WASHINGTON -- It was a work of Art for the Washington Redskins.
Art Monk moved into second place on the all-time receiving list yesterday to help the Washington Redskins move their record to 7-0 with a 42-17 rout of the Cleveland Browns before 54,715 at RFK Stadium.
Even though Monk caught seven passes -- two for touchdowns -- to move ahead of Charlie Joiner on the receiving list, it was almost appropriate that an exciting rookie running back named Ricky Ervins all but elbowed Monk out of the spotlight in the second half.
Ervins, thrust into the lineup in the third quarter after Earnest Byner went out with a bruised hand and Gerald Riggs was taken out with bad hands after fumbling, ran 13 times for 133 yards and two touchdowns in the second half to rip the game open after the Browns had narrowed the deficit to 21-17.
Not that Monk would complain that Ervins had stolen the spotlight. Monk ducked out the back door of the locker room before reporters were allowed in for post-game interviews.
A quiet type who doesn't like the limelight, he didn't talk much about it to his teammates, either.
"He had a big smile on his face," said veteran linebacker Monte Coleman, one of his closest friends on the team. "I congratulated him [as he came off the field] and he responded, but he didn't say anything."
Monk came into the game with 749 catches, one behind Joiner. His second catch moved him up the ladder, and Monk didn't like the idea of having the Redskins stop the game to present him the ball so it was appropriate that they didn't have to.
His second catch -- on third-and-two at the Cleveland 14 with 4 minutes, 33 seconds left in the first quarter -- was a diving catch in the left corner of the end zone.
"I think he was more excited that the catch was a touchdown," Coleman said.
Monk is a steady receiver not noted for spectacular plays, but he passed Joiner with a catch that would make the highlight films even if it hadn't moved him into second place.
"What a great day for him to get the record," coach Joe Gibbs said. "I thought that was great the way he did it."
Although Monk was mobbed by his teammates and several coaches congratulated him on the sidelines, Gibbs is so focused on the game that he didn't bother to acknowledge the event or even give him a pat on the back.
"I don't think he wants a hug from me," Gibbs said with a smile. "I'm so used to him doing things like that that I just said, 'Oh, well, another milestone for Art.' If I stopped for every one of those, we might not get the play."
Monk's next milestone is expected to come next year, when he's likely to break Steve Largent's all-time career record of 819 catches. Monk has caught 756 passes and has caught a pass in 123 straight games. He's fourth in the latter category.
Gibbs said he never has ordered a pass thrown to Monk to keep his string alive.
"I'd probably do it if I was forced to, but his stats have never been padded here. He's done it all on his own," Gibbs said.
One coach who has seen enough of Monk is Bill Belichick, the Browns' rookie coach. Counting the 89 Monk caught against the New York Giants when Belichick was an assistant coach there, he's caught 96 passes against Belichick-coached teams.
Monk's six catches in the first half helped the Redskins to a 21-7 halftime lead, although they had the help of some good fortune.
Late in the second quarter, Cleveland's Eric Metcalf caught a short pass and ran 21 yards to the Washington 1, where he fumbled. If the ball had gone out of bounds, Cleveland would have had the ball at the goal line, but it hit the pylon. That's part of the end zone, so it was ruled a touchback and the Redskins got the ball back.
"I think it's a dumb rule," Metcalf said.
If the Browns had scored that touchdown, it might have been a different game because they shredded a Redskins defense that had registered three straight home shutouts.
They gained 389 total yards (the Redskins had 398) and displayed the gambling style that the Giants often used against the Redskins.
They got their first touchdown on a fake field-goal attempt, when holder Brian Hansen threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Webster Slaughter, who started to leave the field, but then went over to the right sideline and wasn't covered by the Redskins.
The Browns then recovered an onside kick, although they lost it because they were offside and touched the ball before it had gone 10 yards.
In the second half, Matt Stover kicked a 26-yard field goal and Vince Newsome recovered a fumble by Riggs and ran it 37 yards for a touchdown to make it 21-17 with 8:07 left in the third quarter.
All of a sudden, it was a game.
Ervins returned the ensuing kickoff 46 yards to the Cleveland 46. When Riggs tried to go to the right side on the Redskins' next play and was stopped for no gain, the fans started booing.