Brunell, Moss Terrific in Redskins Victory
By: Mark Solway
Category: Washington Redskins News
The Redskins not only beat a very solid Jaguars team, they beat a Jacksonville team that came ready to play. Byron Leftwich grew up beside RFK stadium and pioneered many great victories at nearby Marshall University, so the Jags quarterback came in wanting to put on a good show in this homecoming of sorts. He did. Leftwich finished 21 of 35 for 289 yards with three touchdowns; normally enough to win an NFL game. The Redskins defense shut down the Jags running game completely (33 yards), but Leftwich gave them fits for much of the game and especially in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately for Leftwich and the Jaguars though, someone else had a little something to prove as well.
Mark Brunell cut his teeth in Jacksonville, and this was his first opportunity to show the organization that perhaps they gave up on him a little early. There were a fair number of people in D.C. that were guilty of doing the same two weeks into the season, and not even a near perfect outing last week against the Texans by Jaguars seemed to have changed that much. Brunell still has a lot of friends in Jacksonville, as well as a house, so he undoubtedly wanted to play well. It looked like it was going to be a nightmare outing for him when he threw a bad interception on his very first throw; but he bounced back with the type of savvy and leadership that allow him to still be an effective passer in the National Football League.
Brunell's 68-yard pass to Moss in overtime stretched his day's total to 329 passing yards (18 of 30). It was their third touchdown on the day - both for Brunell and for Moss. They also hooked up on 55-yard and 8-yard touchdown passes in the first and fourth quarters respectively. Just like against the Texans, Brunell mixed it up well finding eight different Redskin receivers. Brunell's final quarterback rating was a stellar 117.2 and perhaps the most important statistic to judge a quarterback's performance by, he earned the Washington Redskins a much needed win.
For leading the team, and coming all the way back from a disastrous start, Brunell deserves the game ball. He's been under such tremendous media pressure the last two weeks that to respond the way he has, is truly a testament to his character and leadership. So will the vocal Brunell bashers kindly shut up for at least a week? Surely the man has earned a reprieve with his performance the last two games.
While Brunell may deserve the game ball, Santana Moss was undoubtedly the star of the game. There is no more dangerous wide receiver 'after the catch' in the league right now, and Moss showed it again on Sunday. Four catches for three touchdowns and 138 yards? What a ridiculous line. Moss leapt into the stands at Fed Ex to celebrate his overtime victory touchdown, and it was hard not to think that Moss really looks happier than he ever has in the NFL. When asked about his success after the game at his press conference, he said that it was, 'all about opportunity'. Moss went on to say that since coming to Washington, all the Redskins have done is give him opportunities. It's hard not to want to give Moss the ball when he looks like he can take it to the house every time he gets it.
It is a little easier to put the ball in someone else's hands, when that 'someone else' is Clinton Portis. While the big plays may have come from Brunell and Moss, it was the work of Portis, Ladell Betts and the offensive line that once again set the tone for this game. Portis became the first player to put up more than 100-yards rushing against the tough Jaguars defense. In fact, until Sunday, The Jags defense had only allowed the opposition an average of 59 yards rushing over their first three games. Portis finished with 112 yards, Betts chipped in 37 yards on 11 carries, and Antwaan Randle El added three more yards, to give the Redskins an impressive 152 yards on the ground.
Much like against the Texans, the Redskins offensive line dominated the play in the trenches. The Redskin detractors said that last week's performance by the line was all about the penalties, and that the success they realized was a product of playing a weak defensive line. What about Sunday against the Jags? The Jaguars front defensive four are a formidable unit, and they were not much more successful in stopping the Redskins line from dominating than the Texans were. Of course, some people were able to see how well the unit played last week as well (cough!). Incidentally, the offensive line didn't commit a single penalty this week. The unit is really firing now after starting a little slowly, and that's very good news for Redskin fans.
With the win, the Redskins moved to 2-2 on the season, and perhaps more importantly, they have regained their swagger. They won't get much time to celebrate as they face a tough division game next week against the Giants. But they will get a little time to celebrate; and they should, they earned it.
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