Redskins find their finishing kick in putting away Chargers, 24-20 Shepherd catch provides big moment for Turner

December 07, 1998|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

LANDOVER -- Brian Mitchell, Darrell Green and Leslie Shepherd never stopped promising better days for the Washington Redskins, even in the darkest of times during an 0-7 start this season.

Yesterday, those three veteran stars joined with quarterback Trent Green to lead Washington to its first fourth-quarter comeback victory in Norv Turner's five-year tenure as coach.

Trent Green produced the 24-20 win over the San Diego Chargers with a perfectly orchestrated, 20-yard touchdown pass Shepherd, who caught the ball in full stride in the right corner of the end zone with 1 minute, 54 seconds left in the game before 65,713 at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium.

The quarterback froze the San Diego defense with a pump fake to wide receiver Chris Thomas, who was open over the middle at the 10-yard line, and then unloaded the ball to Shepherd for the score that gave the Redskins (4-9) back-to-back wins for the first time this season.

"It [the winning touchdown] all developed the way it was written up," said Trent Green, who was released by the Chargers in 1994.

"That was something we'd been practicing all week. They were giving us just the coverage we wanted. The corner was looking in to Chris [Thomas] and the outside receiver [Shepherd] did a hook pattern and came open. We haven't had many victories like this one around here."

Turner said: "It's nice to win a game late in the fourth quarter. But our guys really know how to compete and they did today."

However, Trent Green and Shepherd might not have been in a position to win the game if Mitchell had not raced 101 yards for a touchdown on a kickoff return in the second quarter and Darrell Green had not rebounded quickly from dizzying blows to his ribs and head to have another outstanding day at cornerback.

It was the longest kickoff return for Mitchell in his nine years with the Redskins, surpassing his 97-yard touchdown jaunt last season against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The two returns represent the only two that have gone for touchdowns in his career.

The 101-yarder is the second-longest kickoff return for a touchdown in the history of the franchise. Larry Jones holds the record with a 102-yarder Nov. 24, 1974, against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Mitchell gathered the ball in and headed toward the right sideline. He mostly had smooth sailing until he reached the San Diego 10, where Chargers cornerback Jimmy Spencer came racing over and tried to push him out.

Spencer wasn't successful and Mitchell bulled his way into the nTC end zone for a 14-6 lead with 10: 24 left in the second quarter.

"The last 10 yards were mostly on my stiff arm to Spencer," Mitchell said. "He never really tackled me. The only other guy who had any chance at all was No. 98 [Michael Mohring] around midfield and he never touched me."

For Darrell Green, it was another splendid show as he made six tackles and proved he could still take all the blows and do it his way.

"I got hit real hard twice," he said. "It was just one of those games as a veteran you just have to play through. When I went back in, I had to test myself. My ribs were probably worse than my head."

He was one of eight Washington players who got beat up yesterday, with Michael Westbrook (jammed neck) and James Thrash (fractured clavicle) appearing to be the most seriously injured. Thrash played the second half after suffering the fracture.

Pub Date: 12/07/98

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