- The Washington Times - Monday, September 12, 2005

Style and form were not the priorities yesterday at FedEx Field, not after last season — or the previous ones, for that matter. In the National Football League, it’s not how you play the game so much as whether you win or lose.

The Washington Redskins failed to score a touchdown yesterday at FedEx Field, but still beat the Chicago Bears, 9-7, to get their 2005 season and year 2 under Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs off to a successful, if inartistic, start.

Given that the Redskins went 6-10 during Gibbs’ return to the sidelines last season for their fifth straight, nonwinning, nonplayoff season, the coaches, players and most of those among the 90,138 in attendance will take it.

“A win’s a win,” Redskins guard Randy Thomas said, echoing the sentiment of just about everybody present. “Believe me, the points are gonna come.”

Maybe, maybe not. The Redskins didn’t score much last season, and despite new additions to the offense and a supposedly more wide-open system installed by Gibbs and his staff, things did not look much different.

Besides, anyone looking for an indication of how the rest of the season will go should be forewarned. The Redskins have won four straight season openers at home. But in the prior three years, their combined record was 18-30.

The game resembled 2004 for the Redskins. Washington had trouble moving the ball, despite 121 yards from running back Clinton Portis, all but 35 in the second half. The defense was stout. And, quarterback issues were raised. After getting tackled around the neck, starter Patrick Ramsey left the game for good with 9:23 left in the second quarter, replaced by Mark Brunell. Last year, it was Ramsey stepping in for Brunell in the ninth game of the season.

Naturally, the first postgame question concerned the quarterback situation.

“I don’t know,” Gibbs said. “I’ll just have to see how this all shakes out.”

The Redskins’ next game is next Monday night on the road against their archrivals, the Dallas Cowboys.

The Bears, for their part, play solid defense, too. But they also ranked dead last in offense last season. Starting a rookie quarterback, Kyle Orton, in place of the injured Rex Grossman, did not help prospects for improvement.

Orton wasn’t terrible, but the Bears managed just 166 yards, almost exactly half the Redskins’ total. The only reason they scored the game’s only touchdown was because Redskins kick returner Antonio Brown fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half.

Otherwise, Chicago stumbled and sputtered throughout, reaching a comical low point late in the fourth quarter when, needing just a field goal to take the lead, they had three straight false-start penalties, followed by a sack of Orton.

“We just came unglued,” said Orton, a fourth-round draft pick from Purdue.

The Redskins’ blitzing defense gave Orton something to think about as he approached the line of scrimmage, causing confusion. It also was loud, making it hard for Orton’s teammates to hear his signals. Even though the crowd fell a few thousand short of a sellout, it was still the largest in the NFL.

“That was FedEx Field the way I sure remember it,” Gibbs said, apparently confusing it with the boisterous crowds at RFK Stadium, where Gibbs coached during his first term, from 1981 through 1992.

RFK is where the baseball Nationals now play and where they lost by the same score, 9-7, as the Redskins’ victory.

“We kept slugging,” Gibbs said. “That’s about all you can say from our side. I was proud of our guys.”

“These are the games that make football a great sport,” said Redskins linebacker Warrick Holdman, “when there’s two teams fighting for their lives.”

It should be noted that by virtue of being a linebacker, Holdman plays defense.

Before the game and at halftime, as elsewhere around the league, the NFL noted the fourth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Pop singers Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey sang “God Bless America” during pre-game ceremonies. Also, the Redskins announced that they collected $63,000 from fans for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

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