Novak, 'Skins dance to 3-0 tune

Ex-Terp's field goal in OT beats Seattle

last 3-0 start was '91

Redskins 20 Seahawks 17

Week Four


LANDOVER -- Quarterback controversies and health questions may not drive Joe Gibbs out of the coaching profession. Rather, the Washington Redskins' penchant for last-minute victories might.

For the third consecutive game, Washington needed a thrilling finish to avoid its first loss of the season. Yesterday, rookie kicker Nick Novak of Maryland kicked a 39-yard field goal in overtime to lift the Redskins to a 20-17 win over the Seattle Seahawks at FedEx Field.

After sealing a two-point victory over the Chicago Bears in Week 1 with a sack and fumble recovery and torching the Dallas Cowboys for two long touchdown passes in the final four minutes of a one-point win in Week 2, Gibbs entered yesterday's post-game conference room looking as exhausted as some of his players.

"I didn't do anything, but I am really, truly, completely drained," the 64-year-old coach said. "If we play 16 of these, I probably won't be here. From [game] 10 on, somebody else will have to do it."

Added running back Clinton Portis, who rushed for 90 yards on 25 carries: "That's three weeks in a row, and I'm ready for a blowout win. But the excitement to win at the end of the game is certainly more amazing, though, than to blow somebody out."

For the 90,215 who watched Washington record its first 3-0 start since the 1991 season, when the franchise won its third Super Bowl under Gibbs, yesterday's game was equal parts happiness and heartbreak.

With the Redskins leading 17-10, their defense uncharacteristically surrendered 265 of 354 yards in the second half. Included was a 14-play, 91-yard drive that ended with a 6-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (26-for-38 for 242 yards) to receiver Darrell Jackson that tied the score with 1:23 left in regulation.

It seemed as though Washington would run out the clock and take its chances in overtime, but on second-and-four from its 26-yard line, quarterback Mark Brunell zipped a pass that bounced off a diving Portis and into the hands of Seahawks cornerback Kelly Herndon, who was dragged down at the 33.

After two Shaun Alexander runs moved the ball to the 29, Josh Brown, who had drilled a 53-yard field goal to start the scoring, sent a 47-yard attempt off the left upright and down to the turf.

"If [I] had six more inches inside, we were fine," said Brown, who also pulled a 47-yard attempt in the third quarter wide left. "That's a little thing that will bite for a long time."

After the Redskins won the coin toss and elected to receive the ball to start overtime, the offense marched 55 yards - converting two third-and-10 opportunities - to the Seahawks' 22, where Novak provided the heroics.

"I was confident," Novak said. "I knew if I put a good hit on it, I'd have a good chance. It was in my range, and I just had to hit it straight."

Washington's offense had 352 yards, and while 141 came via the running game, the passing attack appeared to find a rhythm, especially between Brunell and wide receiver Santana Moss.

Brunell completed 20 of 36 passes for 226 yards and tossed touchdown passes of 1 and 4 yards to tight end Robert Royal and H-back Mike Sellers, respectively.

Brunell's favorite target was Moss, who had six catches for 87 yards, including a 30-yard catch-and-run on third-and-10 from Seattle's 45 that set up Novak's game-winning field goal.

The unit converted 13 of 18 third-down opportunities, including six that required 10 or more yards.

"You are certainly cognizant of the situation, and you know that it is third-and-long," said Brunell, who converted a third-and-nine in overtime with an 18-yard scramble. "Most of the time you are going to get stuffed, so we are fortunate that a bunch of the guys made good plays in critical situations."

Seattle 3 0 7 7 0 - 17

Washington 0 7 10 0 3 - 20

First quarter Sea-FG J.Brown 53, 5:58.

Second quarter Was-Royal 1 pass from Brunell (Novak kick), 2:39.

Third quarter Was-Sellers 4 pass from Brunell (Novak kick), 7:19. Sea-Alexander 3 run (J.Brown kick), 4:10. Was-FG Novak 40, :03.

Fourth quarter Sea-Jackson 6 pass from Hasselbeck (J.Brown kick), 1:23.

Overtime Was-FG Novak 39, 9:29. A-90,215.

........................Sea Was

First downs 21 26

Total Net Yards 354 352

Rushes-yards 23-119 39-141

Passing 235 211

Punt Returns 1-(-3) 1-9

Kickoff Returns 3-44 4-95

Interceptions Ret. 1-2 0-0

Comp-Att-Int 26-38-0 20-36-1

Sacked-Yards Lost 1-7 2-15

Punts 3-33.0 2-41.0

Fumbles-Lost 1-0 0-0

Penalties-Yards 8-84 2-10

Time of Possession 26:09 39:22

Rushing-Seattle, Alexander 20-98, Hasselbeck 2-16, Strong 1-5. Washington, Portis 25-90, Betts 12-35, Brunell 2-16. Passing-Seattle, Hasselbeck 26-38-0-242. Washington, Brunell 20-36-1-226. Receiving-Seattle, Engram 9-106, Jackson 7-55, Stevens 3-31, Hannam 3-23, Strong 2-6, Jurevicius 1-17, Alexander 1-4. Washington, Moss 6-87, Cooley 4-61, Patten 3-15, Thrash 2-30, Portis 2-18, Royal 2-11, Sellers 1-4. Missed field goals-Seattle, J.Brown 47 (WL), 47 (WL). Washington, Novak 39 (BL).

Keys to the game

Banking on Brunell

Quarterback Mark Brunell is validating coach Joe Gibbs' faith in him. Brunell, 35, appears to have regained the zip on his out-pattern passes and has shown a knack for finding receivers while under heavy pressure.

Taking their time

By pounding the ball 39 times for 141 rushing yards, Washington won the time-of-possession battle, 39:22 to 26:09. That kept the ball out of the hands of Seattle's offense, which was ranked second in the league in yards and eighth in points per game before yesterday.

Attacking Alexander

Shaun Alexander, the league's second-leading rusher before yesterday, posted 51 of his 98 yards on two carries. On his other 18 attempts, Alexander averaged 2.6 yards. The Redskins' ability to keep Alexander under wraps forced the Seahawks to be one-dimensional.

[Edward Lee]

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