What a difference a win makes. After losing four of their first six games to winless opponents, the Redskins defeated a team that started out the season 6-0 but is now on a three-game slide.
The Redskins were led by an improved offensive line and a fresh running attack featuring Ladell Betts, who made his first start of the season in place of the injured Clinton Portis. Betts carried the ball 26 times for 114 yards (the highest single game total for a player on the season) and one touchdown. Portis was out due to a concussion suffered against the Atlanta Falcons the week before and will miss the upcoming matchup against the Cowboys as well.
“I am not surprised at [Ladell’s] performance. He has always been a great running back. [He] always came to work on time, studied film and remained humbled. I am happy for him and his success in the run game along with Rock Cartwright and Quinton [Ganther]. The running back rotation was amazing,” defensive end Andre Carter said.
The Redskins offense totaled almost 400 yards, with 174 of them coming from the ground, and broke the 20 point barrier for the first time all season, thanks in part to a trick play on special teams.
The Redskins showed their hand on a fake field goal attempt by spreading out the offense but then called a timeout to put an eleventh man on the field. They ran the same exact formation following the timeout but Denver still was not prepared for it. Fullback Mike Sellers was able to get open after running wide left and receiving a pass from punter Hunter Smith, who rolled out to the right and heaved up a prayer to the opposite side of the field. Sellers let the pass drop into his arms and rumbled his way into the endzone, for Smith’s second touchdown contribution of the season.
“That play was awesome,” Carter said. “Anything can happen in the NFL. I am sure (special teams coach) Danny Smith was on cloud nine.”
After such a display, teammates had fun at the expense of the 11th year punter, who played a number of positions in high school, including quarterback.
“We were messing with him by saying that we never thought he had an arm for that type of throw. Not bad at all.”
Another positive has been the production of the team’s pass rush compared to last year. With Carter leading the way, the Redskins have a total of 24 sacks so far this season, matching their total for 2008.
Carter added another 1.5 sacks against the Broncos, bringing his total to eight sacks on the year, good enough to be tied for sixth in the NFL.
What has been the key to his improved numbers and his pace for a career record for sacks in a season?
“It’s all a matter of God’s will, along with hard work and dedication to my training during the offseason and season. When I first had Greg Blache as a defensive line coach, he told me I had a lot of potential. As a vet, you learn about your strengths and your weaknesses. I have always been a person who works hard. Similar to life, you have your hills and your valleys but it’s all God’s doing. I have been working with great coaches and the defensive line, linebackers and secondary have played a huge impact on my success and I am grateful,” Carter said.
The defense has also received another positive this season in the form of rookie linebacker Brian Orakpo, who broke the Redskins rookie sack record against Denver and now has seven on the season.
“We are all very proud of him. He has a long career ahead of him. I told him he will never be half the man I am. Just kidding. But on a serious note, Phil [Daniels], [Cornelius] Griffin, [and] all the vets have taken him under [their] wings and have watched him grow as a young player. He has come a long way,” Carter said.
One concern for the defense as of late has been the tendency for the secondary to give up big plays. Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall was able to exploit their vulnerabilities and ended up wide open for two long touchdowns of 40 yards and 75 yards.
“We knew Brandon Marshall was the number one receiver. We did prepare for him. As a defense we didn’t read the play. They disguised the play action pass well and as a result; two touchdowns,” Carter said.
Despite the secondary having a propensity for allowing the big play, that does not alter how the rest of the defense operates in tight situations.
“It doesn’t change anything. We have to take care of one another, not only on the deep balls but in the running game as well. We play as one and play to our level… physical,” Carter said.
For once, the Redskins offense was able to account for errors that the defense had made and a helpful victory was the result. The win puts the Redskins at 3-6 and sets up an intriguing matchup with the division leading Dallas Cowboys for the Redskins first ever visit to the new Cowboys Stadium. The players are excited about this matchup for many reasons; the momentum from a victory and a Dallas loss last week, the chance to gain a game on the division leader and even the new stadium.
“I think we are all excited. After all, it is a new stadium. Jerry Jones doesn’t mess around when it comes to the details of the new arena. I saw the schematics and they are unbelievable,” Carter said.
Carter and the rest of the team will have to quickly turn their focus from the large, state-of-the-art video screen to the action on the field in order to turn their season around. Even after such an uplifting victory, the players still know where they stand in the league and what needs to be done to improve the present situation.
“We are not out of the woods just yet. We have to remind ourselves this is only the beginning. We all feel that Sunday’s win is a starting point for us. How we deal with success is up to us.”
Under the Helmet:
THN: Last week, many of the players participated in events with the military (such as playing Guitar Hero with members of the military and greeting veterans after a practice) to celebrate Veteran’s Day. What events did you take part in during the week?
AC: My wife and I did a fit camp at a middle school. The program is called “Fun, Fly, & Fit.” Thirty students are hand picked in the school to undergo this program to teach them about health, fitness and motivation. With the help through United Way, my wife and I underwrote the program.
THN: If you had to be a Mac or a PC, which would you be and why?
AC: I am a Mac guy. I feel the Mac is user friendly. I had used the PC once and it wasn’t my cup of tea.
Edit: This blog was archived in May of 2016 from our original articles database.It was originally posted by Jake Russell