Redskins rough it, ride higher with win over Broncos

Win streak runs to four on Graham's rally, 17-10

NFL Week 10

November 19, 2001|By Ray McNulty | Ray McNulty,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

DENVER -- Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder stood just inside the doorway, at the front of the reception line, and high-fived every player and coach entering the visiting team's locker room.

"How 'bout them Redskins!" Snyder shouted while clapping his hands. "That's four in a row!"

Across the previous 3 hours and 40 minutes yesterday, the Redskins won a game they weren't supposed to win, overcoming wintry weather, key injuries and a seven-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the Denver Broncos, 17-10, at Invesco Field at Mile High.

It was the Redskins' fourth consecutive victory after opening the season with five losses. And it was their first victory on the road.

The fact that it came against the Broncos in Denver -- where Washington's Marty Schottenheimer was 2-10 as a head coach -- only gave the suddenly surging Redskins more reason to feel good.

But not too good.

"Let's get to .500 first," said Redskins defensive end Bruce Smith. "We can enjoy this one tonight, but we can't get caught up in the hype of winning this particular game, even if it was on the road.

"We did some good things out there in some tough conditions. Defensively, that's the best we've played this year. But what I noticed more was the character of every person in this locker room. There were times when things weren't going well and guys could've said, `Here we go again,' and packed it in. But that didn't happen. We kept fighting."

Defensively, the Redskins shut down Denver's offense, limiting the Broncos to 186 total yards and allowing them to get to the end zone only once.

Broncos quarterback Brian Griese completed 11 of 31 passes for 114 yards. Rod Smith, who entered the game as the NFL's leading receiver, caught three passes for 25 yards. Mike Anderson was Denver's leading rusher, carrying 13 times for 31 yards.

"The offense was probably the worst performance I've been a part of since I've been in the National Football League," said Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, whose team will take a 5-5 record into Dallas for a Thanksgiving Day game against the Cowboys. "Obviously, it was disappointing that, two weeks in a row, we didn't do anything in the second half."

Actually, neither team's offense played particularly well, as the game began in rain and ended in snow. Passes were dropped. Snaps and handoffs were botched. Penalties took away what little momentum was generated.

But after the Broncos built a 10-0 lead with a pair of second-quarter scores -- a 33-yard field goal by Jason Elam and a 1-yard touchdown pass from Griese to Rod Smith -- the Redskins lost a quarterback and found a way to win.

With 1:50 left in the first half, Redskins starter Tony Banks was hit by defensive tackle Leon Lett and suffered a concussion. Banks was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital, where X-rays were negative. He flew back to Washington with the team.

The injury pressed veteran backup Kent Graham into action and, taking his first snaps of the season, he passed the Redskins to the Denver 30. From there, Brett Conway kicked a 48-yard field goal with 11 second remaining in the half to cut the Broncos' lead to 10-3.

"It was a tough kick," Conway said. "A 48-yarder, you're expected to make it. But in those conditions, it's a battle. Plus, you know if you make it, it boosts your team. If you don't, it lets the air out. So it was extremely positive for us to get some points there."

Schottenheimer called the kick "enormous," because it enabled the Redskins to go to halftime trailing by only a touchdown.

The third quarter, though, produced no points, just more turnovers and penalties.

But one of those turnovers -- Denver tight end Desmond Clark's fumble was recovered by Washington linebacker LaVar Arrington at midfield -- set up the first of the Redskins' two touchdowns.

Two plays into the fourth quarter, Graham drilled a 5-yard touchdown pass to Michael Westbrook to even the score at 10-10.

The Graham-to-Westbrook combination proved to be the Redskins' most effective weapon against the Broncos, who were stacking the line of scrimmage and challenging Graham to beat them with his arm.

"They were putting a lot of people on the line, daring us to throw outside," Graham said. "I really don't know Michael all that well yet, but you try to take what's there. It was wet and windy out there, so you have to be smart and you have to be patient. But you can't be afraid to throw the ball."

Graham threw the ball 18 times, completing 12 passes for 123 yards and two scores. Nine of those completions went to Westbrook, who finished with 104 receiving yards.

Said Westbrook, "It was kind of an insult. We still get no respect, even after the teams we beat."

It took one more touchdown pass to beat the Broncos, and Graham threw it to backup tight end Zeron Flemister -- a 3-yard toss to the back corner of the end zone with 2:48 remaining.

"We're 4-5 -- I prefer to look at it that way," Schottenheimer said. "But the fact that we've found different ways to win is encouraging."

NOTES: Redskins running back Steven Davis carried 23 times for 84 yards, with 61 of them coming in the second half. ... Redskins receiver Kevin Lockett suffered bruised ribs in the first quarter but returned to action, and guard Matt Campbell left the game with a knee injury in the fourth quarter.

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