- The Washington Times - Monday, November 19, 2001

DENVER Even a touchdown spike wouldn't easily leave Washington Redskins receiver Michael Westbrook's hand yesterday.
Westbrook's nine catches for 104 yards in the 17-10 victory over the Denver Broncos yesterday weren't just season-highs; they were nearly a month's work compared to earlier games. Overlooked in recent weeks, Westbrook entered with only 20 catches for 253 yards.
But the move to quarterback Kent Graham following Tony Banks' second-quarter concussion made Westbrook the offensive focus. Westbrook caught eight passes for 91 yards from Graham following a 13-yarder from Banks. Given the Redskins only threw four passes to Westbrook over the past two games, nine versus the Broncos was a windfall.
"It's hard to come by catches in this offense. Our offense doesn't throw one guy nine balls," Westbrook said. "Kent knew what I was capable of."
Westbrook's 5-yard touchdown catch with 14:18 remaining was against single coverage that followed the Redskins receivers throughout the game. Westbrook usually faces double coverage, but the Broncos decided to play more eight-man fronts to counter running back Stephen Davis.
"They were blitzing, leaving their [defensive backs] man-to-man on us. It was kind of an insult," Westbrook said. "We still get no respect even after the teams we've beaten. They just lined up and said 'Let's see, mano to mano, who's best.'"

Davis gets 84
Stephen Davis' four-game streak of 99 yards or more ended when a 17-yarder was negated by penalty. He finished with 84 on 23 carries. Former Redskins defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes concentrated on Davis to deny the latter many chances for long gains.
"Knowing Ray Rhodes, I knew he would have eight or nine guys [up front]," Davis said. "I knew it would be hard yards and it was hard yards, but we made some adjustments."
Davis opened the third quarter with a season-high 32-yarder after breaking two tacklers.
"I just felt on that play I had to do something to get the offensive guys up. It was a basic play that was executed well."
The Redskins have won four straight since coach Marty Schottenheimer doubled Davis' average carries from 13 in the first month. Davis' 23 runs last night were his fewest in five games, but he still carried the offense at times.
"We've come to rely on that kind of performance all the time with Stephen," Schottenheimer said. "He's the guy we lean on all the time and he enjoys it as well."

Flemister shines
Tight end Zeron Flemister rebounded from two early drops to catch the winning 3-yard touchdown with 2:48 remaining after a 15-yard reception three plays earlier. For someone who caught his first four passes in the past two games, it has been a heady time.
"It's one thing having your first touchdown, but getting a game-winning touchdown is a great feeling," Flemister said.
Ironically, Flemister's touchdown came after he replaced guard Matt Campbell , who would have been the play's target. Schottenheimer wasn't concerned with using Flemister after the earlier mistakes.
"That's what young players do they drop some and catch some," Schottenheimer said.

Clutch kick
Brett Conway has made longer field goals and more critical ones, but Washington's kicker said he had never made one as difficult as the 48-yarder into the wind and wintry precipitation that cut Denver's lead to 10-3 with 11 seconds left in the first half.
"If you make it, it boosts your team," said Conway, who has converted 12 of 14 attempts this season including a career-best 55-yarder. "If you don't, it kind of lets the air out [of the drive late in the first half]. The wind was gusting as hard as anything and it was snowing and sleeting. But I hit it right where I wanted to hit it. It had just enough on it to make it go."
Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer termed Conway's field goal "an enormous kick" and said 48 yards was the maximum distance from which he would've allowed Conway to attempt one in those conditions.

Blanket by Bailey
Cornerback Champ Bailey drew the assignment he was hoping for all week man-up most of the day against Broncos star wide receiver Rod Smith. Smith had a touchdown catch in the second quarter but finished with just three receptions for 25 yards, and just two of his catches came against Bailey.
Smith entered the game with 72 receptions for 923 yards, and he amassed those statistics even though the Broncos have no other legitimate receiving threat to draw attention away from him. Bailey, meanwhile, had given up some plays after going to the Pro Bowl in February but stood out in the two games he played man-up on an opposing receiver.
Smith's touchdown came on a play-action pass to the back of the end zone. Bailey said he was pushed a bit on the play but admitted that he bit a little too much on the run fake. Overall, though, it was a standout performance by the third-year corner.
"I just studied him all week," Bailey said. "I knew knew my talent level was good enough to shut him down."
Bailey credited practice-squad player Justin Skaggs for preparing him for the battle. Skaggs, an undrafted rookie out of Evangel (Mo.), apparently practices with the renowned effort that Smith, a former undrafted free agent out of Missouri Southern, brings to each game.
"I go against a guy in practice everyday who plays as hard as [Smith] does," Bailey said with a laugh. "That helped me out a whole lot."

Frequent fumbles
The teams combined for 12 fumbles, and the Redskins nearly cost themselves the game by losing three fumbles in the first half.
Washington's costliest turnover came with 6:32 left in the first half, when returner Eric Metcalf muffed a punt. The Broncos scored their only touchdown six plays later for a 10-0 lead. Metcalf later said some rain or snow whatever it was as the temperature dropped got in his eyes just as he tried to catch the ball.
"It's hard," said Metcalf, who also fumbled in the third quarter when he was nailed on a runback. "You've got to go out there and stay focused, especially catching punts."
Both Redskins quarterbacks struggled with the conditions. Tony Banks muffed a handoff to Stephen Davis on his first snap and lost the ball on a scramble, while Kent Graham mishandled his fourth snap and nearly dropped the ball on a few other occassions.
"It was very difficult tonight," Graham said. "It was wet, windy. The ball was flying all over the place. You never knew what type of ball you were going to get. But that's what football is about, and you've got to deal with those conditions."

The Redskins received an unusual ruling on a second-quarter challenge when they disputed the ruling that Champ Bailey recovered a fumble out of bounds and officials deemed that there was no fumble in the first place.
Officials initially said Broncos fullback Tony Carter caught a short pass and fumbled when he was creamed by linebacker LaVar Arrington. Bailey picked up the ball just as it went out of bounds. Redskins coaches believed Bailey was in, but their argument was moot because the challenge resulted in the apparent catch being ruled incomplete.
"I'm aware that anything that has to do with the play they can in fact address," Schottenheimer said.
The Broncos also made a challenge on Washington's game-winning drive. That play started when Kent Graham overthrew a pass for Michael Westbrook on third-and-4. Denard Walker was called for pass interference though there appeared to be little if any contact and the Broncos argued that the pass had been tipped at the line. If that had been the case, which officials deemed it was not, there could not have been a pass-interference call.

Cornerback Central McClellion, offensive tackle Ross Tucker, defensive tackle Donovan Arp, tight end Stephen Alexander, receiver Darnerien McCants, defensive end Otis Leverette and guard Alex Sulsted were inactive.

Goodbye to all that
Yesterday's game was the Redskins' last against an AFC team this year and marked the end of an era. Since the NFL went to the 16-game schedule in 1978, Washington had met four teams from one of the AFC's three divisions every year (except 1994 when it played a fifth-place schedule). With the move to four divisions in each conference next season, the Redskins will meet every AFC team every four years. The Redskins had met the Broncos in each of their go-rounds with the AFC West except in 1983 (going 2-5, not counting Washington's victory in Super Bowl XXII). The only AFC team that Washington has met more often than Denver since 1978 is Seattle (5-4, having faced the Seahawks in 1994).
Yesterday's victory left Marty Schottenheimer 2-2 against the AFC as Redskins coach. Interim coach Terry Robiskie was 0-1 last season after replacing Norv Turner (11-14). Turner's only winning year against the AFC was 1996 when Washington went 3-1. That came a year after he endured the Redskins' only winless showing against the AFC. Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs was a perfect 4-0 against the AFC in 1983, 1985 and 1991 en route to a 31-12 mark against the other conference (the 1987 game against New England was cancelled by a players' strike as were all of Washington's 1982 matchups with AFC teams). Gibbs' only losing mark against the AFC was in 1988 which was also his only losing season overall. Gibbs' predecessor, Jack Pardee , was 5-7 against the AFC. All told, Washington was 50-39 against the AFC since 1978, not counting Gibbs' 3-1 Super Bowl record.
Washington finished its 2001 AFC schedule in Week 9, the third time that happened in the past six years after that occurred just once from 1978 through 1995. Five of the Redskins' final seven games are against NFC East rivals (Arizona and Philadelphia twice each and Dallas). The others are against Chicago of the NFC Central and New Orleans of the NFC West.
Next season, the four NFC East teams (Washington, Dallas, Philadelphia and the New York Giants) will all meet the four teams from the new AFC South (Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville and Tennessee) as well as all four teams from the NFC West (Arizona, St. Louis, San Francisco and Seattle). The Redskins will play the Cowboys, Eagles and Giants twice each with their lone foes from the NFC Central and NFC South to be determined by this year's standings.
Rick Snider, David Elfin and Jody Foldesy

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