- The Washington Times - Monday, October 2, 2006

The Redskins’ offensive line is an easy target because, well, most of the guys live like sheikhs and easily could afford multiple wives. Chris Samuels, Jon Jansen and Randy Thomas are all among the best-paid players at their positions — and are expected to play like some of the best-paid players at their positions.

They didn’t, of course, in the first two weeks of the season, when the Redskins lost at home to the Vikings and then got pushed around in Dallas. Their run blocking was below standards — even accounting for the absence of Clinton Portis — and their pass blocking was potentially hazardous to Mark Brunell’s health. Granted, Brunell wasn’t reminding anyone of Sammy Baugh, but on Joe Gibbs’ teams everything begins Up Front.

Yesterday, though, against one of the NFL’s top defenses, the O-line was at its absolute nastiest. You don’t gain 481 yards and score 36 points against the Jacksonville Jaguars by being nice about it. Indeed, a forearm to the throat is the preferred method for slowing down John Henderson, Marcus Stroud and Co. — that and the occasional kick in the shins.

Rest assured the Redskins were plenty physical in their 36-30 overtime victory against the Jags, an absolutely essential win that keeps hope alive in Snyderland. The stat sheet didn’t include a bruise count, but it did credit Washington with 152 yards rushing and zero sacks allowed, which is pretty much the same thing.

Jansen called it “a prideful game for our offensive line. We were told by just about everybody that we couldn’t run the ball on this team. We wanted to show that we’re a force to be reckoned with on the ground and in the air, and I think we did that. Today we got to use all of our weapons, and as you can see we have a lot of weapons in this offense.”

Weapons like Santana Moss, who broke touchdowns of 55 and 68 yards, the latter the game-winner in OT. Weapons like Clinton Portis, who went over 100 yards rushing for the first time this year. Weapons like Chris Cooley (34-yard gain), Brandon Lloyd (34-yard gain) and here-there-and-everywhere Antwaan Randle El. The Redskins weren’t getting maximum out of those weapons in the early going, but they are now — now that the line is giving Portis and Ladell Betts room to run and Brunell time to find an open receiver.

The O-line was so determined to beat the Jaguars that Thomas was basically playing on one leg at the end. According to Joe Gibbs, the hobbled right guard told the coaches he couldn’t pull anymore on running plays, so they “had to run a bunch of plays where he didn’t pull” — and still managed to drive for the winning score. The first play of overtime set the tone — a 15-yard gain by Portis around right end, his longest of the day. Two plays later, Moss was being mobbed in the end zone.

“All week long Randy’s been struggling with that hamstring,” Chris Samuels said, “but he has so much heart. He’ll slug with us through thick and thin. This line has had some growing pains, some ups and downs, but we’re definitely playing at a high level now. A game like this makes a statement to the rest of the league. Jacksonville had been shutting people down.”

At the outset, it was almost as if the Redskins didn’t believe themselves that they could go up and down the field on the Jaguars. In the first half, they kept resorting to trickery — a flea-flicker, a trio of gadget plays for Randle El — none of it amounting to much. In the second half, though, the offense just began taking it to the Jags, going 86 yards and then 71 to open a 27-17 lead.

As Jansen put it, “We were able to hit on some passes and keep [the safeties] from coming up to help against the run.” And running the ball enabled them to hit some more passes — including the one that sent the FedEx faithful home happy.

Make no mistake: It was up to the offense to win this game. The defense, at this stage, just isn’t capable of it. Gregg Williams’ unit couldn’t hold a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, and Coach Joe was understandably “prayin’ that it wouldn’t go to overtime.” Whoever won the coin toss figured to win the game.

It wound up being the Redskins … to their eternal relief. Now they can head to New York feeling a lot better about themselves and their offense. Good thing, because the offense is probably going to have to keep carrying them — at least until Shawn Springs comes back to save the secondary, and possibly longer than that.

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