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A Promising Preview

On Washington's first offensive play, wideout Rod Gardner went into motion to the left and took a Brunell handoff to sprint right. By the time Atlanta realized the chicanery, Gardner dashed 16 yards to the crowd's delight.

"We kept them on their toes, but you didn't see nothing," Gardner said smiling devilishly. "Next week, we'll be ready to go."

Tailback Ladell Betts and the Redskins down the Falcons, 27-0, in the final preseason game Friday. (John McDonnell - The Washington Post)

_____ From The Post _____
 Gibbs
Mark Brunell, pictured, and the starters shine in a 27-0 thumping of Falcons in final tuneup.
Thomas Boswell The first quarter was a welcome show of progress.
Notebook: Ladell Betts likely earned a spot on the roster.
Matt Schaub is battling to be Michael Vick's top backup.

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On first and 10 from the Atlanta 26, Betts caught a short pass and used some silky spin moves for an 11-yard gain. Betts punctuated the drive on first and goal from the Atlanta 5 by galloping left behind sturdy blocking to give Washington a 7-0 led.

The Redskins' defense -- which was coming off a shoddy performance in last week's 28-3 loss to St. Louis -- didn't wait long to make amends.

On Atlanta's first possession, cornerback Shawn Springs blitzed from the left side. Vick used his Houdini-like moves to momentarily elude Springs before floating a pass that was intercepted by safety Matt Bowen.

Even when Washington's offense didn't make big gains in the first quarter, it executed its plays crisply. On second and four from the Atlanta 8-yard line, wideout Darnerien McCants came around on a fake reverse for a two-yard gain by Betts. (The play seemed to be set up by Washington's trickery to start the game, but Atlanta defended well this time.)

In the three seasons that Gibbs won the Super Bowl, his teams finished a combined 3-9 (1-3, 2-2 and 0-4) in preseason games. This training camp, Gibbs expressed concern early about the running game and quarterback play. But the more Gibbs seems to open up his play book, the better the offense plays.

Midway through the first quarter, on second and goal from the Falcons' 7-yard line, wide receiver James Thrash went into a herky jerky motion for several seconds that confused Atlanta enough for a six-yard gain. Though the play was nullified by an Atlanta penalty, Betts promptly plowed up the middle for a three-yard touchdown run to give Washington a 17-0 lead.

Running backs John Simon (shoulder) and Rock Cartwright (shoulder) didn't play, leaving speedster Sultan McCullough room for a final push to make the squad. He ran for 75 yards on 23 carries, making Gibbs's final decisions this weekend even tougher. The Redskins are expected to keep two of the four tailbacks.

After missing the past three exhibitions with a sprained knee, Arrington looked in Pro Bowl form, blitzing or roaming from sideline to sideline to make plays. Defensive end Phillip Daniels quietly made his preseason debut after missing much of training camp with an abdominal strain.


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