- The Washington Times - Monday, October 5, 2009

Jim Zorn admitted taking some deep breaths as the Washington Redskins dug themselves into a 10-0 hole with a first half that included three turnovers and a game plan that was being torn into ruins by a previously woeful Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense.

“Super-frustrating in the first half,” Zorn said.

Imagine the super frustration around town had the Redskins not made just enough plays to squeak out a 16-13 win over the Buccaneers.

Another loss to a winless team with a first-year coach only would have heightened the tension that engulfed Redskin Park last week, which Zorn acknowledged when he told several coaches, according to a team source: “Don’t worry about me. Don’t worry about the situation. Coach with abandon. Be free.”

Zorn’s message Monday morning should be: “Thank goodness we’re 2-2.”

Q: The Redskins trailed 10-0, and Jason Campbell had a passer rating of 18.1 and three turnovers. Why wasn’t he benched?

A: Because Zorn is a former quarterback and that likely lengthens the figurative leash on Campbell. Zorn said he didn’t think about inserting Todd Collins to provide a spark. He should have thought about it.

Campbell just looked out of it for most of the game. He fumbled on the first series, and his three interceptions were unforced errors. That said, maybe he can build off his two-touchdown third quarter.

Q: Wouldn’t have putting in Collins created the dreaded quarterback controversy?

A: No. Zorn could have given Collins his shot and regardless of what happened - save a four-touchdown, 300-yard half - say after the game that Campbell was his guy and would start next week at Carolina.

But Zorn had to figure the risk of fracturing Campbell’s confidence was a lesser option than sticking with him for the rest of the game.

Q: Tampa Bay gained only 229 yards. Was that due to the Redskins’ defense or the debut of Josh Johnson as starting quarterback?

A: A combination of both. The Redskins’ defense actually showed a pulse. It played with more energy and desire than during last week’s comatose loss to Detroit. And Greg Blache added some spice to his game plan and heightened the roles played by Reed Doughty, Justin Tryon, Kareem Moore and Jeremy Jarmon.

Johnson played like a kid making his first NFL start. Lost at times, exciting at other times. The Bucs’ game plan was extremely watered-down - nearly all of the passes were underneath routes.

Q: Doughty started and made nine tackles. What were the other changes Blache made?

A: We saw a changing of the guard at No. 3 cornerback. Tryon is in, and veteran Fred Smoot is out. And Moore and Jarmon played more than usual.

Veteran defensive players who leave the Redskins rave about the quality of coaching they received, and it’s clear the coaches’ trust in young players has grown and they’re willing to put them on the field in pressure situations. It’s the complete opposite on offense, where Malcolm Kelly, Devin Thomas and Fred Davis continue to be bystanders.

Q: Clinton Portis didn’t practice all week, was a game-time decision and yet carried 25 times for 98 yards. What’s the deal with his injury?

A: This was more proof that Portis, for all his theatrics, is tough as all get-out. He wasn’t getting much help in the form of running lanes, yet he still willed his way to close to 100 yards.

Portis and Zorn look to have found a happy medium when it comes to Portis’ playing time. Ladell Betts has carved out a role on third down, leaving Marcus Mason and Anthony Alridge either to get a rare carry or be inactive.

Q: Just how lucky are the Redskins at this juncture?

A: Extremely fortunate. Their two wins are by a combined five points against two teams that have yet to win.

When the schedule came out, the Redskins had to realize they were handed a five-game gift in Weeks 2-6. Yet they stunk against St. Louis but won. They stunk at Detroit and lost. And they stunk (particularly offensively) against Tampa Bay but won. That’s very good luck.

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