JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Oct. 22 The Washington Redskins knew there would be a day this season when their highly ranked defense and the running of tailback Stephen Davis would not be enough to carry them. They knew there would be a game in which they would need their passing game to produce big numbers on the scoreboard.
That day came today, and quarterback Brad Johnson and wide receiver Albert Connell responded by teaming for three touchdowns. That helped the Redskins to their highest-scoring performance of the season as they extended their winning streak to five games by beating the Jacksonville Jaguars, 35-16, before 69,061 at Alltel Stadium.
Deion Sanders intercepts a Mark Brunell pass intended for R. Jay Soward during the first quarter. The turnover, one of three by the Jaguars, led to Washington's first points. Sam Shade is at left.
(Joel Richardson - The Washington Post)
"I just wanted to get our offense going," said Connell, who finished with seven catches for 211 yards. "We've been depending on our defense. It's time for us to do our part."
The Redskins (6-2) continued their impressive recovery since their embarrassing Sept. 18 loss to the Dallas Cowboys and moved into sole possession of first place in the NFC East, a half-game ahead of the idle New York Giants. The Redskins had not scored more than 21 points in a game this season and had gone 18 games (including two playoff contests last season) without a 30-point performance, dating from Oct. 31.
Johnson's scoring throws of 11, 49 and 77 yards to Connell went a long way toward rectifying that. Johnson completed 16 of 24 passes for 269 yards.
"Sometimes you kind of press trying to hit the big play, and we hadn't hit it," Johnson said. "The good thing is, we've been winning games, and we haven't really gotten frustrated with each other. We've been very patient, and it's finally coming around."
Connell tied the team record for touchdown receptions in a game, and his yardage total was the seventh-best single-game total in franchise history. Connell and Johnson nearly connected on a fourth touchdown pass from 38 yards out in the third quarter, but Johnson was hit as he delivered the ball and underthrew an open Connell. The ball was intercepted by safety Mike Logan.
Connell's performance came a week after he was held without a catch in a victory over the Baltimore Ravens and two weeks after his sideline outburst at assistant coach Terry Robiskie during a triumph at Philadelphia. Johnson's solid day capped a week in which his agent, Phil Williams, said he and Johnson would not discuss a contract extension with the Redskins until after the NFL free agent signing period begins in March.
"The key is to be patient and for everyone to trust each other," Johnson said. "We know what each other's capabilities are. We're stuck with each other for the whole year. We're in this together. For us to go through the stretch we had, it's pretty incredible. For us to win five games in a row, it's pretty awesome, but it only gets tougher [next Monday night] with Tennessee."
Johnson provided three long passes in the Redskins' season-saving win over the Giants at Giants Stadium on Sept. 24, but that only resulted in 16 points.
"We pretty much dictated the coverages with some of the formations we were running," Johnson said. "We got some one-on-one coverages that we liked, very similar to what happened in the Giants game. Plus, we hit the plays.
"It felt nice. Our defense has been playing tremendous. They did some nice things today and got some turnovers. . . . We just haven't gotten in a rhythm. We've had penalties. We haven't hit the plays. We haven't been efficient enough. Today, we had a nice mix of everything. We controlled the ball, and we also had the big plays."
Said Redskins Coach Norv Turner: "We'd been close. Brad and Albert both understood how close we were. . . . If you want to score points, you have to be able to make big plays. . . . We'd been leaving points out there."
Davis did his part with 114 rushing yards on 24 carries running behind the Redskins' patchwork offensive line. Andy Heck, filling in for Keith Sims in his first game at left guard since 1992, was kneed in the back on the Redskins' first offensive play but endured muscle spasms in his back and leg until giving way to rookie Mookie Moore in the third quarter.