TEMPE, ARIZ., SEPT. 30 -- The Washington Redskins introduced a new quarterback and an old face-smashing style tonight in thrashing the Phoenix Cardinals, 38-10, before 49,303 at Sun Devil Stadium.
The quarterback was Stan Humphries, who was better than even the Redskins might have dreamed, turning his first NFL start into a clinic on offensive football by completing 20 of 25 passes for 257 yards.
He hit Gary Clark with a pair of 42-yard touchdown passes, constantly checked off to second and third receivers and didn't throw an interception. In the second half he was almost flawless, going 11 for 12 for 183 yards and both touchdowns.
He also scored on a quarterback sneak as the Redskins rallied from a 10-7 halftime deficit to score 31 straight points.
Humphries was only part of the story as the Redskins improved their record to 3-1, good enough for second place in the NFC East. They have a week off before playing the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles four times in a five-week stretch.
Coach Joe Gibbs had said he wanted to return to traditional Redskins football, which meant returning to the run. They did that tonight by piling up 179 yards on the ground. Gibbs also had wanted to get Gerald Riggs involved again, and he did that as well.
Riggs carried 19 times for 95 yards, and Earnest Byner carried 16 times for 56 yards as the Redskins finally wore down the frisky Cardinals and controlled the ball for 37 of the game's 60 minutes. They had 64 plays on the night and 39 of those were runs. In the past two weeks, they'd run the ball a total of 41 times.
How much had the Redskins changed? When Riggs scored on a one-yard run in the second quarter, it was the Redskins' first rushing touchdown of the season. Their 26 first downs were almost as many as they had the previous two weeks combined, and their 436 total yards were easily their best performance of the young season.
"That was the best we've played," Gibbs said. "Stan was very solid. He missed a few things early and was a little shaky. But he showed a lot of poise and he'll work to get the ball in the right spots."
Almost lost in all of the offensive numbers was a defense that had another terrific night, allowing the Cardinals 49 second-half yards. The Cardinals got their first first down of the second half after the Redskins were comfortably in front, 31-10. And this time the Redskins took advantage of it, scoring on their first five possessions of the second half.
"That's one for the books," safety Todd Bowles said. "They gave us their best shot in the first half and we got 'em in the second."
Gibbs probably would have returned to basics even if quarterback Mark Rypien hadn't injured his left knee last week. But when Gibbs was forced to start Humphries -- a quarterback who was playing in only his fourth NFL game -- his decision was made easier.
The Redskins started conservatively, giving the ball to Byner up the middle and asking only that Humphries throw short. What was so amazing about his 20-for-25 night is that he started off by connecting on three of his first five passes.
What he did hit were short routes, eight yards to Art Monk, seven to Kelvin Bryant and eight to Jimmie Johnson in the flat.
"We seemed to move the ball right from the start," Humphries said, "but we weren't getting it in the end zone. It looked like we were doing what we wanted, but it was always being stopped by something."
Their first possession was stopped when Humphries missed three open receivers, their second when Chip Lohmiller missed a 45-yard field goal. His only previous miss this season had been when San Francisco's Charles Haley blocked one at Candlestick Park two weeks ago.
The first quarter ended scoreless, and the Cardinals took a 3-0 lead on their first possession of the second. They drove 58 yards on seven plays, with workhorse rookie running back Johnny Johnson (93 yards, 16 carries) turning the corner and getting 35 on the first play.
He had gains of four, three and one yard and linebacker Greg Manusky was flagged for a late hit to move the ball to the 14. From there, quarterback Timm Rosenbach missed twice and Al Del Greco kicked the field goal.
The Redskins then got going. Rookie Brian Mitchell returned the kickoff 34 yards and when Tracy Eaton hit him out of bounds, the Redskins got another 15. That put Washington on the Phoenix 47 and it took eight plays to get the touchdown and a 7-3 lead.
Riggs picked up 26 yards on seven carries and Humphries passed to Clark for 16. On third and goal from the 1, Riggs scored with 7:14 left in the first half.
"Our 260-pounders did as good a job as they could blocking 300-pounders," Cardinals Coach Joe Bugel said. "They've got a good football team and they made the plays. It seemed like we were always facing second and eight in the second half."
The Cardinals got the ball back and had another good drive, going 79 yards in 11 plays for a 10-7 halftime lead. Johnson picked up 36 yards on five carries and Roy Green slipped outside cornerback Brian Davis and caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from Rosenbach.
That was that. The Redskins controlled the rest of the game, beginning by taking the second-half kickoff and going 60 yards in 10 plays. Riggs, returning to his college campus here at Arizona State, was the pounding back he had been at the beginning of last season and the Redskins offensive line had a dominating night.
"It felt good to be tired and bruised again," Riggs said. "I had to be patient. I knew I'd get a chance. I just wanted to be ready."
Byner smiled as well, saying, "The running game is something you have to keep doing. Our offensive line was just firing off the ball. A one-two tandem is really nice. Stan was cool and calm, and we wore them down."
Lohmiller ended the first drive with a 26-yard field goal for a 10-10 tie. The Cardinals ran three plays and punted, and the Redskins struck quickly. Byner carried for seven and Humphries hit Monk for six.
"The safeties were creeping closer and closer," Humphries said. "They were becoming conscious of the running game and that put some receivers in one-on-one situations."
At that moment, it put Clark one-on-one against cornerback Cedric Mack, and when Humphries pump-faked, Mack bit. Clark sailed past him and Humphries hit him in stride for a 17-10 lead.
Again, the Cardinals ran three plays and punted. The Redskins then ate up 5:49 by driving 84 yards in 11 plays.
Humphries hit Riggs with a 14-yard screen. Monk gained 26 on a reverse, with Humphries throwing a block on safety Lonnie Young.
Humphries passed to Riggs for eight, then Riggs picked up gains of five, four and four yards. Byner carried for five and Humphries made what may have been his best play of the night.
He looked over two receivers, moved around in the pocket and flicked a 13-yard completion to Don Warren at the 5. Byner gained four and Humphries scored on a sneak for a 24-10 lead 12 seconds into the fourth quarter.
Again, the Cardinals ran three plays and punted.
Again, the Cardinals moved up to stop the run. Byner gained 15, Riggs gained three, and at the 42, Clark again was isolated on Mack. Humphries hit him in stride to make it 31-10 with 11:12 left.
The Cardinals got a first down on their next possession, but they gave it back to the Redskins, who used up 6:20 to drive 53 yards in nine plays. It was a Redskins highlight film, with Riggs picking up 44 yards and Byner scoring from the 1.
Gibbs began this season saying he would use three wide receivers and stay with what had worked so well at the end of last season. Tonight he said that perhaps he'd been too stubborn and stayed with that strategy too long.
"What happened to the running game was that it just didn't have enough opportunities," he said. "I sat back and thought about it. I think there were reasons we didn't run against the 49ers, but we should have run it more last week. That was a carryover from the last five games last season. But we know we can throw the ball. We have to run it enough to give our guys a chance to get involved."