Tracee Hamilton - Sports Columnist

Led by Betts, Redskins' reserves provide a backup plan

By Tracee Hamilton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Well, it figures. The Redskins seem to have gotten it together, finally, with Sunday's 27-17 win, overcoming injuries and strife and all that TV movie stuff. What they haven't had is a good position controversy.

Here it comes.

With Clinton Portis cheering from the sideline, backup Ladell Betts has, in the past game and a half, revved up the Redskins' offense, which in turn has revved up the entire team, the coaches and the fans.

So what happens when Portis, out because of a concussion suffered in last week's loss to Atlanta, is healthy again?

Nothing. The NFL isn't like baseball. Guys are seldom Wally Pipped in the NFL. In other words, they don't lose their starting jobs over a headache.

"I don't want a guy to have to lose his job because he got a concussion," Coach Jim Zorn said Monday at Redskins Park, formerly known as the Unhappiest Place on Earth. "He's our running back and who knows what kind of game he might have had. We can speculate on both sides of that. I don't want to take anything away from what Rock [Cartwright] and what Ladell did either. Our offensive line did a great job of creating lanes. I think we're all excited about that."

That said, Zorn and the Redskins can't deny that their offense, in the past six quarters, has looked immeasurably better. Betts had 114 yards on 26 carries, a 4.4-yard average, with a touchdown in Sunday's victory. Most of that running is what he later called "downhill," barging straight ahead through whatever sliver of daylight the offensive line provided. Is that enough to turn around an entire season? Albert Haynesworth said yes. And who's going to argue with Albert Haynesworth?

"It can be one win; it can be one play," he said. "We could point back and look at Ladell Betts running the ball as hard as he did and moving the offensive line against a ranked defense. That was key to us and that could turn us around a whole lot."

Of course, it's not just Betts's individual numbers; it's also this: 22 first downs, tying the Redskins' best total this season. Nine came on running plays, most for the Redskins this season. Net yards rushing: 174. Rushing plays: 40. Both are season highs. Their 27 points were the most they've put up this season -- easily. And so on.

And it's not just the rushing numbers, either. Those numbers created these numbers: 214 and 10. That's passing yards and receivers with catches. Jason Campbell ran the gamut from A. Randle El to T. Yoder, using all his weapons and most of the alphabet. He completed 17 of 26 passes, was sacked three times and had no interceptions.

Betts didn't do all that single-handedly. But everyone knows a running game boosts the passing game. That's NFL 101.

"It means a lot," tight end Fred Davis said of Betts's effort. "Who doesn't like running the ball like that? It helps the passing game, it helps a lot of things when you got the running game going like last week in the second half. Start the running game going, some passes there, a few runs here. Ladell, he. . . stepped in when we needed it."

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