By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 24, 2010; 11:17 PM
When it was finished, a flock of cameras followed Washington Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb off the field and into the tunnel. Just a few yards back was Ryan Torain - like much of the night, with no one around him - quietly walking to the locker room after a strong outing in a losing effort.
For much of the evening, Torain bounced off defenders and slipped tackles, but his team was unable to sneak by the Indianapolis Colts, losing 27-24. Despite the final score, Torain posted the best game of his young career, rushing for 100 yards on 20 carries. He scored the Redskins' first two touchdowns of the game.
"When my number is called, I just try to do my best. It felt good out there, [but] I just wish we could've got the 'W,' " Torain said.
Torain replaced Clinton Portis in the starting lineup in Week 5 against Green Bay and made his second start of the season Sunday night. While Washington Coach Mike Shanahan can at times be cautious when it comes to praise, he's said Torain could be an elite running back in the NFL. Sunday night marked the first time the 24-year-old Torain showed that potential for an entire game.
He became the Redskins' first rusher to crack 100 yards in the team's past 13 games. Ladell Betts had 114 yards on Nov. 15, 2009, against Denver, which came just three weeks after Portis's most recent 100-yard game.
Torain had such a strong start on Sunday that he topped 100 yards before the final quarter began. He had 103 yards on 19 carries and both of his touchdowns in the first three quarters.
As the Redskins tried to make up a deficit, they turned to the passing game in the fourth. Torain had only one run in the final quarter (a three-yard loss), and rookie Keiland Williams, the team's preferred back in passing situations, saw the bulk of the playing time in the backfield in the game's final moments.
Though Torain didn't get a chance to help his team down the stretch, he did plenty in the game's first three quarters. The game marked just the fifth game and third start of his career, and he posted career highs in carries, yards and touchdowns.
He was like a bumper car at times and the first defender was rarely the one who stopped Torain. He put together eight runs of seven or more yards, including five of 10 or more.
"I can feel the hands on me," he said, "and I just keep going. I know I can't stop until
they blow the whistle. So I just keep going as hard as I can, try to move downhill and do whatever I can to help my team."
Torain's first touchdown tied the game in the closing minutes of the opening quarter. The Redskins began their third offensive possession on their own 11-yard line, and McNabb marched his team down the field. Torain helped with a 16-yard run that put the Redskins in Indianapolis territory and a nine-yard reception that put the Redskins inside the Colts 9. From there, Torain darted around the right end and scrambled the remaining nine yards into the end zone.
McNabb said Torain's strong game helped open up the team's ability to run play-action. The Redskins finished with 246 passing yards against the Colts.
"I thought Ryan did an excellent job for us, just keeping his feet going," McNabb said.
Torain's second touchdown came in the third quarter and cut the Indianapolis lead to just three. Peyton Manning fumbled the ball on the Colts' second play of the second half, and the Redskins took over on the Indianapolis 13-yard line. Four plays later, Torain punched in a one-yard score - his third touchdown of the season and fourth of his career.
Later in the quarter, the Redskins again benefited from a Colts' turnover and began a drive on the Indianapolis 39-yard line. Torain took a hand-off and ran around the left end for 25 yards, helping set up a 39-yard Graham Gano field goal that again made it a one-possession game.
"I think with our offensive scheme, we just kept the defense on their toes, we kept working hard, the holes opened and we took advantage of it," Torain said.
The Redskins knew Sunday night held huge potential for Washington's ground game. The Colts entered the contest giving up an average of 142 rushing yards per outing, better than only three NFL teams.
The Redskins, meanwhile, didn't exactly boast one of the league's best rushing attacks. Though Shanahan has stressed the team's commitment to the run since arriving in Washington 10 months ago, the Redskins rarely showed it in their first five games.
Their Week 4 win at Philadelphia marks the only time the Redskins have posted more than 25 carries this season and the only time they outgained their opponent on the ground.
The team's final numbers against the Colts: 113 rushing yards on 24 carries (compared with the Colts' 170 yards on 29 carries). Sixty-seven of the Redskins' yards came on 15 first-half carries.
As far as the ground game is concerned, the Redskins will hope Sunday's performance is one to build from. At the very least, it's a big step for Torain, who will likely hold the starting spot for at least two more weeks - maybe longer, depending on Portis's recovery from a groin injury.
"We started jelling real well," Torain said, "and the offensive line started opening up big holes and I just kept running hard and when the opportunity presented itself I took advantage of it."