goal with 10 seconds left. An interception by cornerback Champ Bailey one play after rusher Ricky Williams seemingly fumbled away to Washington, but the initial call was overturned set up Washington's short drive. Guard Matt Campbell dropped a first-and-goal touchdown pass and Banks was sacked on third-and-goal to end the chance for a touchdown.

Washington tied the game 10-10 with 2:47 left in the second quarter when Conway got the bounce on a 53-yard field goal attempt. The kick landed on the crossbar but bounded up and through. The bit of luck evened things out for Conway, who hit the uprights three times in a two-game span earlier this month.

The Saints could have extended a 10-7 lead midway through the second quarter but kicker John Carney, one of the league's most accurate, pulled a 42-yard attempt left. The Redskins took over at the 32, picked up 28 yards in an exchange of three-and-outs and punts. The victory in field position set up Conway's 53-yarder to tie.

Davis' fourth rushing touchdown of the season came 48 seconds into the second quarter, trimming the Saints' lead to 10-7. Davis carried six times for 29 yards on possession, which converted three third downs and traveled 76 yards. A great push on the right side of the line, thanks in part to a pull by left guard Dave Szott, paved Davis' 6-yard score.

The Saints took their 10-0 lead with 6:11 left in the first quarter on a 29-yard field goal by Carney. New Orleans appeared to score a touchdown a play earlier when Willie Jackson caught a pass over Smoot, but the initial ruling was overturned when replay showed Jackson stepped out of bounds. An interception by Saints cornerback Kevin Mathis set up the score.

New Orleans opened with a 10-play drive for a 7-0 lead. The touchdown came on a 22-yard screen pass to backup running back Deuce McAllister. Williams carried six times for 26 yards on the possession, and Brooks hit all four of his passes for 45 yards and the score.

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