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Best and Worst

Monday, January 3, 2005; Page D13

Best running: Ladell Betts provided the type of straight-ahead running that harkened back to the Redskins' glory days. One of his best runs came near the beginning of a time-consuming drive in the fourth quarter when he appeared stopped at the line of scrimmage but kept his legs churning for a five-yard gain and a first down. Betts finished with 118 yards and one touchdown on 26 carries.

Worst injuries: A defense that has been playing short-handed most of the season was without starting cornerback Fred Smoot. Smoot's back injury further depleted an injured secondary that also was missing starting safety Matt Bowen and reserve defensive back Ade Jimoh.

Vikings tight end Jermaine Wiggins can't come up with the ball in the fourth quarter. Chris Clemons defends. (Jonathan Ernst - Reuters)

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Best defense: The Redskins have had only three players start every game on defense -- Cornelius Griffin, Antonio Pierce and Marcus Washington. Yet the battered unit was stout against one of the best offenses in the league, limiting Daunte Culpepper, Randy Moss and Co. to 18 points. The Vikings were stuck on 10 points until they converted a touchdown and two-point conversion with two seconds to play.

Best return: The Redskins got off to a promising start with a 66-yard return of the opening kickoff by Antonio Brown. Brown stayed patient behind his four wedge blockers, then broke loose to the Vikings 32-yard line.

Best start: Washington made sure not to waste Brown's return, scoring eight plays later. Quarterback Patrick Ramsey completed a six-yard pass to rookie H-back Chris Cooley for the touchdown after keeping the drive going with an 11-yard completion to James Thrash on third and nine.

Worst throw: After a pinpoint pass on the right sideline to Laveranues Coles for 20 yards on third and 16 late in the first quarter, Ramsey tried to dump a pass over the middle to Cooley. But Ramsey did not see Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who stepped directly in the path of the throw for the interception.

Worst tackle: Early in the second quarter, Walt Harris was in single coverage against Nate Burleson, who had caught a screen pass and appeared to have nowhere to run. But Burleson stiff-armed Harris in the helmet and gained 13 yards to the Redskins 8-yard line.

Best patience: The Redskins had driven to the Vikings 4-yard line and were facing third and goal with less than two minutes before halftime. Ramsey dropped back in the face of heavy pressure from defensive end Lance Johnstone, waited until Robert Royal became open in the front right corner of the end zone and delivered a strike for a touchdown.

Best coverage: Moss drew single coverage against Harris, who let him go toward the middle of the field with less than a minute to play before halftime. From there, Sean Taylor picked up the coverage and was locked up with Moss. Both players got their hands on the ball while leaping, but Taylor tipped it away to prevent the completion.

Best pressure: During the Vikings' first possession of the third quarter, the Redskins sacked Culpepper three times in five plays. First Demetric Evans dropped Culpepper for minus-five yards. Three plays later, Lemar Marshall and Evans combined for an eight-yard sack, and on the following play Griffin tackled Culpepper for an eight-yard loss.

Best catch: Moss made a highlight-reel reception for a touchdown late in the third quarter by leaping over Taylor, securing the ball as he came down, and holding on as he landed. That touchdown went for 28 yards to cut the Redskins' lead to 14-10.

Best fake: Ramsey sold a play-action early in the fourth quarter, faking the handoff to Betts and delivering a throw to a wide-open Taylor Jacobs for a 45-yard gain to the Minnesota 1-yard line. Betts scored on the ensuing play for a 21-10 lead.

-- Gene Wang

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