For Washington Redskins' Rookie Head Coach Jim Zorn, his first win was especially sweet. Following his team's Week One loss to the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants, Zorn was not only criticized for his team's performance, but ridiculed.
Having to endure that ridicule for 10 days rather than the usual seven, must have added to the pressure.
Labeled as "in over his head" and "not capable of being an NFL head coach" by many around the NFL, Zorn ignored the talk and stayed the course. His confidence unwavering, his team's belief in him unquestionable, Zorn led his team to a much needed win over the New Orleans Saints, 29-24 in front of a home crowd at FedEx Field on Sunday and earned his redemption.
Redskins' fourth year quarterback Jason quarterback also accomplished the same task, redemption. Campbell was just as ridiculed as Zorn, with many making the statement, very bluntly, "Campbell can't do it in this league" and "Campbell can't play well in Zorn's offense".
Campbell finished the day 24 of 36 for 321 yards, one touchdown and NO INTERCEPTIONS. A performance good for 104.1 quarterback rating and much more importantly, a win for his team, and his own redemption.
Zorn's offense seemed to be essentially unstoppable from the outset. On the Redskins' first possession, Campbell engineered a 12 play, 49 yard drive. The drive ended with a missed field goal attempt, but the early returns were good. Following a New Orleans Saints' fumble, forced by Redskins' third year linebacker Rocky McIntosh and recovered by Redskins' rookie seventh round draft pick Chris Horton, Campbell moved the ball again.
An 11 play drive, covering 69 yards, only resulted in a field goal as the Redskins bogged down at the Saints' four yard line. But the Redskins' defense would do it's part as well, pressuring Drew Brees into his first of two interceptions (Brees actually threw three INTs, but one was nullified by a Redskins' penalty) by Redskins' safety Chris Horton (3 tackles, 2 INTs, 1 fumble recovery, and 2 passes defensed).
The possession resulted in only a field goal once again, creating some frustration for Zorn and the offense. The inability to finish drives, and convert them into touchdowns rather than field goals, could be an issue.
And would be in this game.
The following Saints possession would end in a punt, after the Redskins' defense forced a three and out by the Saints' powerful offense.
On the return however, tides appeared to change in favor of the Saints. Redskins' Antwaan Randle El fumbled during the return and the Saints recovered at the Redskins' 27 yard line. The Saints would score a touchdown on the possession and take 7-6 lead. But Zorn and Campbell kept their team calm, nothing seemed to rattle them.
The Redskins would go on to gain more yards in the first half than they did all of last week with 218 yards. The Redskins' defense slowed the Saints' attack impressively, holding the Saints to 128 yards of total offense in the first half. The Saints however, would lead heading into halftime, 10-9.
The only drive of note for the Saints would come on their opening possession of the second half. The Saints drove the ball 80 yards in 11 plays and added to their lead, making it 17-9.
Zorn and Campbell would respond on their opening possession of the second half as well. An impressive, 10 play, 83 yard drive would result in a Clinton Portis touchdown, but a failed two point conversion attempt would leave the Redskins down 17-15.
Following a Saints punt, the Redskins were unable to get out of the shadow of their own end zone, and Redskins' rookie punter Durant Brooks added to what had already been a bad day for him (he earlier dropped the snap on a field goal attempt, causing missed opportunity for three points) with a low line drive punt down the middle of the field, right to Reggie Bush, the Saints' most dynamic play maker. Bush would flow left and scamper untouched into the end zone for the touchdown and increase the Saints' lead to two scores, 24-15.
And this is where Zorn and Campbell showed their mettle. Entering the fourth quarter down by nine points, they would start the quarter with a three and out. The Redskins' defense did its job, holding the Saints' to only one first down before forcing a punt.
Their second possession of the fourth quarter started badly, as Campbell was sacked for a 12 yard loss, driving them back to their own 6 yard line. But that was the last time the game was in doubt, really. On the next play, Campbell hit Redskins' pro-bowl tight end Chris Cooley for a 22 yard gain on second and 21, good for a first down. The drive would go on to cover 83 yards with Campbell going completing all five of his pass attempts for 71 yards and culminate in another Portis touchdown. The come back was on.
The Redskins' did its job once again, forcing another three and out possession from the Saints.
Following the Saints' punt, Campbell added an exclamation point to his stellar day. On first and ten at their own 33 yard line, Campbell recognized a incoming Saints' blitz before snapping the ball, and adjusted the protection and the play. At the snap, the blitz came, Redskins' fullback Mike Sellars got just enough of the free rusher to push him past Campbell, and Campbell stepped up in the pocket and let loose a perfectly thrown pass to Redskins' wide receiver Santana Moss (7 catches for 164 yards on the day) who made the catch and ran into the end zone for the go ahead score.
Following another Drew Brees interception, Zorn showed Reskins' Nation that he isn't about to play it safe. With the Redskins' attempting to run out the clock, Zorn called Portis' number three times in a row, resulting in third and three at the Saints 33 yard line.
A difficult spot on the field, a long field goal, too close to punt. With the yardage too long to run short yardage personnel and pound it for the first down, what were the Redskins to do?
Zorn showed his confidence in Campbell by not only going for the first down, but by calling a pass play. Campbell took the snap and stepped back and rifled a pass on a slant to Moss, first down Redskins, and time for the victory formation.
Campbell would complete eight straight passes in the fourth quarter for 167 yards and one touchdown. Redemption complete.
With their first win of the season, Zorn and Campbell earned the right to enjoy that feeling of satisfaction of proving so many people wrong. They simply need to remember the same thing that the Zorn preached following the loss to the Giants. It's only one, game, keep getting better, and keep working and playing together.
And for one week at least, the vultures will have to wait to finish off Zorn, Campbell and Redskins.
Redemption, at last.