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Betts Steps Up, Leads Ground Game

Running back Ladell Betts viewed the Redskins' season finale against the Minnesota Vikings as a chance to showcase his talent and help the team finish with a win.

In his second career start, he fulfilled both of those goals as he rushed for a career-high 118 yards and one touchdown on 26 carries in the Redskins' 21-18 victory.

Betts started in place of injured tailback Clinton Portis (pectoral muscle) and took advantage of the NFL's 23rd-ranked run defense. His touchdown plunge from one-yard out with 10:41 remaining put the Redskins ahead by two scores, 21-10.

"I wanted to come out here and take advantage of the opportunity," Betts said. "A lot of guys don't get the chance to play a full game like that and showcase what they can do. I did, and I tried to take advantage of it to the best of my ability."

The third-year running back seemed to get stronger as the game went on. After rushing for 39 yards before halftime, Betts ran for 79 in the second half, including carries of 27 and 13 yards in the fourth quarter.

"I think that's kind of my style," Betts said. "I tend to get better as the game goes on. You start to get a feel for things, and that's what happened today. Those guys up front started pushing and we had to make things happen."

Betts credited the offensive line for playing physically and wearing down Minnesota's front line.

"I think we started running a lot of plays up the middle, and those guys up front started wearing on them," Betts said. "We just kept trying to pound away and eventually they started to crack. The guys up front played hard, and I definitely didn't want to let them down."

Betts's 27-yard carry in the fourth tied his career long. It came on a 10-play drive that ended in a punt but kept Minnesota's high-powered offense off the field for almost seven minutes late in the game. After the Redskins' offense was unable to run out the clock in a loss to Dallas last week, the sustained drive was particularly gratifying.

"We stuck with the run, especially when we needed it most on that last drive to milk the clock," said Betts, who carried the ball on the first six plays of the drive. "We hoped to keep the defense off the field so we wouldn't have a repeat situation of last week. We just came out and executed."

The Redskins' passing attack opened up later in the game thanks in part to Betts's running. With Washington leading, 14-10, early in the fourth quarter, Ramsey faked a handoff to Betts, which froze the defense and allowed wideout Taylor Jacobs to run free down the field. Ramsey delivered a strike to Jacobs, who was tackled at the one-yard line for a 45-yard gain. Betts scored his first touchdown of the season on the next play to provide the winning margin.

Sunday's victory wasn't the first game in which Betts capitalized on playing time this season. He rushed for 34 yards on eight carries in a loss to Pittsburgh in Week 12 after Portis suffered a stinger injury. He also ran for 64 yards in a rout of the New York Giants in Week 13.

"Ladell has run the ball so hard all year, and it was the same thing today," H-back Chris Cooley said. "All day he ran harder and harder. He's tough to get down."

Besides playing what is almost certainly the best game of his NFL career, Betts was just as happy that he helped the Redskins end the season with a victory. He, like many Redskins, was able to find satisfaction in beating a playoff-bound team in the Vikings.

"I think we came out and beat a playoff-caliber team today," he said smiling. "I just tried to come out and do my best and contribute to a victory."

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