They're Getting Warmer

Jason Campbell goes deep to find Santana Moss for a 67-yard touchdown as the Redskins take the lead from New Orleans late in the game and hold on for a 29-24 victory.
By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 15, 2008

There was a major breakdown in pass protection. Washington Redskins offensive linemen realized their mistake the moment quarterback Jason Campbell dropped back yesterday late in the fourth quarter against the New Orleans Saints, but there was nothing they could do.

So as wide receiver Santana Moss sped down the right sideline and a frustrated FedEx Field crowd of 88,246 watched attentively, one thought raced through left tackle Chris Samuels's mind. "Please," Samuels recalled, "somebody give Jason a chance to get that ball to 'Tana."

Fullback Mike Sellers provided a timely assist in diverting a defensive lineman who had a clear path toward Campbell. And then Campbell made perhaps the biggest play of his NFL career -- teaming with Moss on a 67-yard touchdown pass that provided the go-ahead score in a stirring 29-24 victory.

The Redskins overcame shaky performances on special teams as they rallied from a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit in their home opener during the hottest game played at FedEx Field (the temperature at kickoff was 90 degrees with 55 percent humidity). After a poor performance in a season-opening loss to the New York Giants, the Redskins outgained the high-powered Saints in total yards, 455 to 250.

"A game like we had today, what we did, it could do wonders for this team," Moss said. "It could do wonders for Jason."

Campbell had 321 yards passing, the touchdown to Moss and a sparkling 104.1 passer rating. Moss had seven receptions for 164 yards. Top running back Clinton Portis had 96 yards on 21 rushes and scored two second-half touchdowns, leading a running game that produced 149 yards and a 4.8 yard average per carry.

Washington's defense, which was ineffective against the run in the first half in Week 1, rebounded nicely, limiting the Saints to 55 yards on 19 rushes. Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Taylor recorded his first sack as a Redskin, and Saints quarterback Drew Brees faced pressure throughout the game. Rookie safety Chris Horton, in the starting lineup with strong safety Reed Doughty sidelined because of flu-like symptoms, had quite a debut, intercepting two passes and recovering a fumble. The Redskins also played without strong-side linebacker Marcus Washington (hamstring, hip).

Horton's second interception occurred on the Saints' possession after the Campbell-Moss connection, and it all but sealed the first win for Jim Zorn, the Redskins' rookie head coach. "The thing I am most excited about," Zorn said, "is that our players believe that we can move the ball the way that we did."

Campbell and Moss made another big play to provide complete closure. Facing a fourth down at the two-minute warning, the Redskins needed two yards to prolong the possession. Zorn, Washington's play-caller, put it on Campbell's shoulders again.

Campbell completed an eight-yard pass to Moss, triggering the beginning of a celebration on the sideline that extended into the locker room. The Redskins evened their record early in the 2008 season, which has been a grind for Campbell.

The subject of intense media and fan scrutiny after his lackluster opening outing against the Giants, the fourth-year quarterback displayed the type of talent and mettle that should silence critics for at least this week. Yesterday, Campbell made things happen under difficult circumstances, and this could be the start of something big, many Redskins players said.

"I think we've all said what we think of Jason as a player and the talent we think he has," said tight end Chris Cooley, whose clutch reception in the fourth quarter helped prolong a drive that Portis capped with one of his impressive touchdown runs.

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