By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 19, 2008 8:03 PM
After an unsettling loss in their previous game, the Washington Redskins rebounded, albeit not as impressively as they would have preferred, and held on for a 14-11 victory over the Cleveland Browns in front of 90,487 at FedEx Field.
The difference, it turned out, was a 54-yard field-goal attempt by Phil Dawson that sailed wide right with 25 seconds left in the game.
Running back Clinton Portis rushed for 175 yards -- his fourth consecutive 100-yard performance -- and quarterback Jason Campbell (14 of 23 for 164 yards) made plays in the second half despite being out of sync as Washington improved to 5-2.
Portis's three-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter put the Redskins ahead after a scoreless first half. Campbell teamed with Santana Moss on an 18-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter that gave Washington a 14-3 lead.
A week after a stunning loss to the then winless St. Louis Rams at FedEx, the Redskins were not sharp on offense for much of the game. But the defense provided the foundation for the victory over Cleveland (2-4).
"We put a lot of pressure on our defense to have to go back out there [at the end]," Redskins Coach Jim Zorn said.
Late in the game, Portis fumbled after a 24-yard run and the Browns recovered the ball. On the possession, Cleveland quarterback Derek Anderson threw a one-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Joshua Cribbs with 2 minutes 44 seconds left in the fourth.
Anderson then located wideout Braylon Edwards for a two-point conversion to cut Cleveland's deficit to three. The Browns kicked off, opting not to try an onside kick, and the Redskins quickly went three and out. The Browns drove for the field-goal attempt by Dawson that went wide right.
"I want to commend our defense. I put us in a bad position at the end," Portis said. "I've got to do better than that."
Campbell got into a bit of a rhythm on the Redskins' second drive of the second half, and the offense finally produced points. Campbell teamed with Moss and Antwaan Randle for gains of 35 and 13 yards, respectively, and Portis's three-yard touchdown run capped a six-play, 62-yard drive. Suisham's point-after kick gave the Redskins a 7-0 lead, which, with how poorly the Browns were performing on offense, probably seemed much bigger to the crowd.
On their next possession, the Browns had their most effective drive, covering 58 yards on 10 plays. But with Cleveland needing eight yards on third down at Washington's 17-yard line, defensive end Andre Carter sacked Anderson for a two-yard loss. Cleveland place kicker Phil Dawson made a 37-yard field goal, cutting the Redskins' lead to 7-3.
Neither team was effective on offense in the first half. The Redskins led in total yards, 154-59, but they repeatedly failed to finish drives. And in a fitting conclusion to the half, Suisham missed a 36-yard field goal as time expired, the ball hitting the left upright in another frustrating moment for Washington to that point. The Redskins had only eight first downs in the half.
Campbell struggled for the remainder of the half after he appeared to suffer an injury without being hit with about 4 minutes left in the first quarter. After throwing in incompletion while trying to connect with rookie tight end Fred Davis, Campbell dropped to the field as if he had injured his knee or groin.
He came off the field slowly under his own power. Team medical personnel quickly approached Campbell on the sideline and directed him to a training table. While Campbell laid back on the table, John Burrell, Washington's head athletic trainer, moved his legs in several directions in an attempt to help Campbell get loose.
Backup quarterback Todd Collins began to warm up as the coaching staff awaited word on Campbell, who got off the table after Burrell finished his work. Campbell did not miss a series, but he was not sharp, appearing as if he could not fully extend in his throwing motion.
Zorn relied on the Redskins' rushing attack for the rest of the half, Portis gaining 75 yards on 15 carries. Campbell completed eight of 14 passes for only 74 yards before the break.
"He didn't practice much this week and he threw out a 175-yard rushing game," Zorn said of Portis. "I'm not going to encourage that. Let's just say that."
Anderson is off to a slow start after what appeared to be a breakthrough season for him in 2007, but he was coming off his best performance of 2008 in Cleveland's blowout victory over the New York Giants. He regressed against the Redskins.
At halftime, Anderson had completed only three of 17 passes for 17 yards. Lewis did not fare much better, producing only 38 yards on 11 rushes. Cleveland had four first downs.