Saturday, August 29, 2009

A promising start had once again given way to a frustrating first half for the Washington Redskins’ starting offense.

They finally found the end zone, but their next 11 plays netted 11 yards. A fourth consecutive punt was looming.

But when Jason Campbell found Santana Moss for a third-and-9 conversion, Campbell could finally exhale and play. And play he did.

In one half plus one series of work Friday night, Campbell engineered three scoring drives and was 13-for-22 for 209 yards in the Redskins’ 27-24 loss to the New England Patriots.

“We came out and had some fun,” Campbell said. “We tried to execute a lot of different areas of the field.”

Campbell entered 4-for-13 in two preseason games but can start preparing for the Sept. 13 opener with a shot of confidence.

“I was very pleased,” coach Jim Zorn said. “He was very much into the game. He was competing hard and doing the things that you want. We missed on a couple of long ones, but he came back and was running the show.”

The game appeared headed for overtime until Pat Chung returned a punt to the Washington 23-yard line with 1:39 remaining. Stephen Gostkowski’s winning 30-yard field goal came with eight seconds remaining.

From the starters’ perspective, the game was a success for the offense and so-so for the defense.

The starting offense scored 17 points and gained 248 yards on 36 plays. This from a group that entered with four punts in five drives.

The starting defense allowed 17 points and 200 yards on 36 plays against arguably the best offense in football. The Redskins stiffened after allowing scoring drives of 73, 84 and 47 yards, forcing two punts and a turnover before leaving midway through the third quarter.

Once the starters left, Colt Brennan overcame an interception that was returned 99 yards for a touchdown to throw a 33-yard score to Marko Mitchell, who continues to show he belongs on the 53-man roster.

Just like last week, the Redskins marched down the field to open the game. Unlike last week, the Redskins actually finished the drive with a touchdown.

Campbell was 4-for-4 for 53 yards on the possession, including completions of 21 and 14 yards to Santana Moss. A 23-yard pass interference call on Darius Butler in the end zone (against Malcolm Kelly) set up Marcus Mason’s 1-yard touchdown run.

While the Redskins stalled following the score, New England was doing whatever it wanted.

The Patriots opened with a punt but then scored on their next first three possessions — Randy Moss touchdown catches of 26 and 27 yards and a Gostkowski 43-yard field goal.

Moss’ first score came when Brady pump-faked, allowing Moss to get inside position on DeAngelo Hall. The Patriots’ second scoring drive was extended by a Hall face-mask call on third down and ended when Brady hit Moss in stride after Justin Tryon got lost and LaRon Landry was caught flat-footed.

New England led 17-7 when the Redskins’ offense returned to life. A play after Santana Moss’ third-down reception, Chris Cooley ran across the field unchecked by linebacker Tedy Bruschi, caught Campbell’s pass at the 50 and eventually gained 73 yards. Mitchell made a key downfield block.

“The play wasn’t over — the guys kept running, and [Cooley] got blockers in front of him and he almost scored,” Campbell said. “It was a team effort.”

Three plays later, from the 4-yard line, Campbell was flushed to his left. When he faked a throw, linebacker Paris Lenon left his feet, allowing Campbell to dash into the end zone.

Following a New England three-and-out, the Redskins’ initial two-minute drill of the preseason produced a 25-yard Dave Rayner field goal as the first half expired.

“We got into a rhythm,” Campbell said.

Campbell and the starters departed after one second-half series.

Brady (12-for-19 for 150 yards) and Moss (six catches for 90 yards) departed at halftime. Brady absorbed a big hit from Albert Haynesworth late in the first half and was seen flexing his right (throwing) shoulder.

The Redskins’ starting defense finished strong — Rocky McIntosh deflected a Kevin O’Connell pass that Landry intercepted and returned to the New England 27.

But instead of taking the lead, the Redskins fell behind 24-17 when Butler stepped in front of Fred Davis at the goal line and returned Brennan’s pass 99 yards for a touchdown.

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