You Gotta Have Heart: Washington Redskins Shock Denver at Home

K. D. James@KDamanJCorrespondent INovember 16, 2009

LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 15:  Ladell Betts #46 of the Washington Redskins runs the ball against the Denver Broncos at FedExField on November 15, 2009 in Landover, Maryland. The Redskins defeated the Broncos 27-17. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
Larry French/Getty Images

The ’Skins got off the schneid! For now.


I’ll be honest and admit that I’ve been very critical of the performance of the Washington Redskins this season. I and many others in the Bleacher Report and Washington, D.C., communities, including my colleagues J.W. Nix and Keith Smooth, have seen better days from this franchise.


For ten-plus years, under the poor control of majority owner Dan Snyder, the ’Skins have stunk up the joint, only to be granted some relief in former head coach Joe Gibbs’s second stint here.


Despite my constant misgivings, I am PROUD (please let that be shown in all caps) to see Washington win—and win convincingly!—over the Denver Broncos, 27-17, at FedEx Field Sunday afternoon.


In doing so, the Redskins were able to snap a four-game losing streak, and, in what seemed an eternity, scored more than 17 points since last season.


I must say that for the first time the Washington Redskins played a decent, very decent, game with tons of heart, resilience and, yes, luck.


The Broncos, though, seem a bit shakier after their third consecutive loss. At one point, with new head coach Josh McDaniels at the helm, the team was off to an auspicious start at 6-0, especially with wins over Dallas and New England. After losing to the Ravens, Steelers and Redskins, Denver will face San Diego in an expectedly tough AFC West match-up next week.


Even with some high, inaccurate throws by Washington's Jason Campbell and a few, mishaps in the secondary that allowed two, big bombs from Denver quarterback Kyle Orton to star wide receiver Brandon Marshall, the ’Skins kept the game close throughout, and they should be applauded for their efforts.


After groaning when Marshall ran a nice slant route en route to a 40-yard touchdown pass from Orton, with 12:47 left in the first quarter, I thought that this would be a long day for the Redskins at home.


My hopeful-thinking, good conscience tapped me on the shoulder at that point and said to me (like commentator Lee Corso), “Not so fast, my friend!”


Lo and behold, the Redskins charged right back in the first quarter with aplomb, ending the drive on a Campbell two-yard touchdown pass to tight end Todd Yoder.




The Redskins defense seemed to give the offense even more hope than expected early in the afternoon with a forced fumble that was recovered by strong safety Reed Doughty.


However, not long after Denver got back the ball with time remaining in the first quarter, miscommunication and poor coverage in the secondary allowed Orton, who had great protection at the time, to strike another bomb to a wide-open Marshall, who was streaking long and hard on the right side of the field for a 75-yard touchdown.


According to ESPN, Marshall’s two, first-quarter touchdown passes of forty-plus yards made him only the eleventh player in the NFL to reach that record since 1940.


Even though the Broncos could have stretched the lead to 21-7 (if Orton didn’t overthrow the ball to the Broncos’ other fast wide receiver, Eddie Royal) in the second quarter, the defense and its anxious defensive staff did not allow Denver to pass at will for the rest of the game.


In fact, it’s possible that the Redskins could have had a closer contest in the second half, if Kyle Orton were not hurt on that necessary tackle made by Redskins defensive tackle Andre Carter late in the second quarter.


Deep in the red zone (within the five-yard line perimeter), with good coverage on all Denver receivers and possibly no one open, Orton scrambled and hurt his ankle as Carter rushed close behind to clip the Broncos quarterback on that decisive third-down play.


Orton left game with a sprained ankle, never able to return in the second half.


If Orton had been able to score, or had he left that play unhurt, who knows how the game would have ended. But minutes after the fake field-goal pass by Washington’s punter Hunter Smith to Mike Sellers, all the Broncos could do was close the first half on a chip shot of a 24-yard field goal. Broncos 17, Redskins 14.


As the game resumed after halftime, the Redskins defense remained solid, forcing Denver’s back-up quarterback Chris Simms to throw faster than anticipated almost every time he had the ball. Also, with the rookie running back Knowshon Moreno running and getting timely first downs on a few occasions, the Broncos were never able to sustain the pace and attack mode after that frenetic first quarter.


Given that Moreno rushed for 97, tough yards rushing was commendable; but Ladell Betts, Washington’s long-time, dependable number two halfback, was even better.


Betts, who started in place of Clinton Portis (concussion last week in the Atlanta game) bore through holes that the offensive line provided for him, got a handful of first downs when he needed to, and finished with 114 yards on 26 carries, including the game-winning, one-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter with 2:44 to go.


The defense should be congratulated for wising up and not breaking down after the two, early gifts to Marshall. It clamped down, applied pressure on Orton and Simms, forced a key fumble and covered better, with Washington’s DeAngelo Hall intercepting an ill-advised Simms’ pass, which led to Betts’ score.


The offensive line should also be given a standing ovation, for adding in a solid replacement for left tackle Chris Samuels in Levi Jones, and staying steady throughout most of the game with guards Derrick Dockery and Will Montgomery, center Casey Rabach and right tackle Stephon Heyer.


The line still allowed a few sacks, although Campbell caused some of them himself. I really think, even with confusing pass rushes and blitz packages from Denver defensive coordinator Mike Nolan coming his way, Campbell, when his line collapsed, could have thrown the ball out of bounds on some downs.


I’m trying hard not to knock Campbell in those situations, but I feel that he should throw the ball away, instead of repositioning and trying to wait for something positive to happen after plays break down, routes are not run correctly, or receivers are heavily covered. Campbell played hard, did not throw an interception or fumble the ball, and like the rest of the squad, did a more than serviceable job.


Overall, though, the offensive line did above average, creating lots of room and spaces for three running backs—Betts, special-teams stalwart Rock Cartwright and newcomer Quinton Ganther.


And they should be awarded game balls, along with Betts and Sherman Lewis.


Yes, Lewis. Here’s a guy who weeks ago was enjoying retirement and doing Meals on Wheels in Detroit. Now as the main offensive play-caller, the team has looked more comfortable under him.

Moreover, they’re scoring not only field goals but touchdowns as well in the red zone, resembling more of a team that used to drive far and get lots of points in the area, 20 yards or fewer, under the second Gibbs era.


Although still wet behind the ears, receivers other than Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle-El came through for embattled Campbell, too.


It was pleasing to see second-year guys Malcolm Kelly, Devin Thomas and Fred Davis to not only catch but gain first downs when the team had to maintain its momentum. I’m especially happy for Davis and Thomas.


Thomas caught a key pass deep in Broncos territory that eventually led to Betts’ one-yard touchdown, with his running past the first-down marker, juking on a slipping defender, breaking a tackle, slipping through and spinning on another Bronco before being brought down by he five- or six-yard line. Go for three and end up with more than 25 yards on a screen pass? Nice work, Devin!


The sky’s the limit on Davis’ potential. If he can consistently play at the level he played at when he was a USC Trojan in college, then I only foresee a productive, Cooley-Davis, two tight-end combo only causing headaches for opposing defenses.


My sole concern of the Washington Redskins’ win is that it’s both bad and rewarding at the same time for Redskins head coach Jim Zorn, who has finally won since the narrow win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on October 4. Unfortunately for Zorn, he cannot call plays anymore and often resembles a magazine model (or a mannequin) with Redskins gear on at a Dick’s Sporting Goods store.


But it was good for the team, who desperately and badly wanted to win in order to give their long-starving fans something good to look at.


The Redskins, thanks to special teams (placekicker Shaun Suisham is 12/12 on field goals, and Smith has scored on two, fake field-goal plays so far!), offense and defense, played like a cohesive unit for the first time in long while, and because of that, they won a good, good game.


I don’t know what to expect of the Redskins after such a stunning win, but they obviously have tremendous upside when facing their ultra-nemesis Cowboys at Dallas next week, at 1 p.m. on Fox November 22.


Even if the final outcome for Washington’s professional football team remains murky, how it played Sunday was a great start, with the Redskins looking hopefully to go nowhere but up.


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