NFC East: Rams

Portis credits Redskins' win to 'team ball'

October, 19, 2008
Posted by's Matt Mosley

LANDOVER, Md. -- Redskins running back Clinton Portis had just completed one of his best days as a pro Sunday, but none of that mattered as the Browns lined up for a 54-yard field-goal attempt to send the game into overtime.

 Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
 Clinton Portis rushed for 175 yards and a TD, his fourth straight 100-yard rushing game.

Even though he'd punished the Browns for four quarters with 175 yards on 27 carries, Portis stood to be the goat if the Browns pulled off the comeback.

After a dramatic goal-line stand by the defense, the Redskins took over at their 3-yard line. As he had all night, Portis spotted a seam and bounced outside for what he thought was going to be a 97-yard touchdown run. But as he raced down the right sideline, Browns cornerback Eric Wright jabbed the ball out from behind.

"I gotta know better," said Portis, wearing the type of gold eyewear that can't be found at Sunglass Hut. "I was running wild and trying to dig. The guy just made a great play."

Asked how he felt when Phil Dawson's 54-yard attempt sailed wide right, Portis told a reporter to think of the "best relief you've had in your life."

Portis' turnover led to a Browns touchdown, and opened the door for Dawson's attempt. The Redskins held on for a 14-11 victory that helped ease some of the sting from last week's 19-17 home loss to the surging Rams.

Earlier in the week, Portis said he didn't know if a hip injury would allow him to play against the Browns. With backup Ladell Betts already out, Jim Zorn had to dial up former Seahawk Shaun Alexander, whose best days are well behind him.

Portis didn't practice all week, but he said a couple of massages helped enable him to play. And given the circumstances and the Redskins' lack of rhythm in the passing game Sunday, Zorn had to ride his best player.

"I think Clinton Portis is an absolute workhorse," Zorn said. "And our offensive line takes pride in that. I think teams are coming to stop our run, but we're staying with it."

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Rapid Reaction: Rams 19, Redskins 17

October, 12, 2008
Posted by's Matt Mosley

I guess we should've seen the letdown coming. After a remarkable four-game winning streak, which included division road wins over the Cowboys and Eagles, the Redskins lost to the winless Rams at home.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, Washington (4-2) is the first team in NFL history to play its first five games without an offensive turnover. But that came crashing down in the first half Sunday, when the Redskins had two turnovers. The back-breaking turnover came late in the half when Redskins guard Pete Kendall plucked a deflected pass out of the air and then was stripped. The Rams returned the fumble for a touchdown to take a 10-7 halftime lead.

The play energized a team that seemed destined for a 0-5 record. Clinton Portis was able to gash the Rams defense, but the Redskins didn't take the lead until late in the fourth quarter.

Everything Jim Zorn has touched has turned to gold lately, but on Sunday, the Redskins looked like a team that was emotionally spent. Still, they had a chance to hang onto a 17-16 lead late in the game. Rams quarterback Marc Bulger found rookie wide receiver Donnie Avery for a 43-yard gain on third-and-13 from the St. Louis 41-yard line. Avery, one of the fastest players in the draft, somehow was in one-on-one coverage with nickel cornerback Leigh Torrence.

Former Seahawks kicker Josh Brown nailed a 49-yard field goal to win the game and help the Rams improve to 1-4. Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell wasn't awful, but he couldn't make enough plays to give the Redskins some cushion in the first half.

The good news for the Redskins is that they will host the Browns next Sunday and then travel to Detroit. There's still a great chance this team is 6-2 at the midway point, and I think most Redskins fans would've taken that at the first of the season.

I'm sure the Redskins are re-thinking their decision to go with rookie punter Durant Brooks over veteran Derrick Frost. Brooks had two pathetic punts Sunday, and that helped set up the offensively challenged Rams.

It's not wise to panic after one loss -- but the Redskins definitely made life a little tougher on themselves.

Audibles: NFC East Week 1 preview

September, 5, 2008

Posted by's Matt Mosley

Cleveland Browns at Dallas Cowboys, 4:15 p.m. ET

What you need to know: As my colleague James Walker points out, the Browns have been awful in season-openers (1-8) since returning in 1999. When the schedules were released this offseason, this seemed like a marquee matchup for Week 1, but now conventional wisdom suggests the Cowboys will roll. Even with all the injuries at wide receiver, the two starters Terrell Owens and Patrick Crayton are still available. And rookie Felix Jones and tight end Jason Witten are like having two more receivers.

The Cowboys may have already sent an advance party to Tampa to set up Super Bowl operations, so the season-opener should be a formality. Wade Phillips, who was portrayed as a tender soul on HBO's "Hard Knocks," begins the season squarely on the hot seat. The Jason Garrett coaching family currently outnumbers the Phillips family, 3-2, on the staff, but Bum's always a phone call away. Like it or not, Phillips needs to win at least two playoff games to keep his job, but he'll have to pick up a couple of regular-season wins first.

Prediction: Cowboys 34, Browns 21
Tony Romo torches the Browns' secondary and DeMarcus Ware sacks Derek Anderson three times. The Dawgpound will sound like a golf gallery by the fourth quarter.

St. Louis Rams at Philadelphia Eagles, 1 p.m. ET

What you need to know: This game has blowout written all over it. Who cares if Donovan McNabb will be playing with inexperienced wide receivers. It's not like the experienced ones are world-beaters. He's attempted to temper the enthusiasm for rookie DeSean Jackson, but it's a lost cause for this receiver-starved fan base. With the exception of T.O., McNabb's never known what it is to throw to a superstar, but it's never held him back that much.

And plus, he has a superstar in the backfield. Armed with a new contract, Brian Westbrook is poised to have a huge season. And the addition of Lorenzo Booker gives Philadelphia a nice change-of-pace player. Let's not kid ourselves about the Rams. Even with the addition of rookie defensive end Chris Long, this is still a bad football team. Steven Jackson is a great running back, but his quarterback, Marc Bulger's career is running a fade pattern. Eagles cornerback Lito Sheppard will stop complaining in time to play an effective game in the nickel defense, and defensive end Trent Cole will batter Bulger. This is a great way for the Eagles to begin the season.

Prediction: Eagles 31, Rams 10
Take this one to the bank. Andy Reid isn't fighting the distractions that plagued him heading into last season. He and McNabb think they can make a Super Bowl run, and in the watered down NFC, that's a definite possibility.