- The Washington Times - Monday, November 16, 2009

When the Washington Redskins’ first feel-good win of the season became official, defensive end Andre Carter simply dropped to both knees and used his right hand to signal No. 1.

Yes, it had been that long since a solid triumph - back to last December against Philadelphia.

And absolutely, it had been that long since a win of any kind - Oct. 4 against Tampa Bay.

“I was like Johnny Drama in ‘Entourage’ - he says, ‘Victory!’ every time he’s successful,” Carter said after the Redskins’ 27-17 win over the Denver Broncos on Sunday. “When you win, it’s good because you know the hard work and dedication you put forth throughout the week is not in vain.”

It would be foolish to get too optimistic about the future after the win, but the Redskins at least can enjoy an off day without worrying about lineup changes, their head coach’s duties or everybody’s future.

Fueled by Ladell Betts’ 114 yards rushing, Hunter Smith’s touchdown pass and a defense that allowed only 36 yards in the second half, the Redskins (3-6) broke their four-game losing streak while handing Denver its third straight setback.

After early-season wins over St. Louis and Tampa Bay, the locker room was subdued; those games were ugly escape jobs. But after rallying three different times before Betts’ 1-yard touchdown run with 2:44 remaining put the Redskins ahead for good, there was substantially more chatter.

“You almost don’t know how to feel, but we remembered very quickly,” coach Jim Zorn said. “We sure like winning.”

DeAngelo Hall’s interception in the end zone and the subsequent 43-yard return by Hall and LaRon Landry (who received a lateral) set up the winning drive. Facing a third-and-3 from the Denver 32, Campbell zipped a pass up the line of scrimmage to Devin Thomas, who broke three tackles on the way to a 27-yard gain. Betts scored three plays later.

Denver went four-and-out on its next possession, and Shaun Suisham added a 35-yard field goal to seal the game with 1:04 remaining.

The 10-point margin of victory is the largest of Zorn’s tenure and erased the possibility of the Redskins being 2-10 heading to Oakland next month. The Redskins were four-point underdogs to Denver and figure to face heavy odds against Dallas, Philadelphia and New Orleans.

“It definitely feels better because you beat a good football team,” said quarterback Jason Campbell, who went 17-for-26 for 193 yards and a touchdown.

All sides pitched in for the Redskins, which this season has been a rarity.

The offense went 8-for-16 on third down, rushed for a season-high 174 yards and held possession for a season-best 35:43.

The defense overcame Brandon Marshall’s first-quarter touchdown catches of 40 and 75 yards and sacked backup quarterback Chris Simms three times in the second half.

And the special teams tied the game at 14-14 in the second quarter when the Redskins motioned out of field goal formation and holder-turned-quarterback Smith threw a 35-yard touchdown to Mike Sellers.

“We made some big plays throughout our program, and it was the difference,” Zorn said.

Nobody came up bigger than Betts and the retooled offensive line. With Clinton Portis sidelined because of a concussion, Betts took advantage. His 26 carries and 114 yards were the most for him since December 2006. The line, with new starters at left tackle (Levi Jones), right guard (Chad Rinehart) and right tackle (Stephon Heyer), allowed only three sacks.

But as usual, the Redskins fell behind early.

On the game’s fourth play, Marshall used a double move to get behind Carlos Rogers for the 40-yard score. Rogers was benched and did not return to the game.

The Redskins answered with only their second first-quarter touchdown this year as Campbell found tight end Todd Yoder with a 2-yard pass. But Kyle Orton and Marshall connected again when Landry bit on an underneath route instead of giving Hall over-the-top help.

But that was it for Denver’s big plays. The Broncos posted 142 of their 305 yards on the opening two scoring drives.

Trailing by a touchdown, the Redskins stalled at the Denver 35 when Zorn felt the need for trickery.

Lined up in field goal formation, Suisham went to receiver, leaving Smith - a former high school quarterback - in a shotgun formation. At the snap, he rolled right and lofted a deep pass across the field to Sellers against minimal Denver pressure.

“We had a big play just happen to us, and we had to stay in the ball game,” Zorn said. “When I played, those plays made a real difference, and they still make a difference today.”

Special teams coach Danny Smith installed the play early in the year and was undeterred even though Hunter Smith couldn’t practice the play much because of a groin injury.

“It was a play that we felt would work,” Danny Smith said. “It takes 11 guys when you run a play like that. I don’t know what [Denver] thought, but you put people on their heels when you do something different. You don’t know how they’ll react. They could have very easily gotten up the field and hit him in the mouth.”

Denver took a 17-14 lead into halftime after an 18-play drive for a field goal, and the advantage stood until early in the fourth quarter when Suisham connected from 30 yards to cap a 13-play drive that stalled at the Denver 12.

Hall intercepted Simms on the ensuing possession - a woefully underthrown pass that Marshall had no chance even to break up.

Down the stretch, the Redskins did everything they hadn’t been doing most of the season. They kept the opponent’s offense off the field. They scored touchdowns instead of settling for field goals. And they didn’t commit backbreaking turnovers and penalties.

But come Wednesday, the Redskins insist their only focus will be on Dallas and not the win over Denver.

“We’re going to be enthusiastic for at least a day and allow them to enjoy this, but we have a big week,” Zorn said. “We have to learn how to win on the road and learn how to beat a division opponent. That’s what we’re going to concentrate on this week.”

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