- The Washington Times - Monday, September 10, 2007

This definitely wasn’t the start Jason Campbell imagined. The Washington Redskins quarterback was making the first season-opening start of his NFL career, and his first completion went to the other team.
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On the Redskins’ third play, Campbell threw the ball behind tight end Chris Cooley over the middle. Miami Dolphins safety Renaldo Hill picked off the pass and returned it 24 yards to the Washington 39-yard line.

“It was tough,” Campbell said. “I didn”t want to start my opener that way. [But] they always say it is not how you start, it is how you finish.”

The former first-round pick did not put up big passing numbers — 12-for-22 for 222 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions — but he looked comfortable and made big plays in crucial situations.

None was bigger than on the opening drive of overtime when the Redskins faced third-and-7 at their 43. The Dolphins blitzed, hoping to rattle the young quarterback, force a punt and get the ball back for a game-winning score.

Campbell, however, stayed poised and dumped the ball to Cooley over the middle for a 10-yard gain and a first down. Five plays later, Shaun Suisham kicked the game-winning field goal.

“When he got down the field on that third-and-7, that was big time,” guard Randy Thomas said.

The clutch completion was one of several creative plays Campbell made. He avoided the rush on third-and-2 midway through the fourth quarter, rolled out and found Antwaan Randle El for an 8-yard gain and a first down. Six plays later, Suisham kicked a field goal that put the Redskins up 13-10.

In the third quarter, Campbell connected on a 49-yard bomb to Randle El that set up the Redskins’ lone touchdown. Campbell showed his mobility by racing out of the pocket on third down for a 12-yard gain that kept a drive alive late in the third quarter.

Campbell did not exactly shine in his first opening start, but he did show enough to suggest a promising future.

“My goal today was to come out and attack and move the ball,” said Campbell, who started seven games late last season in relief of Mark Brunell. “I was able to get a couple scrambles in, and we got a couple hot reads, which was big. … It’s not always the big throws. Sometimes it’s the little throws that make the difference.”

A healthy return

Four-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle Chris Samuels, who missed all of the preseason with a sprained right knee, held up well against the Dolphins’ standout pass-rusher, Jason Taylor. Taylor picked up a sack, though he appeared to jump the snap. He otherwise was credited with one hurry and just three tackles.

“The knee held up great,” Samuels said. “It’s healed. I’m just going to keep the brace on it for a while. Conditioning-wise, I did a good job preparing myself, and I really didn’t get tired at all.”

Smoot drops the ball

Fred Smoot’s official return to Washington was eventful. Smoot started ahead of cornerback Shawn Springs, was thrown at most of the game and dropped a sure interception with 28 seconds left that likely would have resulted in a game-winning return for a touchdown.

“I was trying to run before I had the ball in my hand because I saw the [end] zone,” Smoot said. “Gotta say sorry to the Redskins fans. I put you through three or four minutes of drama. My fault.”

Smoot, however, denied that Dolphins receiver Chris Chambers got the better of him.

“They weren’t picking on me,” Smoot said. “They can’t throw deep, so they were going to throw hitches. Chambers is a good mixture of physical and athletic. I don’t have to talk about how high he can jump. He can run. We came out [of college] together, so we had to jaw at each other. I won, so I guess I get the last laugh.”

Suisham gets his kick

Shaun Suisham had never made a game-winning kick, not in high school, not in college, not in the pros before his 39-yarder in overtime gave the Redskins their victory.

“I had never attempted a game-winner,” said Suisham, who signed as a free agent late last season after the Redskins cut Nick Novak. “After years and years of talking about it in practice and working toward it, I couldn’t be more excited.”

The 25-year-old Bowling Green product finished a perfect 3-for-3 yesterday, also connecting on attempts from 36 and 44 yards.

Redskins coaches have so much confidence in Suisham that they chose to attempt the game-winning field goal on first down at the Dolphins 22.

“Once we get the ball inside the 30, we have all the confidence he is going to go out there and make the kick because he does it every day in practice,” Campbell said.

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