- The Washington Times - Monday, December 1, 2003

THE WASHINGTON TIMES

It was an impressive, albeit limited, day for Trung Canidate and the Washington Redskins’ running game.

Canidate took his second handoff 38 yards, his longest run of the season, and finished with 115 on the day. That performance made him the first Redskin this season to rush for at least 100 yards, part of a strong collective effort that saw Washington average a season-high 6.2 yards a carry.

If the Saints had trouble stopping Canidate, the Redskins didn’t.

Canidate got just 16 of Washington’s 26 total rushes. However, first-time starter Tim Hasselbeck had 42 pass attempts, 19 of which went incomplete and one of which was intercepted.

“Obviously when you look back, all those incompletions we should have been running the ball,” coach Steve Spurrier said. “But you’ve got to believe in your receivers and your quarterback.”

Spurrier, who reassumed play-calling duties from offensive coordinator Hue Jackson two weeks ago, has some history of leaning too heavily on the passing game. In a two-game stretch last season — at Jacksonville and in a driving rain storm at Giants Stadium — Spurrier called for 89 pass attempts. Running back Stephen Davis was critical of Spurrier after the loss to the Giants.

Last night tackle Jon Jansen seemed to be biting his tongue in the locker room when he was asked what the Redskins’ problem has been in recent weeks.

“What was our average per run?” Jansen asked reporters. “You earn [the right] to do things in this league. You earn the right to run the ball. You earn the right to do whatever it is. And then you’re not allowed to. It’s frustrating. It’s extremely frustrating.”

Canidate’s performance came with the running backs under scrutiny for 2004. The Redskins soon must decide whether they can go with Canidate or Ladell Betts (who returned from a fractured forearm to rush two times for 8 yards, and caught four passes for 46 yards) as the starter for next season. If they can’t chose one of them, then they must acquire a feature back in the draft or free agency.

Canidate, for his part, wished he could have gotten more than 16 carries.

“Definitely,” Canidate said. “I was feeling better. I was feeling good. The more carries, the better it is for a back. You get a feel for the game, and you’re able to pick and choose what you want to do.”

Champ proves costly

Cornerback Champ Bailey, the only Redskin to play in the past three Pro Bowls, shut down New Orleans receiver Joe Horn almost the entire game. Horn caught just two passes for 10 yards, but Bailey’s two pass interference penalties were instrumental on two of the Saints’ three touchdown drives.

The game was scoreless with 3:09 left in the first quarter when Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks went deep for Horn on first-and-10 from the New Orleans 16. Horn got a step on Bailey, who did the only thing he could to prevent a touchdown.

“[Horn] got by me and I did what I was supposed to do when you get beat on a deep ball,” Bailey said. “You grab the guy, beat him up and don’t let him catch it.”

Bailey’s second infraction came with the Redskins leading 17-10 with 1:30 to go in the third quarter. New Orleans drove from its 23 to the Washington 17. Deuce McAllister ran for just 2 yards on first down when Brooks looked for Horn on a slant-and-go. Horn went right into Bailey and the yellow flag went flying. Instead of third-and-8, it was first-and-goal at the 3. Brooks scored three plays later to tie the game.

“That was an [awful] call,” Bailey said of the second interference penalty. “I’m standing there holding my ground and the guy runs right into me. What am I supposed to do?”

Said Horn: “Champ’s a heck of a competitor. I had some opportunities, got a couple pass interference calls and sometimes they’re bigger than catches.”

Return on an investment

When the Redskins gave up a fifth-round draft pick to sign Chad Morton as a restricted free agent, they felt they were getting one of the NFL’s most-explosive return men, one capable of scoring a touchdown any time he touched the ball.

Thirteen games later, he finally hit paydirt.

Morton returned a kickoff 94 yards late in the second quarter, his first touchdown and the Redskins’ first non-offensive touchdown of the season.

“That’s what I was brought here to do, score some touchdowns, not just be average on returns,” said Morton, who was averaging 22.4 yards on kickoff returns this season. “It felt good to get one. It’s a big load off my shoulders, and I’m sure the other guys, too.”

With 2:24 to play in the first half, Morton took John Carney’s kickoff at the 6, ran up the middle and appeared to be stopped. He quickly broke out to the left, though, and raced down the sideline with teammate Patrick Johnson at his side all the way to the end zone.

“I’m so proud of those guys who were blocking,” Morton said. “They did a great job, and I finally got one. We’ve been taking a lot of heat from you guys, and we deserved it, because we really hadn’t done anything.”

Immediately after scoring, Morton ran toward the end zone stands, spotted his girlfriend, Tamara, and tossed her the ball, fulfilling a longtime promise.

Gardner gets hurt

Wide receiver Rod Gardner got speared in the forearm, which gave coach Steve Spurrier the opportunity to increase the playing time of backups Patrick Johnson and Taylor Jacobs.

Johnson and Jacobs already were moved up in the rotation due to No.3 Darnerien McCants being inactive with a knee bruise. The pair saw plenty of playing time in the second half and each finished with one catch, Jacobs’ for 14 yards and Johnson’s for 13.

After the game, Spurrier named Jacobs the one player he’d like to get more action in the season’s final four games. Now, the Redskins will closely evaluate players for 2004.

“I’m just waiting my turn,” Jacobs said. “Coach Spurrier is a great coach. He knows how to work everything out.”

Here we go again

Just when the Redskins thought they solved their penalty problem, they regressed to their old flag-happy selves.

On pace to break the NFL single-season record, Washington actually committed the fewest penalties in the league over the last three weeks. Yesterday, they were whistled eight times for 120 yards.

Cornerback Champ Bailey was the primary culprit, getting called twice for pass interference and another time for holding on a punt return.

Defensive end Regan Upshaw also committed a costly gaffe, picking up a roughing-the-passer penalty on Aaron Brooks’ third-quarter pass to Boo Williams. The infraction helped extend New Orleans’ game-tying drive.

Winey earns accolades

Brandon Winey’s first career start went remarkably well.

Filling in at left tackle for an injured Chris Samuels, Winey more than held his own against Saints right end Darren Howard. In fact, a Redskins offensive line that featured three reserves in Winey, left guard Derrick Dockery and center Lennie Friedman had one of its best games of the season. Washington did not allow a sack and averaged a whopping 6.2 yards a rush, earning the praise of their coach.

“The pass protection, I thought, was very good tonight,” Spurrier said. “Brandon Winey did a good job over there at left tackle, as well as the rest of the offensive line.”

Inactives

The Redskins’ inactives were running back Sultan McCullough, safety Andre Lott (ankle), center Larry Moore (foot), tackle Chris Samuels (knee), tight end Byron Chamberlain, wide receiver Cliff Russell and wide receiver Darnerien McCants (knee). Patrick Ramsey (foot) was the third quarterback.

David Elfin, Jody Foldesy, Mark Zuckerman

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