- The Washington Times - Monday, September 12, 2005

Mark Brunell is the former (last year) and perhaps future (next week) starting quarterback of the Washington Redskins.

Yesterday, however, Brunell proved to be an admirable backup in the Redskins’ 9-7 season-opening win over the Chicago Bears.

Entering the game early in the second quarter when Patrick Ramsey was injured by Lance Briggs’ wicked hit, Brunell led three scoring drives (all field goals) and passed for 70 yards.

Brunell played the entire second half, even after Ramsey was cleared to return.

“You don’t expect your starter to go down, particularly that early,” Brunell said.

In a scoreless game, the Redskins used a 36-yard pass interference penalty on Nathan Vasher to set up the field goal that gave them a 3-0 lead. Brunell’s deep ball was intended for Santana Moss, but Vasher interfered and made the negated interception.

“I have to talk to Coach Gibbs. If he’s going to put me in there off the bench, he can’t have me throwing 50-yard bombs without warming up,” Brunell said, joking.

Brunell also made the key play on the Redskins’ second scoring drive, a 23-yard pass to Chris Cooley. Brunell’s sneak on fourth-and-1 kept the final scoring drive alive, a series on which he later hit Robert Royal for 11 yards down to the Bears 7.

But his biggest throw came in the final five minutes. Protecting the lead, Brunell faced a third-and-5 from his own 28. He dropped the shotgun snap but recovered to find Moss for a 15-yard gain.

The Redskins didn’t score, but they did take crucial time off the clock. The Bears took possession with only 1:43 remaining.

“It was a low snap and I saw the blitz and anticipated a guy coming free,” Brunell said. “I stayed on the move and saw [Moss] one-on-one outside and found him on an inside-breaking route.”

Said Moss of the dropped snap: “I was wondering what took so long. I didn’t know what was going on. I was like, ‘Hurry up, man.’ I’m just thankful to be on the other end to make a play for him.”

Brunell’s longest completion was 23 yards, but he was encouraged by the Redskins’ attempts to throw downfield. Ramsey’s 52-yard connection to Moss was longer than any completion last season.

“We talked about that all offseason, all preseason about getting the ball down the field, and it was something lacking last year,” Brunell said. “We would have liked to hit more, but Chicago always plays one or two safeties back and we didn’t expect a whole bunch against them.”

Portis pounds to 121

Redskins running back Clinton Portis had his share of short gains, but he ground his way to a 121-yard effort and averaged an impressive 5.8 yards per carry.

Portis’ 41-yard run on the final play of the third quarter was his second-longest as a Redskin (he scored on a 64-yard touchdown run in last year’s season opener).

“It was extremely tough and hard fought. You were fighting for every inch rushing,” coach Joe Gibbs said. “They talked about stopping the run and had a good scheme. But I was proud of Clinton. He was getting rocked and socked and kept on pounding.”

Portis has six 100-yard rushing games with the Redskins and 24 in his career. He was most effective against the Bears on delays up the middle, but the designed sweep plays didn’t appear to be a major part of the game plan.

“Early on, we had a couple of negative runs, but we knew we would eventually wear them down,” Portis said. “I knew the offensive line would open holes up like they did all preseason.”

Jansen breaks other thumb

Playing his first regular-season game since December 2003, Redskins right tackle Jon Jansen sustained a broken right thumb to go along with the left thumb he broke in practice last week.

Jansen will practice this week with the same kind of cast on both thumbs and is expected to play against Dallas.

Before heading into the training room for X-rays, Jansen said of his return: “It was tremendous, even more exciting than my rookie year because I knew so much more about what was important to me and the team means so much more to me now. I’m so happy to be back.”

Taylor plays receiver

Safety Sean Taylor played two snaps at receiver.

“Sean is huge with a big wing-span and he has fantastic hands,” Gibbs said. “I’ve said he could play receiver and running back before, and we’re trying to use him. Any expanded role for him as a receiver may be something we continue to work with. He can physically overpower people.”

Taylor had four tackles and one pass break-up on defense. He also played most special teams and had a 15-yard penalty on kickoff coverage.

Points, then pain

John Hall scored all of Washington’s points, kicking field goals of 40, 43 and 19 yards. The latter, with 2:54 to go in the third quarter, proved to be the game-winner.

However, Hall strained a quadriceps on the subsequent kickoff, and trainer Bubba Tyer said he could miss at least this week.

“We’ll have to see how it is tomorrow,” said Hall, who missed eight games last year with quad and groin injuries. “I get paid a lot to kick three field goals. That’s my job.”

Yes, but it could be Jeff Chandler’s, at least temporarily, as soon as today. Chandler took over for the final three games of 2004 and was in training camp this summer before getting released.

Bad hands

Antonio Brown won the Redskins’ return job with a great offseason, but Brown averaged just 5.7 yards on punt returns and 17.1 on kickoff returns in preseason.

Now, Brown’s job could be in jeopardy after he fumbled the second half kickoff, setting up the Bears’ only points.

“I was getting upfield trying to get 25 or 30 yards and [the Bears’ Brendon Ayanbadejo] came in and made a good play,” Brown said. “Your heart is at the bottom of your feet, especially when they score, but you’ve got to have a short memory in this game.

“As of now, I’m still here. I’ll take it day by day and hour by hour.”

Ladell Betts returned the next kickoff by the Bears, but Brown returned the only remaining punt.

Under the knife?

Defensive tackle Brandon Noble, who hurt his left knee during Thursday’s practice, was listed as inactive for yesterday’s game.

Safety Ryan Clark (knee), linebacker Chris Clemons (hamstring), receiver Taylor Jacobs, defensive end Nic Clemons, offensive lineman Jim Molinaro, running back Nehemiah Broughton and third quarterback Jason Campbell also were listed as inactive.

Noble, who missed all of 2003 following reconstructive surgery on that knee, is going to see the doctor who performed that operation tomorrow in Charlotte, N.C.

“I’ve got some cartilage damage and we’ll decide what to do after this [third] opinion,” Noble said. “The nice thing is that we have the bye week after Dallas, so if I have to get it scoped, I can be back after the bye. But hopefully, I won’t have to get anything done.”

Sweet revenge

Redskins defensive end Phillip Daniels was cut by the Bears in March 2004 after four seasons. Daniels missed last year’s victory in Chicago because of an injured groin, but he started yesterday, made two tackles and deflected two passes, including the second of Kyle Orton’s career.

“That was a good one for me,” Daniels said. “I didn’t go in with a grudge, but I wanted to play well. It was fun. [Bears safety] Mike Green bet me before the game. He owes me dinner.”


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