CHICAGO, Oct. 17 -- Despite an impressive performance by tailback Clinton Portis against the Chicago Bears on Sunday, questions remain about the Washington Redskins' offense under quarterback Mark Brunell, who had another uneven performance, particularly trying to pass the ball downfield.
Brunell was 8 for 22 for 95 yards with one touchdown and one interception on a tipped ball that was returned by the Bears for a touchdown. Brunell completed only one pass of more than 20 yards, hitting Laveranues Coles for 21 yards.
"To be quite truthful, it's pass protection. . . . He made good plays getting out of there and getting rid of the ball," Coach Joe Gibbs said of Washington quarterback Mark Brunell, above, struggling to get the ball deep to his receivers.
(John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)
"I haven't seen the numbers but it didn't seem that the numbers were that good," Brunell said. "But I think we made some important plays, some key plays, guys came up with some critical third downs. We got a win and that's good for this football team right now."
Brunell will keep his starting job when the Redskins face the Green Bay Packers on Halloween at FedEx Field, the team's next game after its bye week. Coach Joe Gibbs praised Brunell's savvy and mobility, which produced 17 yards on five carries, noting that the team's pass protection failed on long passing plays.
However, Gibbs conceded that the Redskins must find a way to get the ball downfield. "We've not been able to get hooked up on deep stuff," Gibbs said. "We took a couple of shots today. But to be quite truthful, it's pass protection. We missed a key blitz one time, he got rushed about three or four times. He made good plays getting out of there and getting rid of the ball."
Brunell, 34, was sharpest on intermediate routes, while his long passes seemed off. Brunell has been criticized for not having enough arm strength. But wide receiver Rod Gardner dismissed the contention.
"I said before, Mark has a hose," Gardner said. "He has a very strong arm. It's totally bogus. Some of those balls you see, he's under pressure. He can throw that rock. People are looking for excuses because he's older. It's not because of his arm."
Taylor Makes Plays
Rookie safety Sean Taylor flourished during the preseason with three interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. During the first five games of the regular season, however, Taylor failed to come up with any big plays and was searching for his first interception heading into Sunday's game. At Soldier Field, he returned to his preseason form with two NFL firsts -- a third-quarter sack plus an interception that ended Chicago's hopes late in the game.
With 25 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Bears quarterback Jonathan Quinn came under pressure before passing downfield to the right toward wideout Bobby Wade. Taylor swooped in from the left and leapt to grab the ball, then showed some nifty moves as he returned the ball 45 yards to the Chicago 15-yard line.
Earlier, Chicago had a third and two with 1 minute 33 seconds left in the third quarter on Washington's 43-yard line. Taylor zoomed into the picture on a blitz to slam Quinn, and punctuated his play with a jig.
"I felt good," Taylor said. "I hadn't sacked the quarterback for a while. I think this game is just a start. You haven't seen anything yet."
Smoot Injured -- Twice
Cornerback Fred Smoot hurt his left shoulder tackling Wade in the first quarter. Then in the fourth quarter, Smoot mildly separated his right shoulder. Smoot said he will definitely play the next game, with the bye week allowing him time to recover. "I needed it," Smoot said of the week off.
Brown Is 'Getting Better'
Ray Brown, Washington's 41-year-old right tackle, faced his latest challenge against left defensive end Adewale Ogunleye. Brown came off the bench in last week's 17-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens after starting the previous three games. But with Kenyatta Jones on the inactive list with an ankle injury, Brown was back in the starting lineup.
"I felt good. I'm getting better out there," Brown said. "The more work I get out there, the better. So bring it on."
Ogunleye, one of the league's best pass rushers who was traded to Chicago by the Miami Dolphins in the preseason, was hurt during the game.
Barrow Anxious to Play
Linebacker Mike Barrow, who has become a regular on the inactive list because of a knee injury, intends to make his Redskins debut after the bye week. He didn't practice last week for the first time because of instructions from a knee specialist. Barrow's left leg atrophied as the linebacker kept aggravating it participating in limited drills.
"He said I want you to take these next few weeks, and just get it stronger," Barrow said. "That's why I haven't been dressing this week [for practice]. That's the plan: to get it stronger, and that will take the pressure off the tendon and protect it."
Although the Redskins describe Barrow's injury as acute tendinitis, the linebacker says that other doctors say the tendon has a small tear. "But it's really the same thing," Barrow said. "You can call a small tear severe tendinitis."
Nose tackle Brandon Noble, who missed the 2003 season with a severe knee injury, made his first start of the season because Joe Salave'a was unable to play because of a calf injury. Safety Ryan Clark made his first start with Andre Lott out with a hamstring injury. . . . Darnerien McCants wasn't activated for the fifth game this season, a contrast to last year, when he played in 15 games and tied Coles with a team-high six touchdowns. McCants's lack of a role this season has been conspicuous because he signed a three-year, $4.5 million contract, including a $2 million signing bonus, in the offseason. . . . Seven offensive linemen and four tight ends, an unusually large number of blockers, were activated for the game. . . . Tailback Rock Cartwright, left guard Derrick Dockery and nickel back Walt Harris were Washington's captains for the game.