Childress wins head coaching debut; Vikings upstage Portis' return

LANDOVER, Md. (AP) -- Two days before his 38th birthday, Brad Johnson was the one handing out a very nice present. In the locker
room, the quarterback gave the game ball to new head coach Brad Childress, whose mission to transform the Minnesota Vikings is off
to a winning start.

Ryan Longwell's 31-yard field goal with one minute remaining
gave the Vikings a 19-16 victory over the Washington Redskins on
Monday night. For now, Childress has at least some temporary
bragging rights over Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs.

"I am tremendously humble and was a little emotional after the
game," Childress said. "I'm just happy for those guys in the
locker room. ... They faced a lot of adversity tonight. It was an
away game, a Monday night, Hall of Fame coach, I'm just pleased
with what they accomplished."

Johnson deserved much of the credit himself for doing what he's
been doing throughout his NFL life: win, win and win some more.

He has won an impressive 61 percent (66 of 109) of his starts
with four teams in his 15-year career -- including two years with
the Redskins. He completed 16 of 30 passes for 223 yards and a
touchdown Monday, and kept bailing out his team, completing 10 of
15 passes on third down.

"That's Brad," center Matt Birk said. "He's just so smart,
and he's obviously crafty to have played in the league this long."

The loss subdued a Washington crowd that turned the stadium into
a sea of fluttering red, white and blue as they waved American
flags to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001,
terrorist attacks.

Big things are expected of the Redskins this year, a confidence
reflected in an attendance of 90,608 that set a new record for the
largest stadium in the NFL. Even Hollywood made an appearance:
Actors Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were guests of owner Dan Snyder,
who has recently entered into a partnership with Cruise's
production company.

Nothing in the sideshow helped the Redskins win. They did have a
chance to send the game to overtime after Longwell's kick, but John Hall -- who has struggled with leg injuries for the last two years --
was wide left with a poorly hit 48-yard field goal attempt with 12
seconds remaining.

"There were some plays, yards and even some touchdowns that we
left on the field," said Mark Brunell, who was 17-for-28 for 163
yards. "How far off we are I'm not quite sure yet, but I do know
that we're a throw away, a block away and a run away from really
doing some good things tonight."

Childress has vowed to change the culture of a Vikings team that
was belittled following last year's infamous "Love Boat" party
involving several players. He made a statement before the game by
deactivating safety Dwight Smith, who was cited for indecent
conduct two weeks ago.

"A win is always good," receiver Troy Williamson said. "It's
going to be even greater for coach Childress."

Chester Taylor, the Vikings' free agent signing from Baltimore,
rushed 31 times for 88 yards and a touchdown, upstaging Clinton Portis' surprise return for Washington. Portis, who spent the week
downplaying his chances for the game because of a shoulder injury,
entered the game late during the Redskins' first drive and finished
with 39 yards on 10 carries and scored his team's only touchdown.

A game that had no turnovers was decided with a winning Vikings
drive that began at Minnesota's 33 with 5:34 remaining. A 13-yard
pass to Williamson converted a key third down, and 15 yards were
added to the play when Redskins safety Sean Taylor grabbed
Williamson's face mask.

From there, Taylor carried five straight times to the Washington
13, forcing the Redskins to use all their timeouts before
Longwell's winning kick.

The Vikings become the 10th road team to win in the NFL's
opening weekend, the most in Week 1 since 1983, when there were 12
road winners.

"That just shows how battle-tested we are," said Minnesota
safety Darren Sharper, who saved a touchdown by knocking the ball
out of Santana Moss' hands in the end zone late in the first half.
"That's what coach has expressed to us all camp -- he wants a
hardened unit."

The Redskins sputtered as they unveiled a new offense designed
by assistant coach Al Saunders. Saunders' arrival meant Gibbs
wasn't calling plays for the first time in his head coaching
career, and the attack relied heavily on laterals and screens,
making for some odd stats. At halftime, a receiver, Moss, led the
team in rushing, while a running back, Ladell Betts, led the team
in receptions.

"I think, obviously, we'd like to have more points," Gibbs
said. "I don't think anybody in there from an offensive standpoint
is satisfied."

Game notes
Redskins S Pierson Prioleau hurt the ACL in his right knee
on the opening kickoff. Gibbs said the injury was "pretty bad."
Prioleau will have an MRI on Tuesday. Redskins DT Phillip Daniels
bruised his knee, and TE Christian Fauria had a lower leg injury.
... Portis, recovering from a left shoulder that was partially
dislocated on Aug. 13, played as a backup for the first time since
Sept. 30, 2002, the fourth game of his rookie year with Denver.


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