- The Washington Times - Monday, December 18, 2006

NEW ORLEANS — Phillip Daniels knew the Washington Redskins’ situation — a six-point lead over the New Orleans Saints — and he knew the defense’s recent history — an inability to make key plays at key times.

But still, Daniels, the Redskins’ veteran defensive end, felt confident as the Saints readied for a fourth-and-7 play from the 15-yard line with 61 seconds remaining.

“I looked at the guys and said, ‘This is it. Get off the field or we’ll lose,’ ” Daniels said. “And for the first time in a long time, when they looked back at me, I saw confidence in each of their eyes. That’s how we have to be all the time.”

That’s not how the defense has played for most of the Redskins’ disappointing season. But for at least one game, they reverted back to their 2004-05 form, holding on for a 16-10 upset when cornerback Carlos Rogers broke up Drew Brees’ final pass in the end zone.

The win broke the Redskins’ latest two-game losing streak, included Ladell Betts’ fourth consecutive 100-yard rushing game, gave quarterback Jason Campbell his first road win, featured Rogers’ first interception of an otherwise forgettable sophomore season and put a dent into New Orleans’ hopes of gaining a first-round playoff bye.

“Everything that’s happened to us this year and to come in here against an excellent football team and play like we did, I’m really proud,” coach Joe Gibbs said. “Heart and fight. That’s what it was about for us. It was a pride game. The guys stood up and played hard.”

The Redskins (5-9) never trailed New Orleans (9-5), which clinched the NFC South title with Atlanta’s loss Saturday night and Carolina’s loss to Pittsburgh yesterday and entered as the NFL’s hottest team with a combined 107 points and 1,338 yards during three straight wins.

But despite their game-long sluggishness, the Saints were in position to win in the fourth quarter. Brees converted a fourth-and-5 with a 7-yard completion and a third-and-10 with a 16-yard completion to move into Redskins territory. After a quick throw to Reggie Bush gained 15 yards, New Orleans was at the Redskins 19. The next three plays netted 3 yards, setting up the fourth-down play.

Brees had time to throw, but Rogers blanketed Terrance Copper in the end zone, breaking up the pass. The Redskins broke up nine passes, tying a season high.

“They understood they were in a fist-fight clear to the end,” assistant head coach Gregg Williams said. “They enjoyed the fact it was going to come down to them. They wanted to feel that [pressure] of, ‘Look, we’ll have to win this game.’ ”

Said safety Troy Vincent: “Guys took turns making plays — from the defensive line to the linebackers to the secondary. The chemistry is something you work on constantly, and on a good defense, guys rise up in different series to make stops.”

New Orleans’ 270 yards total were the team’s fewest of the season and 140.6 below its league-leading average. Brees was an ordinary 21-for-38 for 207 yards. Bush was a nonfactor, with his 12 touches resulting in only 33 yards.

“They’ve got so many weapons that what we talked about was scrambling around, flying to the ball and how it would be the second or third guy making the play and that’s what it was,” Gibbs said.

The Redskins jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. Their first drive was eight plays and 52 yards, ending in a 37-yard Shaun Suisham field goal. Later in the quarter, Campbell threw 44 yards to Chris Cooley on third-and-5 and, on the next play, found Santana Moss for a 31-yard touchdown.

Moss used a double move to get past Mike McKenzie, and Saints defensive back Fred Thomas was a split-second late in help coverage.

“It was something we had been practicing all year,” Moss said. “It was a play we’ve seen can work if it’s called at the right time. I emphasized to Jason that when I do get 1-on-1 coverage and it’s a play where he feels I can beat my guy, just trust me.”

Campbell was 13-for-28 for 204 yards and improved to 2-3 as the Redskins’ starter.

“When you can make mistakes but still win, it makes it a lot easier to learn,” quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor said.

Said Gibbs: “Each week is a new chapter for him. Today, he made some plays and missed some things he would like to have back. It’s a growing process, and getting a win on the road for him is a huge deal. You don’t get any tougher than this place. It was an experience you can’t just hand to somebody. They have to experience it.”

Betts also is experiencing new things as a professional. An unproven starter when he replaced Clinton Portis last month, Betts is 67 yards away from 1,000 for the season.

Thanks to Betts (22 carries, 119 yards) and the running game, the Redskins led 13-10 entering the fourth quarter when Rogers intercepted Brees at the Redskins 35.

Playing with passion and purpose despite being out of the playoff race, the Redskins broke a four-game road losing streak in which they were outscored by 14.1 points a contest.

“It’s a testimony to the guys,” Gibbs said. “Everybody knows when there’s a lot on the line that you play hard, and that’s a given. But to be in a situation where you know you’re not going anywhere but to still practice and play hard, that shows you they have a great attitude and have a lot of pride. That’s what showed up today.”

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