- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 29, 2005

Joe Gibbs liked how Santana Moss adjusted in mid-air to catch Patrick Ramsey’s pass.

Ramsey liked how Moss spun away from a tackle en route to a 72-yard touchdown in the Washington Redskins’ 35-20 win over the New York Giants on Saturday.

And Moss? Sure, the touchdown was great, but he liked how he was in single coverage. Finally.

For that, he gives running back Clinton Portis a big thank you.

“It’s great to have that kind of back because it takes pressure off of me,” Moss said. “Now I can notice the safeties are coming up to key on Clinton. Single coverage is a blessing for me.”

The Redskins (9-6) are on the cusp of their first playoff berth since the 1999 season — a win over Philadelphia on Sunday will clinch at least a wild card spot — and a major reason for their December resurgence has been Portis and Moss.

Portis’ streak of four consecutive 100-yard games (all Redskins victories) is one away from tying a 54-year-old club record and his 1,404 yards are 28 shy of Stephen Davis’ mark set in 2001. During the four-game winning streak, Portis has averaged 25.8 carries and 115.3 yards a game.

“It’s Clinton’s time,” Moss said.

Moss, who earned his first Pro Bowl berth last week, is having a career year (80 catches for 1,400 yards and nine touchdowns). He is 36 yards from tying Bobby Mitchell’s club record that has stood for 42 seasons and has taken advantage of Portis’ effectiveness to record 14 catches for 289 yards in the last three games.

“I love it,” Portis said. “I can’t control what we do, but when we run the ball, I know I’m in the game and I can have an effect.”

The Redskins are the only team in the league with a 1,400-yard rusher and a 1,400-yard receiver and one of only eight teams that have a running back and receiver above the 1,000-yard mark.

The best thing about the recent production from Moss and Portis is that it’s happening in the same games.

Early in the season, the Redskins offense was all about Moss. In the first five games, Moss had three 100-yard efforts and four touchdowns; Portis had no touchdowns. They combined for five touchdowns in the San Francisco victory.

During the 1-4 stretch that appeared to doom the Redskins’ playoff chances, Portis was plugging away but Moss was being neutralized, held to one touchdown and no 100-yard games.

The Giants game showed what a balanced offense can produce. New York’s defense had to account for Portis so it brought more defenders near the line of scrimmage. That opened things downfield for Moss, who had five catches for 160 yards and three touchdowns.

In the last two games, Moss has 233 yards on seven catches that have all been big — three touchdowns, two inside the opponent’s 5-yard line that led to touchdowns and two third-down conversions.

For the first time since 1999, the Redskins have scored 35 or more points in two straight games.

“Our backs were against the wall and that’s what we needed to do,” right tackle Jon Jansen said. “A week ago, we didn’t need that many points but you can never have too many points. We’ve been up by 21 points and lost in the fourth quarter before. We’re just trying to keep a good rhythm and we’re playing our best football at the right time.”

Only three times in the first 10 games did the Redskins have more rushing than passing attempts. The last five games, the Redskins have more running plays in every game — 190 rushes and 110 passes. The Redskins’ average of 135.5 rushing yards a game ranks fifth in the league and they have out-rushed their opponents 693-319 in the last four games.

“Teams have known all season we’re going to run the ball,” Portis said. “If you stick with it and keep pounding, it’s hard to stop because, eventually, teams will over-pursue and somebody won’t fill their gap. If you abandon the run, they don’t have to cover it. Once you become one-dimensional, you’re easy to stop. When you have two things working, even if you’re getting only 2, 3 yards on first down, that puts you in second-and-7 and gives you more options than second-and-10.”

Before the St. Louis game on Dec.4, Portis asked the coaches to put more of the offense on his shoulders. Naturally, he has implied the key to the winning streak has been putting additional responsibility on him and the offensive line.

To which Gibbs chuckled and said: “Clinton’s got a lot of opinions. He would like to have his own football team and call the plays. But we’re not going to do that right now. What he probably means is that we’re letting him do more things.”

By letting Portis do more things, Gibbs is also allowing Moss to do more things downfield and has the Redskins in position to play more games after Sunday.

“All of the things that go into winning football games, we seem to be doing right now,” quarterback Mark Brunell said.

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