LANDOVER - If there's one positive note the Washington Redskins can take with them for the holidays, they can breathe easy in knowing that they are better than an expansion team.
The Redskins proved that yesterday by racking up a season-high 247 rushing yards and limiting the first-year Houston Texans to 166 yards of total offense en route to a 26-10 victory before 70,291 at FedEx Field.
Washington (6-9) broke a three-game skid and collected only its second win in the past seven contests, leaving left tackle Chris Samuels to remark, "It's a big win. A great Christmas gift."
Coach Steve Spurrier's Fun 'N' Gun offense looked more like the Rush 'N' Crush as Ladell Betts (20 carries for 116 yards) and Kenny Watson (20 for 110) became the first Redskins tailback duo to each rush for more than 100 yards in a game since Keith Griffin (164) and George Rogers (124) accomplished the feat against the Atlanta Falcons on Nov. 3, 1985.
The running game powered the Redskins to 437 yards of total offense, and the team improved to 4-1 when its run-pass ratio leans toward the former.
"Obviously, Houston is not one of the top teams," Spurrier said, "but still, their defense was ranked pretty high [13th in the league before yesterday]. I was proud of the way our guys blocked and ran the ball with Kenny and Ladell both having over 100 yards. It worked out super for us."
The ground game masked an inconsistent passing day for rookie quarterback Patrick Ramsey, who misfired on 18 of 32 attempts in recording his first career victory as a starter.
But Ramsey did throw for 190 yards and two touchdowns, and he walked away without tossing an interception or getting sacked.
His first-year counterpart, David Carr, wasn't so lucky. Carr was sacked three times - twice by defensive end Bruce Smith - to break the single-season NFL record for being sacked with 73.
Smith, who has 194 sacks, has taken down 72 different quarterbacks in his 18 seasons. He's four sacks away from catching Reggie White as the league's all-time sack leader.
"It feels exceptional when you get a win, and the fact that I was able to pile two sacks with that win makes me feel that much better," Smith said. "But I've got to tell you, when the offense plays the way it did today, that makes our job easier."
The defense gave up just 67 yards on the ground and allowed Carr to complete just 12 of 31 passes for 112 yards. He also threw an interception to free safety David Terrell, and Houston didn't score an offensive touchdown for the fifth game in its inaugural campaign.
"Today, we played a sloppy, poorly executed football game from our perspective," Texans coach Dom Capers said. "It's disappointing to me that in the 15th game of the season, we played like this."
Houston actually owned the game's first lead thanks to a Chris Brown 46-yard field goal with 6:46 left in the first quarter.
On the ensuing series, the Redskins marched 73 yards and took a 7-3 lead when Ramsey froze the Texans defense with a faked handoff and threw a 12-yard score to fullback Rock Cartwright, who didn't have a defender within 10 yards.
Houston's first possession of the second quarter ended in a fourth-and-30 play from the 4-yard line. Chad Stanley got off a 43-yard punt from deep in the end zone, but tight end Billy Miller was charged with dragging down linebacker Ladairis Jackson during the punt.
Because the holding penalty occurred in the end zone, Washington was awarded its first safety since Nov. 20, 2000, and enjoyed a 9-3 advantage.
The Redskins inflated the lead to 13 points when Ramsey connected with wide receiver Derrius Thompson (five catches for 73 yards) for a 13-yard touchdown with 69 seconds left in the first half.
Washington took a 23-3 advantage when Betts bulled his way into the end zone from 3 yards out on the second play of the fourth quarter.
But the Texans' punt return unit delivered a touchdown when linebacker Jimmy McClain blocked a Craig Jarrett punt and safety Kevin Williams recovered the loose ball in the end zone with 9:34 left in the game.
Washington put the game away by capping an 11-play, 69-yard drive on its next series with a Jose Cortez 23-yard field goal with 2:55 left to play.
Not everything was rosy, however, for the Redskins, who continued to encounter problems on special teams. Cortez pushed field-goal attempts from 46 and 48 yards wide right, and cornerback Champ Bailey replaced Bruce Branch - who was promoted last week from the practice squad to return punts - after the defensive back hurt his right leg in the third quarter.
And Jarrett shanked two 10-yard punts en route to finishing the game with a 25.7-yard average on seven punts.
"He got to where he could hardly catch it and drop it there in the end," Spurrier said of Jarrett, a rookie from Michigan State who was signed as a free agent three weeks ago to replace an injured Bryan Barker. "He was punting so well in practice this week that we thought, `Geez, we've got our punting woes taken care of.' But obviously, we don't."