- The Washington Times - Monday, September 21, 2009

On the Washington Redskins’ highly paid, much-hyped, veteran-laden defense, strong safety Chris Horton stands out for what he’s not: a starter for less than a full season earning not much more than the NFL minimum salary.

And after he was benched for the second half of last week’s opening loss to the New York Giants following a couple of critical errors, it seemed Horton might lose his job to Reed Doughty, the man whose job he had taken thanks in part to a dazzling starting debut in Week 2 of 2008. Horton intercepted two passes and recovered a fumble that day to help the Redskins rally for a big victory over the New Orleans Saints.

But defensive coordinator Greg Blache, while saying that Horton and Doughty are virtually interchangeable, stuck with the dreadlocked UCLA product in this Week 2 game.

And a shocking loss to the lowly Rams seemed more than possible with the Redskins clinging to a 9-7 lead and backed up inside their own 10 with just 13 minutes to go.

A quick pass from Marc Bulger to Donnie Avery was about to move the chains on third down when Horton came flying, separating the ball from the receiver. Carlos Rogers recovered for Washington, and although they didn’t know it yet, the Redskins had escaped.

“I was just reading the quarterback,” Horton said. “He was looking that way. I just broke and thought, ‘Take the perfect angle, get the guy down and make ‘em kick a field goal.’ I guess I got a good hit on the ball, and it came out.”

The huge play bailed out Horton and the rest of the defense, which again struggled to stop the Rams on third down.

Following Horton’s forced fumble, cornerback DeAngelo Hall blanketed receiver Laurent Robinson to end the next St. Louis possession on third-and-2 at the Washington 41. Brian Orakpo and Albert Haynesworth hurried Bulger on the Rams’ final third down before Horton stuck with the speedy Avery - the same Avery who had burned Leigh Torrence for the 43-yard catch that set up the last-second field goal that stunned the Redskins last October - on the last-gasp bomb that fell incomplete.

“That guy runs 4.3 [in the 40], so I’m thinking just keep running, don’t stop and when I get next to him, then I can look for the ball,” Horton said. “It hit me right in the chest.”

And with that, Jason Campbell was able to kneel three times, and the Redskins moved to 1-1 despite a far-from-stellar showing against a team that’s now 5-29 since 2006.

“We don’t really take pride in that win,” Hall said. “You can’t give a team opportunities to get back in the game whether it’s the offense not getting in the end zone or us not getting off the field on third down. Third downs are where you’re gonna make your money.”

For a second straight week, his defense only surrendered a single touchdown, but Blache wasn’t that much happier after the victory over the Rams than he had been following the loss to the formidable Giants.

“At the end of the day, we got the win, but we’ve got to be a lot better on third down,” Blache said. “We made too many mistakes.”

Including one on the Rams’ only score, a 2-yard touchdown catch by Robinson, who beat Hall on a third-down play.

“I slipped,” Hall said. “I was running out of the huddle, didn’t even get the whole play call [that] would’ve told me to do something completely different coveragewise. I was kinda kicking myself on the sidelines about that.”

So was Horton because he “got plowed” on Steven Jackson’s burst that set up the touchdown. That mistake had the 24-year-old come out for the second half feeling “like I owed the team one.”

Horton also felt like he owed himself and his team a better performance than the one he had delivered against the Giants.

“Chris was a little down last week,” defensive end Phillip Daniels said. “I talked to him about it. He’s prideful as he should be. He came back this week, and he proved he should be out there.”

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