Brooks gives Redskins a rush

December 06, 1993|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

TAMPA, Fla. -- Like a diamond in a coal bin, rookie Reggie Brooks is providing the sparkle for the Washington Redskins this season.

Brooks' 78-yard touchdown run -- combined with Kurt Gouveia's 59-yard interception return for a touchdown -- helped the Redskins to a 23-17 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before 49,035 at Tampa Stadium yesterday.

"He's a home-run hitter," coach Richie Petitbon said of Brooks, VTC who has the two longest runs in the NFL this season and two of the four longest in Redskins history. He had an 85-yarder against the Philadelphia Eagles this season.

"That's two long runs he popped this year. A guy like that is very, very dangerous," Petitbon said. "We've said all along we think he's an extra-special back. He's got a lot of speed and a lot of talent."

Bucs coach Sam Wyche said: "You have to give the credit to Reggie Brooks. He's a great player, and I feel that he'll be one of the best in the NFL."

Brooks' emergence as a feature back who could carry the club on the ground for the rest of the decade is one of the few bright spots in a season of frustration for the Redskins.

Brooks, who carried 20 times for 128 yards, has 873 yards this season and is almost certain to surpass the 1,000-yard mark in his first season. He isn't lacking for confidence. "Any time I get the ball, I feel I can go the distance," he said.

His touchdown run came on a play the Redskins had been featuring to the outside. When the Bucs over-pursued because they were looking for the outside burst, Brooks cut inside behind Raleigh McKenzie, who blocked linebacker Hardy Nickerson.

Brooks then made a move on safety Jerry Gray and was in the open. He then outran cornerback Martin Mayhew, a former Redskin, to the end zone.

Brooks, who gave the offensive line credit for springing him, said he wasn't surprised he wasn't caught from behind. "That's the initial attitude that I take when I get past the secondary, [that] I'm not going to get caught from behind," he said.

"I'm just out there having fun, I'm enjoying the game. I'm just living a dream and hope to continue to live it for quite some time."

Brooks' long run came on the first play of the second half and gave the Redskins a 17-0 lead, but they still weren't able to put the Bucs away. They recovered an onside kick in the final two minutes to wrap it up.

"It's a great win for us. Again, in a lot of areas we didn't play very well. We certainly played good enough to win," Petitbon said.

The victory tied the Redskins with the Bucs and the Los Angeles Rams for the third-worst record in the league at 3-9. It gave Petitbon, who is under fire in his first season, a chance to smile.

"Two and nine is not too much to smile about," Petitbon said, referring to the team's record before the game.

The Redskins have won two games -- against the Indianapolis Colts and now the Bucs -- since beating the Dallas Cowboys in the opener. In the victories against the Colts and Bucs, they almost lost big leads and had to recover onside kicks at the end to win by six.

"We know how to keep games close. We're putting the thrill back in the onside kick. It was certainly a win that this football team really needed badly," Petitbon said.

The Redskins are 4-0 against the Bucs, but this one was an upset because the Bucs were actually favored by two points.

That the Redskins were underdogs could have been used a motivational tool by Petitbon, but wasn't.

"I figured they could read the papers," he said.

The Redskins, who play the New York Jets Saturday, conceded it wasn't a classic win, but they hope they can use it as a springboard to salvage something out of the last month of the season -- including their jobs.

The coaches and players know there could be a lot of changes in the off-season if they don't end the season on a positive note.

Offensive lineman Ray Brown said: "Even in victory, we haven't played a complete ballgame. We had moments we should have just nailed them to the ground. There shouldn't have been a question about the game. The defense stepped up and played well. We were sporadic as a team, but it's great to get a victory. It can put us on a roll. We've got four games left."

Except for the big plays by Brooks and Gouveia -- which came with 1:43 left and made it 23-10 -- and a batted pass that Tampa Bay defensive lineman Ray Seals caught on his back for a touchdown in the third period, it would have been a dreary, 10-10 game.

The officials didn't seem to be much better than the players. They changed the spot after a penalty, overruled a couple of calls, and referee Gordon McCarter announced at the end of the third quarter, "This is the end of the first quarter."

Wyche called for a "full investigation" by the media of the calls, but McCarter declined to comment. "That particular situation will be handled by other avenues," McCarter said.

Both teams ran well -- the Redskins got 180 yards and the Bucs added 144 -- but both treated the forward pass as if it were a fad.

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