'Skins' rally tops Panthers, 17-14, earns first win

Conway's OT field goal atones for miss, caps comeback from 14-0

NFL Week 6

October 22, 2001|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

LANDOVER - With the troubles the Washington Redskins have had merely staying competitive in games this season, it stands to reason that actually winning one would take something out of the ordinary.

The Redskins got the following, all in the final 12 minutes of play: a 67-yard interception return for a touchdown, the longest touchdown pass in a quarterback's checkered career, an overtime scoring play that was marked at the 6-yard line because of a mysterious foot to the helmet, and a kicker's redemption.

Add it up and you get the unlikely, a 17-14 Redskins win over the Carolina Panthers in overtime before 74,480 at FedEx Field.

Brett Conway's 23-yard field goal in overtime was the game-winner.

"I didn't think it [the first win] would take this long, but it did," said Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer. "I'm more delighted frankly for the players than myself because they're the ones that had to endure the circumstances that unfolded in the ballgame, and they wouldn't give up."

The Redskins (1-5), who dropped a 9-7 heartbreaker to the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night, had opportunities to fold, especially with a hostile crowd that grew so frustrated with quarterback Tony Banks that some chanted for Hall of Fame quarterback Sonny Jurgensen to come out of retirement and out of the radio booth to take over.

Instead, the combination of a brilliant fourth-quarter effort by the Redskins' defense, the inconsistency of Carolina rookie quarterback Chris Weinke, who threw four interceptions, and the emergence of a deep passing attack got Washington its elusive first win.

"I think guys will have a lot of fun with it tonight, but as we know, this is a long season. We got that monkey off our backs, but now we've got a few more monkeys to get off our backs," said Banks, who was 17-for-30 for 346 yards.

The Panthers (1-5) stumbled for most of the first three quarters, save for Tshimanga Biakabutuka's 20 carries for 121 yards - the fifth back to run for more than 100 yards on the Redskins this season.

Biakabutuka, who broke a foot in the fourth quarter and may be out for the season, had a 10-yard scoring run with just under 13 minutes to go that made it 14-0. It looked like the punctuation to another desultory Washington loss.

Then, with 10:10 remaining, linebacker LaVar Arrington, dropping back on pass coverage, tipped a Weinke pass intended for running back Chris Hetherington, grabbed the deflection in stride and ran 67 yards up the left sideline for a touchdown to slice the deficit in half.

Arrington's play seemed to light a fire under both the crowd and the Redskins' defense, which choked off Carolina on three downs on the ensuing series.

"Before we went out on that series that LaVar intercepted the ball, [injured defensive end] Marco Coleman said, `Tell them to score on defense,' " said Redskins cornerback Darrell Green. "I went to every guy and said, `Marco said let's score on defense.' And sure enough, we scored on defense. That really sparked us."

And the spark seemed to catch on the offensive side, as Banks connected on his only touchdown pass of the game, an 85-yard strike to rookie receiver Rod Gardner with 7:25 to go that tied the score at 14.

Gardner, who had dropped Banks' first pass to him, found an empty seam in the Panthers' zone, waited for Banks' pass to arrive, then took off for the score.

"I don't know what they were doing, but I appreciate whatever they did. It didn't matter as long as I got in the end zone," Gardner said.

After the Redskins' defense again shut down Carolina, Banks marched Washington 67 yards on the final drive of regulation to the Carolina 13, setting up what appeared to be a chip-shot field-goal try by Conway from 32 yards.

But Conway, who hit the NFL's longest kick to date this season, a 55-yarder against the New York Giants two weeks ago, pulled the kick to the right to force overtime.

In the extra session, however, the Redskins won the toss and moved quickly, seemingly ending the game on another Banks-to-Gardner connection, this one covering 53 yards. Gardner caught the pass at the Carolina 6, fell down and then got up, apparently untouched by cornerback Doug Evans and safety Deon Grant as he rumbled into the end zone with just 2:52 gone.

However, the replay official notified referee Bill Carollo that Evans had touched Gardner's helmet with his foot. Carollo concurred, and the ball was marked down at the Panthers' 6, giving Conway a chance to atone for his earlier miss.

Conway then made his 23-yarder, and the Redskins finally had their first win.

"This [comeback] speaks volumes about the young men in that locker room," Schottenheimer said. "With the way things have gone the past five games, we've struggled. We've done some things well, but we haven't been able to finish it off.

"A lesser group of men - I'm not talking about players, I'm talking about men - would not have persevered at 14-0. They would have booked it, as it were. This group won't do that."

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