- The Washington Times - Monday, September 25, 2006

HOUSTON — Clinton Portis was back yesterday. It was impossible not to notice.

Portis ran the ball, caught passes, scored touchdowns and involved himself in controversy in his first start of the season, forcing the Houston Texans’ defense, fans and the officials to acknowledge his presence at Reliant Stadium.

The running back, who played a backup role against Minnesota in Week 1 and didn’t play at all last week against Dallas, rushed for 86 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries and caught two passes for 78 yards.

Portis returned from a partially dislocated left shoulder suffered in August and a minor rotator cuff injury sustained against Minnesota. He played a big part in a Redskins offense that started rolling for the first time this season in a 31-15 defeat of the Houston Texans.

“We needed this,” Portis said. “It keeps our hopes alive, and we’ve got a big game coming up next week [against Jacksonville]. We can get right back at .500.”

Big plays were Portis’ weapon of choice in his return.

The Texans skated downfield on a four-play, 66-yard touchdown drive on their first possession to take a 7-0 lead. The Redskins then found themselves on their 13-yard line facing third-and-6. Quarterback Mark Brunell connected with Portis on a shovel pass that he stretched into a 74-yard gain. After two runs by Ladell Betts, the Redskins tied the score.

“That kind of gave us the tempo,” Portis said. “Now we’re back at 7-7. We’re not behind the eight-ball.”

The Redskins, leading 14-7, seemed ready to settle for a field goal attempt at the end of the first half. Enter Portis again. On second-and-6 at the Houston 30, Portis ran up the middle through a huge hole to score. Thanks to what Portis described as gutsy play-calling, the Redskins entered halftime with a two-touchdown lead.

“Anytime Clinton gets the ball in his hands, you expect big things,” center Casey Rabach said. “Everybody just kind of did the right thing at the right time. They just had five guys in the box, and our wide receivers were blocking their butts off on the outside. Then great things happened for us.”

Portis gave the credit to Rabach for breaking open the touchdown run.

“Casey made a great block on a linebacker, and I followed him through,” Portis said. “Once he got me through to the second level, it was downhill from there.”

Portis even got the referees involved in his comeback party when he dropped the football in an attempt to reach for the end zone in the third quarter. The ball bounced out of bounds past the goal line, and the officials ruled the play a touchback. The Redskins challenged the call, and the officials upon review ruled Portis down at the 1-yard line.

Portis took the ball into the end zone on the next play, putting the Redskins up 28-7 with 5:35 left in the third quarter.

Portis found his old form comedy-wise, as well — especially when the subject was the single-game record of 22 consecutive completed passes by Brunell.

“The only time I really got nervous was when I looked up and saw Mark was 18-for-18 and I was praying we didn’t call a pass play to me so I could [mess] it up,” Portis said. “Other than that, I felt great.”

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