The Washington Redskins were so uncomplicated today.
They rattled a rookie, stole his thunder (and his football three times), and needed just eight minutes of high-energy offense to win a 60-minute NFL game.
Even the score was simple: Washington 14, Cleveland 7.
"I don't really care these days how we do it," Coach Joe Gibbs said afterward, more relieved than enthused. "I'm not sure we can look pretty this year."
The victory in front of a near-capacity gathering of 78,540 in Cleveland Stadium pulled the Redskins back to .500 with a 4-4 record, but it had its price.
Right defensive tackle Darryl Grant tore the medial collateral ligament in his left knee on a cross-block by a Cleveland offensive lineman early in the second quarter and will undergo surgery Monday, according to head trainer Bubba Tyer.
He is expected to miss the remainder of the season and will be replaced by rookie Dean Hamel, who filled in for him today.
Left offensive tackle Joe Jacoby went down with another sprain of his right knee seven plays later and also didn't return to the game. His injury, though not nearly as serious as Grant's, might keep him out of this Sunday's game at Atlanta. Dan McQuaid replaced Jacoby.
"We had disastrous things happen to us," Gibbs said of the injuries. "Darryl will be out quite awhile . . . and Jacoby has a bad sprain."
Grant seemed more upbeat about his injury as he sat in the locker room with a knee brace on under his jeans.
"It doesn't seem as bad as they keep telling me it is," he said.
Those who tuned in 15 minutes late missed almost all of this game's crucial moments. To be sure, there was a Browns comeback, led by veteran Gary Danielson after rookie Bernie Kosar was benched at halftime. And there was a nifty Redskin sidestep of disaster in the form of a 16-yard, third-down pass from Joe Theismann to Gary Clark with two minutes to play.
But, all in all, the Redskins wrapped up this game -- and then hung on so tightly as the Browns tried to steal it away -- in the first seven minutes 43 seconds.
Kosar, starting for the third time in his NFL career, was intercepted on the second official play of the game. He fumbled on the Browns' fifth play from scrimmage, and was intercepted again on Cleveland's eighth offensive play.
The first two turnovers led to Washington's touchdowns: a one-yard run by John Riggins, who became the first player to run for more than 100 yards against Cleveland in 22 games (Riggins had 112 today); and a 19-yard scoring catch by Clark, who suddenly has become the Redskins' clutch receiver.
With 30 seconds gone in the game, Kosar hung an off-balance pass high in the air, and it fluttered aimlessly into the hands of Redskins free safety Curtis Jordan.
Jordan returned the ball 32 yards, leaving Washington with only 25 more to go until the end zone.
It took the Redskins eight plays, six of them Riggins' runs, to score the first time with 4 1/2 minutes gone.
After one Cleveland first down, Kosar fumbled a handoff to fullback Kevin Mack, which was recovered by middle linebacker Neal Olkewicz at the Browns' 37.
"If we don't have (the two turnovers), I don't think we would have won," Olkewicz said. "We needed something like that."
Riggins ran right for four, then Theismann threw to Didier, totally alone in the right flat, for a 12-yard gain to the 21.
Riggins ran for a yard and gained another yard on a reception, setting up third-and-eight at the 19.
Theismann called Clark's number, an out pattern into the end zone with a pump fake. Cornerback Larry Braziel took Clark's little fake inside and ended up behind Clark. Safety Al Gross came over to help too late.
Theismann threw an arcing pass, Clark timed it, jumped with two hands and fell backwards into the end zone, and Washington led, 14-0.
"I heard it looked pretty good," Clark said. "It felt pretty good, too."
The Redskins could do no wrong; the Browns no right. Before you knew it, Kosar was intercepted again, this time by cornerback Vernon Dean, who popped in front of Clarence Weathers near midfield.
"I was disappointed in my performance," Kosar said.
"We wracked him up a little bit," said defensive end Dexter Manley. "He was getting hassled. I think his inexperience showed a little. I don't think he was able to adjust to us."
The Redskins did nothing special to Kosar, who finished with seven completions in 17 attempts. They played mostly a basic zone, and frankly were surprised he threw as much as he did so early.
But winning this game for the Redskins was not as easy as it looked in the first eight minutes, nor as difficult as it looked in the final 52.
Gibbs called it a game of field position, and he was right. In the first quarter, the ball crossed into Washington territory for about two seconds, the time it took punt returner Ken Jenkins to field and return a punt past the 50.
The Redskins controlled much of the second quarter, too, although Mark Moseley missed their only scoring opportunity of the period -- a 38-yard field goal. Matt Bahr missed a 47-yarder for Cleveland.
There was a question why the Redskins did not try long field goals when they drove to the Cleveland 35 and 39 in the second quarter. Neither a 52-yarder nor a 56-yarder is within Moseley's range, but both are well within Steve Cox's, who kicked a 60-yarder last year when he played for the Browns.
Yet Gibbs decided to have Cox punt both times. If there had been very little time left in the half, he said, he would have tried a field goal past the 50. But midway through the quarter, he decided to punt.
Fortunes shifted quickly in the second half when a Cox punt from the end zone traveled just 39 yards, and Brian Brennan returned it eight yards to the Redskins' 41.
In two plays, aided by a face mask penalty against Olkewicz, the Browns moved to the 14. From there, in a designed play full of deception, Danielson stepped back, stutter-stepped as though he wanted to hand off to someone, and then popped a scoring pass to tight end Ozzie Newsome, who scored with Jordan giving chase.
There still was a quarter and a half to play, but the game ground into a scoreless standoff -- just what the Redskins wanted. The Browns (4-4) never got closer than a fourth-and-14 opportunity at the Redskins' 24, which turned into a harmless seven-yard catch by Newsome when everyone else was covered.
There still was time for the Browns -- if the Redskins faltered.
On third and eight, Clark ran the same route he did for the touchdown, only he cut back this time, and saved the victory with a tip-toe, 16-yard reception on the sideline.
"All I do is catch it, fall down and give high-fives to my teammates," Clark said.