By Paul Tenorio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 6, 2008
PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 5 -- That the Washington Redskins were even in a position to run the ball consistently was surprising considering the hole they found themselves in just minutes into Sunday's 23-17 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
After DeSean Jackson's 68-yard punt return touchdown had given Philadelphia a 14-0 lead with 7 minutes 47 seconds remaining in the first quarter, players said it would have been easy to move away from the game plan and try to get back into the game through the air -- especially against a unit that entered the weekend as the league's top statistical run defense, allowing just 53.8 rushing yards per game.
"There was a great opportunity to go out and panic today," veteran tackle Jon Jansen said. "No one would have blamed them for changing things."
Instead, the Redskins reverted to the style for which they pride themselves: playing physically and running the football. And behind running back Clinton Portis and its veteran offensive line, the Redskins were dominant on the ground, rushing for 203 yards and a touchdown.
"I think it was a credit to our football team," Redskins Coach Jim Zorn said. "They stayed poised, they ran the plays called, and they played hard."
Portis was outstanding for the second consecutive week in a hostile road environment against a division foe, rushing for 145 yards and a touchdown and breaking off runs of 21 and 27 yards. And Jansen, the long-tenured tackle who lost his starting job earlier this season to second-year player Stephon Heyer, turned in another standout performance back in the lineup with Heyer out with a shoulder injury.
The veteran's presence on the right side of the line provided balance to a running game that had gone almost exclusively to the left side early this season, and the Redskins' line overwhelmed the Eagles with stretch and power running plays.
"Jon had to get his swagger back," fullback Mike Sellers said. "He got it. You know he sat out a few games and now he's back on track. And he's doing his job. I don't think anybody ever wants to go from being a starter to a backup. It hurt him. And I think he's coming out to prove to all these coaches that he's still the Jon Jansen that got drafted. He can handle business."
Zorn looked to the running game immediately following Jackson's punt return, calling Portis's number on the first two plays of the Redskins' next drive -- runs of five and seven yards. And though the Redskins were forced to punt, the calls showed the coach's confidence in his running back and his plan.
The confidence paid off, and in the second quarter the Redskins rushed for 49 yards to set up three Shaun Suisham field goals. Suddenly, Washington was within five points at the half.
"We stuck with what we believed in and got going," Portis said. "Luckily for us, Suisham was on point early and kept us in the game and all of us a sudden we just started rolling as a team."
The success continued in the second half with Portis's two long runs setting up both touchdowns -- the first an 18-yard pass from Antwaan Randle El to Chris Cooley and the second Portis's four-yard scamper on a draw up the middle.
And with the game on the line Zorn once again placed his trust in his running back.
Facing a fourth and one with 2:48 remaining in the game, the Redskins went for the first down and it was Portis that was entrusted to seal the game.
"I'm telling you all it was Clinton Portis," Zorn said. "He called the play. I called the formation and how I wanted it set up, but he called the play. And as we ran the play he willed his way for the first down.
"I had a great view of his grit and the offensive line's grit on that play. And he made it. He called it and he ran it and he got it. And that was a huge, huge play in the football game."
For Portis, the call made sense -- the natural choice for an offense that had kept the Eagles guessing all game long. But his coach's decision to take his star's advice was yet another example of the faith he had shown in his team throughout the game.
"He set it up throughout the season, and we'd been throwing the ball on short yardage, so just to keep the defense on their feet," Portis said. "I said, 'Coach, I think it'd be a great play.' He [just] looked at me."
"I didn't know he was going to call it and then we got in the huddle, [quarterback] Jason [Campbell] called the play," Portis said.
"So I knew [Coach] believed in me and I had to get those two yards."