- The Washington Times - Monday, October 22, 2001

It took seven weeks, a fourth-quarter rally from a two-touchdown deficit, an overtime period and two tries at the game-winning field goal, but the Washington Redskins finally captured their first victory under Marty Schottenheimer.
Overcoming more than three quarters of poor play to score two stunning touchdowns in the fourth period a 67-yard interception return by linebacker LaVar Arrington and an 85-yard catch by rookie wide receiver Rod Gardner the Redskins beat the Carolina Panthers 17-14 in overtime before 74,480 at FedEx Field yesterday.
It was the first win for Washington (1-5) under Schottenheimer, who carried big-time credentials and high expectations when he was hired as coach and president of football operations in January. His job status already is being questioned, but the long-awaited victory begins to justify his confidence in his system and players.
"I think [the win] speaks volumes about the young men in that locker room," Schottenheimer said. "A lesser group of men and I'm not talking about players, I'm talking about men a lesser group of men would not have persevered [while trailing] 14-0. They would have booked it, and this group won't do that."
The Redskins now take the season's first momentum into a rematch with the defending NFC champion New York Giants, who won the first meeting 23-9 on Oct. 7. Before, the Giants seemed insurmountable. But now there is hope because Washington rallied with 11 minutes left in regulation against the Panthers (1-5).
"It was looking like the same old Redskins for a little while," quarterback Tony Banks said. "I'm sure everybody in the stadium thought that. I saw some empty seats out there after the first half. But they missed a good game. I think we did some things out there that will make the Giants prepare for us a little differently."
Arrington overcame a head injury and Gardner the latest in a season-long string of drops to make the key plays. Kicker Brett Conway missed a 32-yard field goal to win with 36 seconds left in regulation before connecting on a 23-yarder in overtime. And the winning kick didn't come until after a replay review took away an apparent winning touchdown catch by Gardner.
Gardner cemented his status as the Redskins' go-to receiver with six catches for 208 yards. And quarterback Tony Banks rallied to complete 17 of 30 passes for 346 yards with one touchdown and one interception. But the real key was the defense, which held fast even when critical mistakes once again kept the last-ranked offense from scoring.
"As human beings, when you're down 14-0 in the fourth quarter, it's natural to hang our heads and start doubting," defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson said. "But we went out and kept playing hard. When LaVar made that play, it really ignited us."
Arrington's interception with 10:10 left in the fourth quarter reversed the game's momentum.
About 10 minutes earlier, the Redskins' offense had botched its best drive with three penalties in two plays turning first-and-10 at Carolina's 30 into first-and-35 on the other side of midfield. The Panthers responded with a nine-play, 83-yard touchdown drive scoring on a 10-yard run by Tshimanga Biakabutuka (20 carries, 120 yards) to make it 14-0.
The Redskins then went three-and-out on three straight incompletions and many spectators began leaving. Four plays later, Arrington plucked a tipped pass from Chris Weinke, who threw four interceptions on the day, to fullback Chris Hetherington and rumbled down the left sideline for the Redskins' first score.
"I've been forced to be a leader, and I gladly accept it," said Arrington, a second-year player who has battled injuries to stand out on the Redskins' injury-wracked defense. "I don't want to [waver] on that responsibility. But I know my role. Veterans have the first say. So I do what I do: I lead by my actions."
The Redskins' defense held on Carolina's next series and Washington got the ball back at its own 15 with 7:37 left. On the first play, Banks connected with Gardner for the 85-yard touchdown. Gardner was wide open deep down the left sideline after faking a post route, and he scored Washington's third offensive touchdown of the season.
"I knew I had to get out of that rookie mentality and start making plays," Gardner said. "I'm a big-play receiver. That's what I needed to do."
The defense held again and Washington drove 67 yards for Conway's first attempt to win. The kick flew barely outside the right upright, stunning the Redskins and remaining crowd, who thought the attempt was good.
Washington won the coin toss in overtime and needed just four plays to redeem itself. The second play was a 32-yard play-action completion to young fullback Bryan Johnson; the third an apparent 52-yard touchdown completion to Gardner. But Gardner was nicked by a Carolina defender as he rolled to the ground after the catch, and officials reversed their initial call of a touchdown and put Washington at the 5.
The celebrating Redskins were ushered back to the sideline to continue play, and Schottenheimer elected to go for the field goal immediately. He later explained that he wanted two things to not make an error before the attempt and to give Conway another shot to win.
Conway did.
"It's a win," Conway said. "No matter what people say in the media it's an ugly win, whatever. I missed a field goal. I made a field goal. And we won."

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