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Chris Horton Has Far More Ups Than Downs Against Rams

The Redskins host the St. Louis Rams in their home opener at FedEx Field.

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By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 21, 2009

On the Washington Redskins' two biggest defensive plays, safety Chris Horton found himself right in the middle of the action. He made great reads and executed great plays.

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On the team's worst defensive play, though, Horton was right there, too, watching as Rams running back Steven Jackson scampered deep into Redskins territory.

"His game's improved, but I wish he had a great read on that 58-yard run, too," defensive coordinator Greg Blache said. "That's his gap. That was on him."

Such is life for the second-year safety -- as capable of making a game-changing play that helps his team as he is of one that hurts. In Sunday's 9-7 win over the Rams, though, the good outweighed the bad.

With the Redskins protecting a narrow lead with 13 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Horton single-handedly halted the Rams' drive, forcing a St. Louis fumble with the Rams just five yards from the end zone.

The Redskins' safeties had noticed similar plays on tape. The tight end leans one way. The quarterback's eyes go straight to the outside wide receiver. That wideout runs a hair inside.

Horton said he read the play instantly when it began to unfold two minutes into the final quarter. St. Louis quarterback Marc Bulger hit his top wide receiver, Donnie Avery. Cornerback Carlos Rogers was a foot behind and off balance, so he wasn't in position to make the play. But he didn't need to. Horton jumped, hitting Avery squarely and forcing the ball loose. Rogers was nearby to recover the fumble for the Redskins, halting the Rams' drive and giving Washington possession.

"I was just running to the ball and thinking to myself, 'Get this guy down,' " Horton said. " 'Make them kick a field goal. We don't want to give up seven points.' "

"I guess it was the way I hit him," he said. "I wasn't trying to force a fumble. But I forced it. It was just me running to the ball. Whenever I run to the ball, something good always happens for me."

Watching from the sideline, fellow safety Reed Doughty saw the play unfold and knew something big was about to happen.

"Any time you've got a player running inside-out on the ball and you're running hard, you have a chance to make a big play," Doughty said. "I think all of us safeties like to headhunt and like to hit. He weighs 220 pounds, so when he hits, you're going to feel it."

As they prepared to return to St. Louis, the Rams were still smarting from the effects of the play. The Redskins took possession and St. Louis didn't get even a whiff of the red zone after that.

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