- The Washington Times - Monday, November 16, 2009

What have we here, a Redskins win? Almost didn’t remember what one looked like. Six weeks, after all, is a long time to go between victories. How long? Heck, the last one - 16-13 over the Bucs - took place in the Pre-Sherm Lewis Era.

If there’s a moral to Sunday’s 27-17 beating of the first-place Broncos at FedEx Field, it’s this: There’s no substitute for trying. Yes, bad stuff can happen to a football team - and the Redskins have certainly had their share with injuries to four offensive starters - but you just have to soldier on. Self-pity won’t get you anywhere in the NFL, and impassive play will bring only boos.

The Redskins have been guilty of both recently as they dug themselves a 2-6 hole. Granted, their depth chart is nothing to brag about, but the losses of Chris Samuels, Randy Thomas and Chris Cooley still don’t excuse their no-show first halves against the Eagles and Falcons. Their general listlessness suggested they just didn’t believe they could win with so many starters out. They couldn’t make that mental leap.

But in the NFL there’s always hope - as Sunday’s game showed. It’s a long season of ebbs and flows, and you can beat almost anybody if you catch them at the right time. And the Broncos, let’s face it, were ripe to be had. They’d lost two straight after a league-shaking 6-0 start, had been mauled at home last Monday night by the Steelers and were beginning to look like the nothing-special club everybody had predicted they’d be.

Then they had Kyle Orton limp off with a sprained ankle at the end of the first half - just as Denver was about to pull ahead 17-14 - and the chance was there for the Redskins. Especially since Denver’s No. 2 quarterback is the barely functional Chris Simms. (“Barely functional,” in the Daly lexicon, is defined as: relatively proficient at receiving the snap but if you need him to do much more than that…)

“You lick your chops as a defensive lineman when a backup quarterback comes in,” said Andre Carter, who had another big day with 1.5 sacks and four hits on the QB. “You can see that look in his eyes. You say to yourself: ‘We’ve got to put some pressure on this boy and get him flustered.’ ”

Simms was born flustered. He was the quarterback of record, you may recall, when the Redskins knocked off the Bucs in the 2005 playoffs. Mark Brunell and Co. gained only 120 yards that afternoon, a record low for the Redskins in the postseason, but with Simms throwing interceptions and missing open receivers, it didn’t matter.

He played at about the same subterranean level Sunday - 13 passes, three completions, an average of 1 yard an attempt. As a result, the Broncos didn’t come close to scoring in the second half, and the Redskins finally overtook them in the last few minutes on a short touchdown run by Ladell Betts.

It’s amazing what a team can accomplish when it bothers to show up, when it doesn’t need to be dressed down at halftime by an assistant coach old enough to be everybody’s grandfather. What began in the last 30 minutes at Atlanta - with the offensive line moving the defense off the ball and Betts slashing through whatever openings were there - continued against Denver.

Good thing, too, because Clinton Portis was still indisposed after suffering a concussion in the early going against the Falcons. Of course, we’ve seen Betts do this before - in 2006, when CP missed more than half the season with a broken hand. Betts cranked out 100-yard games with regularity that year, and he did it again Sunday (26 carries for 114).

“It was good to see guys not getting down, begin to argue or think: ‘Oh man, here we go again,’ ” he said. “We stuck with it. We fought. The defense had a couple of mistakes early, but they stuck with it as well.”

In the NFL, there are no medals for trying, but there’s no excuse for not trying, either. It’s part and parcel of being a pro. Look around. There are plenty of clubs that have been blindsided by misfortune this season, plenty that stumbled out of the gate.

The Titans, for instance, started 0-6. On Sunday they routed the Bills to win their third straight.

The Panthers and Dolphins both started 0-3. Now they’re both 4-5.

The Rams, the dregs of the league at 1-8, went the full 60 minutes against the unbeaten Saints on Sunday before losing 28-23.

And the Bucs, another 1-8 disaster, nearly upset Miami on the road.

There are examples of this every week in the NFL, examples of down-on-their-luck teams refusing to cave. What took the Redskins so long? That’s what I want to know. And can they keep it going against ever-tougher competition… or was this just the last day of Indian summer, a brief respite before the cold settles in?


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