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With Moss, Fuel Injection

Punt Return for Touchdown Puts Detroit in Redskins' Rearview Mirror

Santana Moss scores a pair of touchdowns, including an 80-yard score off a punt return, and Clinton Portis eclipses 100 yards agains as the Redskins upend the Lions to make it through the season's first half with a 6-2 mark.
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 27, 2008; Page E01

DETROIT, Oct. 26 -- A sense of anticipation spread among the Washington Redskins as wide receiver Santana Moss moved into position to field a punt early in the fourth quarter Sunday at Ford Field.

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Despite Moss's stirring 50-yard touchdown reception during the previous quarter and the Redskins' other accomplishments on offense in the second half, the winless Detroit Lions still were making things difficult for Coach Jim Zorn. So with another victory in reach at the midpoint of Washington's schedule, Zorn put Moss in position to deliver another big blow.

"When coach told me, 'Do I have one in me? I just told him, yeah,' " Moss said. "When I'm out there, when I have the ball in my hands, I pretty much pretend I'm a punt returner at all times. You see guys coming at you, but you know one sudden move here or there, can make 'em stop. Then you can burst again and kind of run away from 'em."

Moss did that while eluding the punt coverage, stopping only when he reached the end zone after an 80-yard touchdown that helped the Redskins rally for a 25-17 victory. He added to the long list of frustrating moments for the hapless Lions and their long-suffering fans in a crowd of 54,312, maintaining his balance after initially colliding with rookie wideout Devin Thomas and then outracing his pursuers.

"That's his job," defensive tackle Lorenzo Alexander said. "He's one of the big-time players, one of the big-time stars, on our team, and that's what we need him to do. And when he does it, you see how it just gets guys even more ready to go back out there and do their jobs."

The Redskins had their first double-digit cushion, helping to ease tension on the sideline following an animated exchange in the first half between Zorn and running back Clinton Portis ignited by miscommunication and the offense's failure to finish drives well. With the flare-up behind them, Zorn and Portis contributed to the Redskins' second-half surge.

Portis finished with 126 yards, his fifth consecutive game with at least 100 yards rushing. The league's leading rusher has gained at least 120 yards in five consecutive games twice during his career, joining O.J. Simpson in holding that NFL mark.

After eight games, Washington (6-2) is tied for the league lead in victories (the 6-0 Tennessee Titans face the Indianapolis Colts on Monday night). The Redskins last had six victories at this point through their schedule in the 2000 season. Although they could have done many things better against the Lions and in their first seven games, the Redskins' impressive record is what matters most, coaches and players said.

"We were 3-1 in our first four, and now we're 3-1 in our second four," Zorn said. "We're feeling very solid about our record, anyway, about being 6-2 starting into this second half. This is the push here where the teams begin to find themselves, halfway through the season. And so, we're hopeful that we can keep this going."

The consistency of quarterback Jason Campbell has been key in the first six victories. On Sunday, Campbell was outstanding against the Lions (0-7), whose pass defense ranks among the worst in the league.

He completed 23 of 28 passes for 328 yards and the touchdown to Moss. He established a personal-best 127.4 passer rating, benefiting from Zorn's approach of "just taking what the defense gives us," Campbell said. "If it's the passing game, we go with it. If it's the running game, we go with that. We just have to be prepared for all scenarios and every situation."

In addition to his timely punt return, Moss had a season-high nine receptions in his third game this season with at least 140 yards receiving. "Santana is the type of guy that can spark our team, spark our offense," said tight end Chris Cooley, who had six receptions for 74 yards. "We need that, we need that every week, from him. He's a great team guy, he knows what he brings to us, and what he does is huge. Both of those plays were so big. That's why we won this game."


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