By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 29, 2008
IRVING, Tex., Sept. 28 -- His work on the field completed, Washington Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell still had obligations to meet Sunday after playing a major role in a 26-24 victory over the Dallas Cowboys.
As a large group of Redskins fans converged at the railing atop the tunnel at Texas Stadium, Campbell stopped to chat before joining Washington's latest locker-room celebration, thanking them for their support throughout the biggest victory of his career. It appeared the appreciation was mutual.
The crowd continued to chant his name as he disappeared beneath them, a fitting ending for Campbell after his strong performance in the first half helped propel the Redskins to an impressive victory against their biggest NFC East rival in front of 63,462.
Campbell continued his strong run that began in the second half of a Week 2 victory over the New Orleans Saints, leading the Redskins on three consecutive scoring drives to close the first half and put them ahead 17-10.
"The first half, right there, man, Jason really got us going," Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels said. "He was good the whole game, he's been really good, but we needed to start fast and he got us going. He's definitely leading us, and we're just following him."
He managed things well in the second half as Dallas quarterback Tony Romo, wide receiver Terrell Owens and the rest of the NFL's top offense (statistically, at least) rallied to tie the score, but never took the lead.
Wide receiver Santana Moss had a game-high eight receptions for 145 yards, and place kicker Shaun Suisham kicked two of his three second-half field goals -- Suisham was perfect in four attempts -- in the fourth quarter.
Running back Clinton Portis also delivered down the stretch in his first 100-yard game of the season and set a franchise record with his 20th career 100-yard game. Washington's young defensive backs also performed well while veteran cornerback Shawn Springs and Fred Smoot were slowed by injuries.
Dallas failed to recover an onside kick after pulling within two points, and the Redskins (3-1) ran out the clock for the third straight week in their third consecutive victory. In their final regular season trip to Texas Stadium, Washington handed Dallas -- considered by many league observers to be the NFL's best team -- its first loss in four games and won for only the second time in its last 13 games here.
"You know, when you look at the fans celebrating, when you look at the way we're playing, this is what it's all about," Campbell said. "We're staying together and we keep fighting, so we can accomplish anything when we do that. But to come down here in a rivalry game like this and everything, it just means a lot for the organization, our fans and just everybody that cares about the Redskins."
The Cowboys will move into a new state-of-the art stadium in Arlington, Tex., next season, and Campbell's latest big step forward helped the Redskins leave here feeling good for a change.
"Where Jason shined, he stayed concentrated in difficult situations against a tremendous defense," Coach Jim Zorn said. "He didn't have any of these ups and downs, these sways of emotion. I always talk to him about, 'You bear down. Bear down.'
"What I mean by that is that if you have to grit your teeth to concentrate through difficult situations, you must. Certainly, we were fortunate to beat a great football team, and part of it was that concentration level, and he just kept it up that whole game."
As Washington asserted itself in the first half on offense, Campbell completed 14 of 20 passes for 188 yards. He threw touchdown passes of three yards and two yards, respectively, to wide receivers James Thrash and Antwaan Randle El. Overall, Campbell completed 20 of 31 passes for 231 yards.
"He's just using his tools, using everybody that he's got around him," Moss said of Campbell. "I talk to him on the regular to let him know it's not all about him, it's not all on him, it's about us all working together. And he's making it work. He's using everybody that he has."
Since struggling in Washington's 16-7 season-opening loss to the New York Giants, Campbell has displayed a much better grasp of Zorn's version of the West Coast offense that features many three- and four-receiver sets. Campbell outperformed his higher-profile counterpart, Romo, who completed 28 of 47 passes for 300 yards with three touchdowns.
Campbell has not committed a turnover this season. Against Dallas, he excelled at reading the defense, picking up the blitz, locating second and third receivers in patterns and stepping up in the pocket, Redskins players said.
"He's just playing so well, he really is," center Casey Rabach said. "He's the player that we drafted to be the player we all knew he could be. He's just playing his [butt] off now, and we're all so happy for him."
Campbell has not thrown an interception in his last 146 pass attempts in the regular season, tying Brad Johnson for the second-longest stretch in team history. Joe Theismann is atop the franchise list with 161 straight passes without an interception.
"Really, it's not about the statistics and stuff like that," Campbell said. "It's just about playing hard for my team. That's what matters."
The Redskins solved some pass protection problems in the opening quarter (Campbell was sacked twice on consecutive possessions on third down and not again in the game) and overwhelmed the Cowboys for the remainder of the half behind Campbell.
After Dallas took a 7-0 lead, Campbell started his roll on a 10-play, 79-yard drive that ended on his three-yard touchdown pass to Thrash, the No. 3 wideout. Campbell's statistics on the drive: six completions in seven attempts for 60 yards and the scoring pass. He also had three completions of at least 13 yards.
"We fought back when it was certainly too late," Dallas Coach Wade Phillips said. "We had opportunities early in the game and we just couldn't take advantage of them.
"I thought they outplayed us. I thought they outplayed our offense. They outplayed our special teams and our coaches. Take your pick."