By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Even after the Washington Redskins had squandered another halftime lead in their 33-25 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, middle linebacker London Fletcher still had important work to do. While players hurriedly dressed and left the locker room, Fletcher counseled quarterback Jason Campbell, whose frustration was evident.
Campbell took no comfort in his strong performance -- which included his first extended opportunity to run the no-huddle offense -- and appeared sullen until Fletcher arrived with words of encouragement. The coaching staff had opened up the offensive game plan and Campbell had done his part, Fletcher recalled telling Campbell.
"He's a young player, he's competitive and he wants to do his best, and sometimes you can be too hard on yourself when things don't go your way," Fletcher said. "I just thought he needed to know, I felt it was important to let him know, that he did enough for us to win the football game. I like the fact that he was like, 'Nah, Fletch, I should have done this or that.' But that attitude is why, as a football team, we believe in Jason."
After Campbell's 16 career starts (the equivalent of one full season), the Redskins are confident in their quarterback, who is coming off one of his best performances in a game in which Coach Joe Gibbs and Al Saunders, associate head coach-offense, finally took off the handcuffs. Against Philadelphia, Gibbs and Saunders permitted Campbell to take control in the no-huddle offense, using the fast-paced attack on several series in the second half. The Redskins are among the NFL's most run-heavy teams, and Gibbs won three Super Bowl titles in his first stint with Washington while espousing the benefits of a power running game. But putting more on Campbell's shoulders may be what's needed for this edition of the Redskins to finish, players said.
After losing for the third time this season -- and 13th time since 2004 -- in a game in which they had led at halftime, the Redskins (5-4) face the NFC East-leading Cowboys (8-1) on Sunday in Irving, Tex. Campbell looked comfortable working quickly against Philadelphia, and the Redskins hope the no-huddle offense is here to stay.
"I think they almost have to" keep it in the game plan, wide receiver Antwaan Randle El said, "because it worked so well."
Until the last game, the Redskins only had operated in a no-huddle offense in two-minute drills at the end of halves. In an effort to disrupt Philadelphia's aggressive blitzing schemes, the Redskins emphasized the no-huddle offense in practice last week. For weeks, players had privately lobbied to open up the offense, team sources said, telling Gibbs and Saunders that Campbell and the wide receivers could handle more of the load. Apparently, the coaches listened.
"It feels really good because Coach Gibbs is a big trust guy, and it took a lot for him to take that control out of his hands and put it into Jason's hands," said wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, who later suffered a broken collarbone during practice and may miss the rest of the season.
"In the no-huddle the quarterback is making decisions, the receivers are making decisions. There's a lot of guys making decisions, and for us to step up and execute that is good. There's a lot more to do with it, and I hope we get a lot more opportunities to keep running it."
Washington used the no-huddle offense for part of one drive in the first half and three full drives in the second. Campbell called the plays at the line based on the alignment of the defense, choosing from among "a handful of predetermined plays," Saunders said. Spreading the defense with four-receiver sets, the Redskins moved the ball well as Campbell and the wide receivers got into a groove.
In the first drive that included no-huddle plays, Campbell teamed with James Thrash on a 31-yard reception and a 12-yard touchdown pass. Campbell completed 5 of 7 passes for 34 yards on another no-huddle drive, capping it with a six-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Keenan McCardell.
"He's really coming along," first-year Dallas coach Wade Phillips said of Campbell yesterday on a conference call with the media. "You can see the progression, you can see him getting better and better. They went hurry-up some last week, and he's starting to handle the team well, not only playing well."
The Redskins' other two no-huddle drives Sunday were stopped when the Eagles recovered fumbles by running back Ladell Betts and Campbell, and the Redskins failed to sustain their movement on offense in the fourth quarter, contributing to the loss.
Overall, Campbell completed 23 of 34 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Campbell had a 114.2 passer rating, his highest since a career-best 125.3 in a 34-3 victory over the Detroit Lions on Oct. 7. The pace of the no-huddle offense helped him get off to a good start against the Eagles, Campbell said.
"It's something we all have been wanting to do a little bit more of because it gets everyone involved, and we feel like that's how we score points better," he said. "You're not in a rush when you're doing it. You're still lining up and taking what the defense gives you, but it gives us a fast-paced offense. Just like in basketball, you want to run a fast-break offense. We're not in a slow-down mode . . . we're attacking. That gave us that mentality and the guys were excited."
And Campbell also enjoyed his increased responsibility.
"You're in control," he said. "You're in charge. All the guys are looking to you. That's what a quarterback likes to be -- in charge. And when we're doing that, all the guys are alert because they're like, 'Okay, I can get the ball.' They know that anybody can get the ball."
Gibbs said he was pleased with Campbell's production and his "total command of that, [whether] it was a run or pass, and making the decisions," Gibbs said. "He's very, very good at it."
So will Gibbs instruct Saunders to make no-huddle plays a staple of the Redskins' offense?
"It kind of depends on the teams that you're going against," Gibbs said, "but I certainly think that's part of what we can do."