Lions Comeback Hopes Thrash-ed
A funny thing happened on Sunday - the Redskins won a close game as opposed to losing it. Not surprisingly, it was not the play of the offense; but perhaps what was surprising, was that it was not necessarily the play of the defense either. It was the play of the Redskins' special teams that beat the Detroit Lions - namely, James Thrash.
When Chad Morton was placed on the injured reserve list, many thought the Redskins' special teams would take a step backward. That wasn't the case on Sunday. Thrash returned his only kickoff return 20 yards, and despite only two attempts, had a game-altering 43-yard punt return. The Redskins had to settle for just a field goal because of a costly penalty on the goal line, but it was the Redskins' first points of the game and seemed to get the ball rolling a little bit.
But Thrash's play on special teams was equally as impressive when defending. He deadened the ball three separate times on Detroit's one-yard line, including with less than 2 minutes to go, to give Detroit a long, long field to drive for the tying score. They couldn't manage against the mighty Redskins defense, and Washington had their third victory of the season.
Thrash's play seemed to inspire his special teams teammates and it was the special teams squad that scored the winning touchdown when Walt Harris picked up a punt blocked by Taylor Jacobs and ran it in for the Redskins' third touchdown.
When a team is struggling to move the ball and earn victories, field position can make or break a team. Tom Tupa guaranteed that the Redskins come out on top this week in that regard. Tupa had the dubious statistic of having to punt the ball 9 times in the game, but had an astounding 47.9-yard average. Perhaps more impressive was the 5 punts downed inside the 20-yard line. Some of that was due to Thrash's aforementioned great special teams play... some of it was due to Tupa's great kicking and ability to angle his punts into the coffin corners.
Despite Mark Brunell's continued struggles, the Redskins did manage to run the ball well against a tough Detroit run defense. Brunell managed a pathetic 58 yards and completed just 6 passes. Luckily, Clinton Portis carried the offense with 147 hard-fought rushing yards and figured if Brunell was struggling throwing the ball, he'd do that for the offense too. Portis hit Laveranues Coles on a half back option for Coles' first touchdown reception of the season and Washington's only offensive score of the game.
The Washington defense continues to look like exactly what it is - the number one defense in the NFL. It doesn't seem to matter how many injuries accumulate, Gregg Williams finds a way to field a unit that continues to go out and give the Redskins a chance to win football games. Cornelius Griffin had his best game as a Redskin, perhaps the best game of his career as he wreaked havoc in Detroit's backfield all day. Griffin sacked Joey Harrington twice, knocked down a pass, and pressured the young Detroit quarterback all day long. It was the best game by a Redskins defensive tackle since Daryl Gardener left town, and it was a large factor in the Redskins' defenses success on Sunday.
So Redskin fans were granted a rare treat for 2004, a victory. The team that has continually lost close battles in 2004, finally won one. It was ugly at times, but thanks to James Thrash, the burgundy and gold faithful get to groan about the performance with a smile on their faces.
This article was released on 2004-11-07.
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