- The Washington Times - Monday, October 8, 2007

Call it the Giants Lesson. Regardless of how well the first half went for the Washington Redskins yesterday against the Detroit Lions, the mantra was don’t let up, keep doing the things that went right and, above all, don’t get complacent.

The whiteboard inside Washington’s locker room read “FINISH!”

Two weeks ago, the Redskins didn’t, squandering a two-touchdown lead in a loss to the New York Giants. In a key game against the Lions yesterday, Washington again built a 14-point lead, but this time there was no subsequent letdown.

In arguably their most impressive win since Joe Gibbs returned in 2004, the Redskins dismantled Detroit 34-3 to head into their schedule’s toughest stretch (five road games in seven weeks) with a 3-1 record and without lingering memories of the loss to the Giants.

“We wanted to see how we would respond and see what we learned from two weeks ago,” quarterback Jason Campbell said. “We handled the situation.”

Handled the situation and handled the Lions (3-2), who came to town after beating defending NFC champion Chicago. The margin of victory was the Redskins’ largest since a 52-17 win over San Francisco in October 2005.

“The last game was a bitter disappointment for us,” Gibbs said. “I really felt like this game would go down to the wire like our first three, but some things happened that gave us an opportunity.”

A laundry list of things produced the rout: A career day by Campbell (23-for-29 for 248 yards and two touchdowns). A seven-catch first half by Antwaan Randle El. Two touchdowns by fullback Mike Sellers. A defensive performance that held Detroit 243 yards below its season average. Interceptions by Sean Taylor and Carlos Rogers, who returned his for a 61-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter. And five sacks, including a safety by Andre Carter.

The second half was just as good as the first. Leading 14-0 at halftime after Chris Cooley’s 7-yard touchdown catch and Sellers’ 1-yard run, the Redskins scored the game’s final 20 points and never allowed Lions quarterback Jon Kitna to get untracked.

“We came out strong and kept on hammering them,” center Casey Rabach said.

Hammered them offensively — 5.7 yards a snap and touchdown drives of 80 and 83 yards.

Hammered them defensively — Detroit punted on its first five possessions and gained only 81 yards in the first three quarters.

And hammered them on special teams — James Thrash’s 62-yard punt return set up a fourth-quarter touchdown.

“We never let them get the momentum,” defensive end Phillip Daniels said.

Campbell generated his own mojo by completing his first five passes.

During the week, associate head coach-offense Al Saunders set two mandates: a 62 percent completion rate for Campbell and more yards a catch by the receivers. Both goals were met. Campbell, who entered the game completing 52.4 percent of his passes this season, connected on a career-best 79.3 and also set career marks in completions, yards and passer rating (125.3). And the receivers made things happen post-catch.

To help Campbell settle in, Saunders called several short and intermediate passes.

“Coach Saunders did an outstanding job getting me into a rhythm early,” Campbell said. “That’s probably the best I’ve felt. I felt like I grew a lot today.”

Said Saunders: “Jason did an excellent job managing the situations, and that’s part of his growth and development. He’ll have speed bumps where he won’t do as well as he did today, but the way he’s growing is encouraging for everybody.”

Campbell’s biggest throw came late in the first half. On fourth-and-2 from the Detroit 38, Campbell hurled a dart to Randle El, who had gotten open with an inside move on defensive back Stanley Wilson. Randle El was tackled at the 1, and Sellers scored on the next play to make it 14-0.

“It was the same kind of route we ran on the first play of the game — 2 Quick,” Saunders said. “We felt like we could get inside of their corners. It was a short drop for Jason — punch and pivot — and he was accurate with the throw.”

Randle El had seven catches for 100 yards before leaving with a hamstring injury. Without Randle El and Santana Moss (groin), Campbell eventually completed passes to eight receivers, including wideouts Keenan McCardell and Brandon Lloyd.

“Hopefully, that’s what we can be, a team that spreads the ball around and you never know who it’s going to,” said Cooley, who had four catches.

The Redskins’ defense took a similar approach as the offense — rarely taking chances and relying on a four-man pass rush to harass Kitna.

Instead of sending a five-, six- or seven-man rush, assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams used a coverage-oriented game plan. Coupled with puzzling play calls by Lions guru Mike Martz, the result was domination.

Detroit entered having scored at least 20 points in each game, eclipsing 390 yards three times and averaging a league-high 312.9 yards passing. The Lions limped home with only 144 yards of offense, including 106 passing.

The next seven weeks will produce more tests for the Redskins’ defense with trips to division leaders Green Bay, New England, Dallas and Tampa Bay.

“In the first half, we played well, we tackled well as a defense and put pressure [on Kitna] with our front four,” Williams said. “Those are the single most important things we had to do, and we did it.”

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