Portis Puts Washington's Offense on His Back

Redskins running back Clinton Portis spins the ball in the end zone after a third-quarter touchdown. Portis had his first 100-yard rushing game in the last five weeks. It also was his third of the season.
Redskins running back Clinton Portis spins the ball in the end zone after a third-quarter touchdown. Portis had his first 100-yard rushing game in the last five weeks. It also was his third of the season. (By Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)
By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 17, 2007

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., Dec. 16 It had been more than a month since Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis rushed for at least 100 yards in a game. Despite the Redskins' commitment to the running game and Coach Joe Gibbs's confidence in Portis, something was missing.

The Redskins and Portis rediscovered their successful formula on the ground Sunday night in a 22-10 victory over the New York Giants in front of 77,899 at Giants Stadium. Portis rushed for 126 yards -- his third 100-yard game of the season -- on 25 carries and scored on a touchdown in the third quarter to help the Redskins take command early in the second half.

"Coming into this year that was a goal of mine, to come in here and gave a big game," Portis said. "The last few years in this stadium, I stunk up the joint."

After failing to gain at least 70 yards in his previous four games, Portis had 88 yards at halftime as the Redskins began to make a strong statement. With two games remaining in the regular season, the Redskins still are in the mix for a wild-card berth.

Washington kept its postseason hopes alive in a stadium where it hasn't fared well recently, and Portis's strong running helped to make it happen.

"Clinton was huge tonight," tight end Chris Cooley said. "If we can run the ball well, it helps us throw the ball a lot better. When we run the ball our offense is so much better. I think we missed a lot of balls tonight because of the wind, but the way we ran helped us so much. With the wind tonight, if we couldn't have run the ball, I don't know what we would have done."

On a cold and windy night, Redskins quarterback Todd Collins completed 8 of 25 passes for 166 yards. Realizing the weather was adversely affecting the passing game, Al Saunders, the team's associate head coach-offense, adjusted, relying on Portis often.

Saunders called three consecutive running plays for Portis on the Redskins' final possession of the first half, and Portis had gains of 31, 8 and 10 yards. After two incomplete passes and a sack, Washington extended the lead to 16-3 with a 28-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham as time expired in the first half.

Portis has rushed for a team-leading 1,082 yards. "This season has been tough, man," Portis said. "To have that accomplishment, it is a good thing."

He has five 1,000-yard seasons in his six-year career and has topped 1,000 yards in two of his last three seasons. His performance Sunday helped the Redskins win at Giants Stadium for the first time since Dec. 7, 2003.

"He ran hard. He ran real hard," center Casey Rabach said of Portis. "That's all you can ask of a back, especially in these conditions, cold like this. The position we're in, as far as wins and losses, he ran real hard, and good things happened."

With 12 minutes 14 seconds to play in the third quarter, Portis scored from five yards. That touchdown gave Washington a 22-3 lead.

"When you run the ball well like that, yeah, it is fun," said rookie Stephon Heyer, who has started the last two games at left tackle. "We were able to open up the offense a little bit. We got to dictate what we wanted to do with the ball instead of just sitting back and letting those guys get a good rush up field and get in Todd's face. Clinton ran with heart, and you had to appreciate that."

Portis's effort, players said, had not decreased since he rushed for 196 yards in Week 9 against the New York Jets and 137 yards in Week 10 against the Philadelphia Eagles. But Portis struggled, gaining no more than 68 yards in the four games since those back-to-back efforts.

"We did a better job of opening up holes, and [Portis] did a great job of running hard through them," left guard Jason Fabini said. "We came in with a good game plan. We knew we were going to have to run it to be effective as an offense tonight, and especially at the end because it was pretty windy. We stuck to it, and we were able to finish it at the end.

"We had some big runs at the end of the first half, and we just kept at it. We were in the position where we could keep running it because we had the lead, and we really took advantage of the way Clinton was running tonight. It was just a great job."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company