- The Washington Times - Monday, September 22, 2008

There was some uncertainty about just where the ball struck Washington Redskinscornerback Leigh Torrence. Even Torrence himself wasn’t sure.

“I think it tipped my helmet and bounced off my hand also,” he said.

Said cornerback Carlos Rogers: “It probably hit his helmet or something. Back shoulder.”

According to the replay, the pass from Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner appeared to hit Torrence, who was covering receiver Steve Breaston, in the upper back.

But the location didn’t matter. What did matter is that, with the score tied early in the fourth quarter Sunday at FedEx Field, Torrence, who appeared to be beaten down the middle, caught up to Breaston.

“I saw the ball at the last minute and jumped up,” Torrence said. “I knew I was gonna deflect it. I just didn’t know how.”

The ball bounced high, and Rogers swooped in to pick it off just before it hit the ground. Rogers was covering Larry Fitzgerald, one of the Cardinals’ Pro Bowl receivers. But he had help from safety Chris Horton, and when Fitzgerald broke on his route, Rogers knew he was needed elsewhere.

“My eyes took me inside, and I could see that Leigh was catching up to his guy,” Rogers said. “Leigh tipped the ball, and I was there to get the pick.”

For a player whose hands have been questioned, it was a difficult catch, which he returned 42 yards to the Arizona 15-yard line. Two plays later, quarterback Jason Campbell threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss with 12:18 remaining, and the Redskins hung on to beat the Cardinals 24-17.

The Cardinals had erased deficits of 10-0 and 17-10 to tie the game and had a chance to go ahead. But the turnover represented what cornerback Fred Smoot calls “Big Brother Ball,” that is, the defense helping the offense by getting the ball back in good field position.

“That was big,” Rogers said. “They had the momentum. That play was a big swing.”

Warner, the two-time league MVP who led the 1999 St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl championship, has been reborn in the desert. He came in as the second-rated passer in the NFL, largely a function of his two receivers, Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.

Clearly, as with every Cardinals opponent, they would be the focal points.

“If the Cardinals are gonna beat us, don’t let them beat us with Nos. 11 and 81,” Smoot said. “Besides that big, long catch Fitzgerald had, I think we pretty much did that. We pretty much kept them quiet.”

Fitzgerald’s “big, long catch” went for 62 yards and tied the game at 17-17 with 1:53 left in the third quarter.

It was more of a mental than a physical breakdown. The Redskins were in a Cover-2 defense, “a high-school, two-deep coverage,” defensive coordinator Greg Blache said, and “we just blew it.”

That happened when safety Reed Doughty, anticipating a different route by Fitzgerald, came up too far and found himself out of position. Doughty was yanked from the lineup after that, only to be absolved by Rogers’ interception.

“I loved seeing Carlos get the pick,” Doughty said. “I keep telling people he’s got good hands. He just has to prove it.”

Fitzgerald had seven receptions for 109 yards, but the damage was minimal minus the big play. Boldin had just three catches for 25 yards.

The Redskins mixed and disguised their coverages, a must against the likes of Warner “because if you give him the same look he’ll pick you apart,” Rogers said. “They got some plays on us, but we came back and adjusted.”

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