- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 28, 2008

He had the Cowboys on their heels. He had brought the Redskins within 28-23 on a 74-yard touchdown march and now had them on the Dallas 19 with two minutes still to go. But that’s when quarterback Jason Campbell threw a third-down interception that sealed the loss last Nov. 17, Washington’s 11th in its last 12 visits to Texas Stadium.

On Sunday, Campbell and the Redskins (2-1) have one last shot to win at the stadium, which the Cowboys (3-0) will abandon for new, bigger digs in 2009. And as he prepared for his 24th start, Campbell is playing as well as ever, thanks in part to a lesson he learned that afternoon.

“It was my first year as a starter, and we moved the ball pretty good,” Campbell said. “Two plays before that I missed a touchdown to Santana [Moss] by 2 or 3 inches. You never know which play is going to be the one that decides the game. I learned from that pick. You’re trying to make a play, but you can’t force the ball in, especially late in the game when there’s not a lot of separation between the receiver and the cornerback.”

There’s not much separating Campbell from the elite quarterbacks this season. His 100.1 passer rating ranks seventh in the NFC. And Campbell is the only quarterback who has thrown as many as 64 passes this season without an interception.

“In this game, quarterback play is at a premium,” Redskins coach Jim Zorn said. “These past two weeks, we’ve executed better and been successful. One of the things that’s happening with Jason … is he’s playing in a disciplined fashion. He’s playing aggressive and smart and it’s been making a difference. Last week, [Jason] saw something we never practiced [against] and he got us into a really good play. He’s playing the game. He’s not just running plays. That makes a real difference if the quarterback is taking charge enough to play the game and not just run the plays.”

Although Campbell is still mastering Zorn’s West Coast passing scheme, the third offense of his four-year tenure, his teammates see a change in the 26-year-old.

“We have confidence in Jason,” receiver Antwaan Randle El said. “We know we can win with Jason, and we know we can win in Dallas. We had a chance last year until that pick. Jason is a better quarterback than he was then. He’s playing as well as ever has. He’s grown in the way we won these past two games. It’s good that we won the way we did going into Dallas.”

Campbell followed a stagnant opening loss at the Super Bowl champion New York Giants by rallying the Redskins from a l9-point deficit to beat the New Orleans Saints with two fourth-quarter touchdowns. The next week he topped the Arizona Cardinals with another late scoring strike. His fourth-quarter numbers in those games - 13-of-14, 238 yards and two touchdowns - add up to a perfect 158.3 rating.

“The way we won the last two games is a confidence-builder,” Campbell said. “Coach keeps attacking no matter what the situation is. We play to win. In the past, we might’ve run the ball to run some clock and let our defense stop them to win. The last two weeks, we got those first downs [on passes] so as an offense we could run out the clock. That’s big.”

Putting together the first three-game winning streak of his career and beating the Cowboys, who own the NFL’s top-ranked offense, would be much bigger. Dallas is 16-4 since the start of last season and is favored to win the Super Bowl.

Campbell’s lone NFC East victory came in Week 2 last year against Philadelphia, which missed the playoffs. The other quarterbacks who have played for Washington during his career - Patrick Ramsey, Mark Brunell and Todd Collins - all beat Dallas.

“Any time you can get a winning streak going is big,” Campbell said. “Last year we won our first two games and we were beating the Giants 17-3. They were 0-2, but they ended up winning that game and their whole season turned around. Our season went the other way. That just goes to show you. I don’t think winning or losing this game will change how my teammates and coaches think about me. I know they believe in me. But I want to win. We’re the one team that people are not talking about in the NFC East. Everyone’s talking about the Cowboys, the Eagles and the Giants and no one really mentions the Redskins.”

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