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Winning From The Ground Up

After weeks of turmoil, with the offensive line slumping and Portis asserting after a loss to Cleveland on Oct. 3 that the Browns' linebackers were predicting Washington's plays, the Bears suddenly had to respect the Redskins' running game. This was what Gibbs envisioned when he traded Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey to Denver to get Portis.

The coaches this past week made some adjustments to the team's running plays to help the swift but smaller runner -- Portis is 5 feet 11, 207 pounds -- after he had netted a total of 111 yards on 45 carries over the previous two games. "Our idea was to give [the Bears] every possible formation," Bugel said. "We spread them out and had a lot of success with that."

Cornelius Griffin and Marcus Washington, right, sack Bears quarterback Jonathan Quinn for a seven-yard loss late in the fourth quarter of Washington's 13-10 victory Sunday in Chicago. (Jeff Roberson - AP)


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Opposing defenses had been stacking eight or more players at the line of scrimmage to thwart Portis, while the Redskins were using extra tight ends and H-backs to help protect Brunell. It created lots of congestion around the line of scrimmage when Portis was handed the ball.

On Sunday, the Redskins frequently ran the ball out of passing sets with three or more receivers. The Bears had to bring in extra defensive backs to cover the additional receivers or shift linebackers wide in coverage, and rather than have to elude a linebacker and a lineman, Portis was able to find abundant running room to the outside, where he is most dangerous.

"This was easier," said Portis, who spoke to the media Sunday after a two-week boycott, "because I only had to make one man miss instead of having to make two or three people miss in the backfield."

Hulking H-back Mike Sellers (6-3, 278 pounds) was lined up as a wide receiver several times to further confound the defense on what turned out to be running plays. "When I'm in the backfield they know it's a run," Sellers said. "When I'm split out wide, they think, 'What the heck are they going to do now?' " Sellers also acted routinely as a fullback for Portis for the first time, helping to spring him on two key inside runs.

Gibbs called many more pitch plays than usual, which are geared to get Portis outside, and Bugel installed blocking schemes that called for lower blocks at the line, or cut blocks, designed for cutback runs like those employed by the Broncos when Portis ran for them. All of it culminated in Portis compiling the most yards rushing by any Redskins runner since 1999, when Stephen Davis ran for 183.

"I saw a different Clinton Portis on the sidelines," said Bugel, who flaunted his 1983 Super Bowl ring at practices leading up to the game to motivate the players. "He came up to me and said, 'Keep running that ball, keep running that ball. I don't care if I step on my tongue at the end of the day, keep running the ball.' He was really into it."


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