- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2008


Maybe it’s just an aberration, a momentary uptick for an offense that in recent weeks seemed to have lost its way. The Seahawks’ defense, after all, ain’t exactly the 2000 Ravens. Lots of teams have padded their stats this season against Seattle.

Still, in the second half of Sunday’s 20-17 victory at the Qwest Field echo chamber, Jason Campbell and Co. began to look like they did back in September and October, holding the ball for long stretches - 11 plays, 10 plays, 11 plays - and hammering away with Clinton Portis, the NFL’s leading rusher.

Their final numbers looked very familiar: 143 yards rushing for Portis, an interception-free game from Campbell, possession time of 38 minutes, 27 seconds and, oh yes, just enough points to win. It was a formula that had staked the Redskins to a 6-2 start, and it was a formula that helped them subdue the Seahawks - and make Jim Zorn’s Seattle homecoming a happy one.

“It felt like [it did early in] the season,” said Campbell, an efficient 20-for-33 for 206 yards and a touchdown. “We were moving the ball very well and grinding it out at the end.”

Zorn attributed it to the offense’s ability to run the ball on first down, which “makes second down easier. It gives you a choice. You can run the ball again and get those third-and-shorts and third-and-mediums and stay away from third-and-long.”

In their previous two games against the Steelers and Cowboys, the Redskins had been pretty well stuffed on first down. That enabled both teams to dial up the pressure on Campbell - and to put him on his back much more than he was used to.

But on Sunday, the Washington offensive line decided enough was enough. As Pete Kendall put it, “When you can’t run it on first down, the defense can dictate to an offense what can happen, and it becomes very hard to move the ball - as you’ve witnessed. … It looked today, though, like [Portis] might have had a crease or two that he hasn’t had recently.”

Campbell also had some extra time back in the pocket to throw long. He didn’t hit any big ones, but he kept the defense from creeping up too much.

“That was big,” he said. “One time, the only reason I was able to wait for Santana [Moss] to come across the field [for a 24-yard gain] was that I had the protection.”

Let’s face it, this was a game the Redskins simply couldn’t afford to lose, not with the NFC playoff picture getting so crowded. It’s one thing to get beat by quality clubs like the Steelers and Cowboys, even at home. It’s another to drop one to a 2-8 Seahawks team playing for little more than drafting position.

“We needed this win baaaaad,” Randy Thomas said. “It had been too long - almost a month. We lose to Pittsburgh, sit around during bye week, come back and lose again [to Dallas] …”

Even so, the Redskins managed to be trailing 10-7 at halftime, thanks to a field goal attempt that hit the crossbar and a 72-yard Seattle TD drive late in the second quarter. Zorn was trying everything, too. He was throwing to blocking back Mike Sellers (four catches for 30 yards). He was doing his darnedest to get the ball to just-activated rookie Malcolm Kelly. He was essentially emptying out his playbook in hopes of getting the offense going again. And yet all it produced in the first 30 minutes was seven points.

That made the second half the most important half of the season thus far for the Redskins. And to their credit, they answered the call. Their first series led to a game-tying field goal, their second to a go-ahead touchdown (Campbell flipping a 2-yard pass to Antwaan Randle El) and their third - after the Seahawks had tied it at 17-17 - to Shaun Suisham’s 22-yard game-winner with 9:19 left.

(They were in position to score on their next series as well, but Ladell Betts fumbled at the Seattle 22 not long after the two-minute warning. Fortunately for Betts, Shawn Springs, back in action after a four-week absence, closed the deal on the very next play by picking off a deep ball intended for Koren Robinson.)

Thus did the Redskins climb to 7-4 and keep pace with the Cowboys and Falcons in the Great Playoff Chase. With the Giants (here) and Ravens (there) next on the schedule, Washington’s two-game skid could easily have become a five-game freefall if it hadn’t found a way to win Sunday.

The victory came at a price, though. Portis, for instance, appeared even more banged-up than usual as he dissected the day’s events afterward. “I got blood running down both my legs, both my arms,” he said. “You sure I don’t got no black eye?”

Nope, no black eye. But a defeat at the hands of the last-place Seahawks certainly would have been one. The Redskins ducked that punch, though - barely. Now we’ll see, with the defending Super Bowl champs coming to town, how many more rounds they’ve got left in them.

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