- The Washington Times - Monday, November 19, 2001

DENVER Already having overcome an 0-5 start to the season, the Washington Redskins pushed aside an injury to their starting quarterback, nasty wintry conditions and a team with serious playoff aspirations for their biggest win to date.
The Redskins got big contributions from backup quarterback Kent Graham, forgotten wide receiver Michael Westbrook, unheard-of tight end Zeron Flemister and their defense to rally past the Denver Broncos 17-10 yesterday before the remnants of 71,045 at frigid Invesco Field at Mile High.
A concussion to starting quarterback Tony Banks led the Redskins' injury list. In addition, backup offensive lineman Matt Campbell suffered a serious knee injury and third wideout Kevin Lockett bruised his ribs. On a positive note, defensive end Bruce Smith and linebacker LaVar Arrington appeared to dodge serious injury when they collided helmets.
The teams combined for 17 punts and 12 fumbles in a cold rain in what had to be considered an ugly win for the Redskins (4-5). But for a team that began the season with a series of ugly losses, a fourth straight victory over the once-Super-Bowl-hopeful Broncos (5-5) and increasingly realistic hopes for the playoffs were more than enough.
"This just shows we're for real," cornerback Champ Bailey said. "Everybody wrote us off for dead, but we're for real. We're alive and kicking real hard."
The win, Washington's first on the road, set up a key game next weekend at Philadelphia (6-3), which blew out the Dallas Cowboys to stay two games ahead of the Redskins in the NFC East. Also in front of Washington in the division are the New York Giants (5-4), who play Minnesota tonight.
The victory also was just the third for coach Marty Schottenheimer in 13 tries at Denver, where he had tough luck in coaching stints with the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs. But he proclaimed himself "1-0" at Denver following the game and, as one might expect, played down the victory's significance.
"We're 4-5, and I prefer to look at it that way," Schottenheimer said. "We have a lot of work ahead of us. But the fact that we've found different ways to win I think is the most important thing for us."
Banks was carted from the field with 1:50 left in the first half after being leveled on a pass play by Broncos defensive tackle Leon Lett. He underwent evaluations at a local hospital and returned to the stadium in the second half, which made Schottenheimer optimistic about his condition even though his status for Philadelphia is uncertain.
Graham, who was acquired in Week 3 after Jeff George was released, completed 12 of 18 passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns in place of Banks. Getting some open looks because Denver focused on stopping running back Stephen Davis (23 carries, 84 yards), Graham posted a quarterback rating of 123.1.
"What they were doing was putting seven, eight, nine people on the line of scrimmage," Schottenheimer said. "Basically I think their feeling was we couldn't beat them throwing the ball."
Graham's biggest targets were Westbrook (nine catches, 104 yards, one touchdown), who had just 20 catches in the season's first half, and second-year tight end Flemister, who made the winning touchdown grab with 2:48 left.
Those unexpected performances combined with a standout defensive effort. The Redskins, led by Arrington's big hits and Champ Bailey's coverage of Broncos wideout Rod Smith, limited Denver to 186 yards nearly 150 below its average. Arrington played despite suffering a high ankle sprain just two weeks ago.
"They had 88 yards rushing, and 24 of that was Griese on a [first-quarter] scramble," defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson said. "This has been a very successful offense for a long time, and to come in and do this on their home court is very big."
Flemister's 3-yard touchdown came on a play-action third-and-goal play in which Campbell was supposed to be the target, but he had been injured two plays earlier. Flemister came free in the deep left part of the end zone for his first career touchdown. He also had a 15-yard reception on the drive after entering the game with five career catches.
The Redskins won the battle of field position to set up the key possession. Denver's ninth punt of the game left Washington at its own 46, and after a first-down sack Westbrook caught a 16-yard pass to set up third-and-4. Graham looked to Westbrook again but overthrew him; officials made a dubious pass-interference call on cornerback Denard Walker and the ruling withstood a challenge by Denver, which argued that the ball was tipped at the line.
The Broncos' drive to tie the game moved near midfield when Chris Cole made a 21-yard catch on third-and-10, but quarterback Brian Griese threw four straight incompletions. Griese, who went to the Pro Bowl last season, completed just 11 of 31 passes for 114 yards.
Washington trailed 10-3 at halftime but tied the game 10-10 early in the fourth quarter on a 5-yard pass from Graham to Westbrook. The completion, Westbrook's third catch of the drive, came off play-action. The possession was set up when Broncos tight end Desmond Clark fumbled at midfield and Arrington recovered.
The Redskins got a lift just before halftime when Brett Conway hit a 48-yard field goal into the wind. The kick, with 11 seconds remaining, capped the drive on which Banks was injured. Graham completed all three of his passes in relief of Banks, but he fumbled a third-and-2 snap and Washington settled for the field goal.
Graham's fumble was the Redskins' fourth of the half. About six minutes earlier returner Eric Metcalf set up a Broncos touchdown by losing control of a punt. Denver started its drive at the Redskins' 13, and after five running plays Griese faked a handoff to Olandis Gary and found Smith open in the back of the end zone. The Broncos led 10-0 with 3:19 left in the half.
Denver's first score was a 33-yard field goal by Jason Elam early in the second quarter. A personal-foul penalty by Arrington and a 24-yard scramble by Griese propelled the drive, which also included a strange ruling on a challenge by the Redskins. Bailey recovered a fumble by fullback Tony Carter but officials ruled Bailey was out of bounds; on the challenge officials reconsidered the whole play and determined Carter never caught the ball. Even with the extra yardage Denver couldn't get another first down and settled for a 3-0 lead with 11:05 left.


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