Washington deflates best passing offense

Brees, Bush neutralized

Saints clinch South, anyway

Redskins 16 Saints 10

Nfl Week 15

Gameday

December 18, 2006|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Reporter

NEW ORLEANS -- This rebuilding city and its reborn football team were ready to celebrate their first division championship since 2000 with a playoff-clinching victory over the Washington Redskins inside the raucous Superdome yesterday.

The New Orleans Saints have won the NFC South and will be going to the playoffs, but the party was ruined by the Redskins, who used their best defensive performance of the season and another triple-digit effort from running back Ladell Betts to win, 16-10.

Betts going over 100 rushing yards for the fourth straight game - he had 119 on 22 carries - wasn't much of a surprise, but the two plays Carlos Rogers made to help seal the victory in the fourth quarter were the kind he hasn't made in a long time.

Rogers, whose inability to hold on to potential interceptions starting in last season's playoff loss to Seattle had seemingly become a mental obstacle for the second-year cornerback, picked off Saints quarterback Drew Brees with 10:24 to play and batted down a potential game-winning pass to Terrance Copper in the end zone with 53 seconds left.

It allowed the Redskins (5-9) to win for only the second time on the road this season and for the first time away from FedEx Field in nearly three months. It also gave second-year quarterback Jason Campbell his first road victory since taking over from veteran Mark Brunell five games ago.

"It was a fight. It was a pride game for us," said Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, who needs his team to win its last two games to avoid equaling the worst record of his Hall of Fame career. "I was really proud of the way the guys stood up and played hard. I think they played as hard as they could. I've never been prouder."

The Redskins, near the bottom of the league in defense for most of the season, held Brees and the NFL's leading passing offense to 207 yards. They did a tremendous job on rookie Reggie Bush, who was held to 14 yards on seven carries, as well as 19 yards on five catches and 13 yards on two punt returns.

"You hold your breath every time he touches the football," Gregg Williams, Washington's assistant head coach for defense, said of Bush. "He's a tremendous talent. One of the things we had to do is that we made a commitment to say we had to slow him, because one guy was not going to get an opportunity to probably bring him down by himself."

Said safety Troy Vincent: "When you give up 10 points, on the road, and you come out with a win, that's a collective effort. Different guys just took turns making plays. That was the key of this win."

Offensively, the Redskins made their share of big plays, particularly early in the game. They got a 31-yard touchdown pass from Campbell to Santana Moss late in the first quarter to help build a 10-0 lead, but they continued to struggle in the red zone.

Campbell fumbled a snap on what was supposed to be a quarterback sneak on third-and-one at the New Orleans 14 on the game's first possession, and two successive false starts stopped another drive that had reached the 11.

But Shaun Suisham made all three of his field-goal tries - two from 37 and the last from 22 to give the Redskins a 16-10 lead - and Campbell didn't have a turnover. His only other turnover-free game was his NFL debut last month against Tampa Bay.

"Each week is kind of like a new chapter for him," Gibbs said of Campbell, who was erratic in completing 13 of 28 passes for 204 yards. "I think getting a win down here is a huge deal."

Said Betts, who nearly had a costly fumble in the fourth quarter recovered by Antwaan Randle El: "We've got to turn those field goals into seven points and try to help the defense out a little bit more."

This time, the defense was able to help the Redskins win. It put decent pressure on Brees, the NFL's leading passer, who was sacked twice and completed 21 of 38 passes. It held the Saints to 71 yards rushing on 24 carries.

"Things didn't go our way; the ball didn't bounce our way; you've got to give credit to them; they played hard; they played well," Brees said. "We had a chance to win in the end, but we didn't do it."

Despite the loss, New Orleans (9-5) still clinched the NFC South by virtue of Atlanta losing to Dallas on Saturday night and Carolina losing yesterday to Pittsburgh. The defeat didn't leave the Saints, or this city, in much of a mood to party.

"I have the shirt, I have the hat [to commemorate a division title], they're in my bag, they'll go home and they'll put them in my closet," Brees said. "It's exciting to know that we've won, but obviously the way that we won, we're obviously disappointed."

don.markus@baltsun.com

Play it again

A summary of the Washington Redskins' 16-10 win over the New Orleans Saints:

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