The Redskins appeared to be on the verge of another stunning road comeback, reminiscent of the Week 2 win at Dallas. This time, the Redskins were thwarted by the Denver Broncos, losing 21-19 at Invesco Field at Mile High. The loss dropped the Redskins' record to 3-1 on the season.
With just over a minute to play in the game, Chris Cooley caught an 11-yard pass from Mark Brunell to pull the Redskins to within 21-19. The offense attempted a two-point conversion. Brunell faked to Clinton Portis and rolled left.
David Patten was wide open in the back of the end zone, but Broncos' linebacker Ian Gold tipped the ball away and it fell incomplete.
Nick Novak's onsides kick was pulled in by the Broncos and the Redskins' comeback attempt was over.
On the injury front, cornerback Shawn Springs re-injured his shin during the first quarter and did not return to the game. He was replaced in the lineup by third-year corner Ade Jimoh. Springs' status will be updated by the team on Monday.
The game's top subplot was Clinton Portis and Champ Bailey playing against their former teams for the first time in the regular season since the March 2004 trade. But Bailey was declared inactive prior to the game due to a lingering hamstring injury.
Portis, booed throughout the game by fans, rushed for 103 yards on 20 carries in his return to Denver. He also caught two passes for 27 yards.
With the Redskins trailing the Broncos for most of the game, Brunell was forced to pass often in the second half. The offensive line and pass protection units were solid all game, not yielding a sack. Brunell was 30-of-53 for 332 yards and two touchdowns. The Redskins rolled to 28 first downs in the game.
The game was played in a steady rain. On the Redskins' first offensive series of the game, Portis and Brunell mishandled a handoff and Portis dropped the ball in the backfield. The ball was recovered by the Broncos linebacker Al Wilson on the Redskins 43-yard line.
The Broncos took over. On a 4th-and-1 play at the Redskins' 34-yard line, Denver head coach Mike Shanahan decided to go for it. Running back Tatum Bell took a handoff and avoided a tackle in the backfield. He weaved past linebacker Warrick Holdman along the left sideline and into open field, racing into the end zone for the game's first score.
The Redskins responded with a 13-play, 72-yard touchdown drive of their own.
Brunell spread his throws around, completing passes to David Patten, Santana Moss, Chris Cooley and Ladell Betts.
The Redskins had to overcome several penalties on their way to the touchdown. Casey Rabach's holding penalty nullified a nice Portis run. Then David Patten was called for pushing off his defender on an apparent 38-yard touchdown pass.
The Redskins were resilient. Portis's 13-yard run up the middle of the Bronco defense put the ball at Denver's 2-yard line. One play later, Brunell rolled out looking for Moss in the end zone. Moss was covered, so he found H-back Mike Sellers standing all alone, a yard deep in the end zone.
Sellers caught an easy 2-yard touchdown pass. It was Sellers' second TD reception in as many games.
With the game tied at 7-7, the Broncos responded with an 11-play, 78-yard touchdown drive. The key play was a 31-yard pass from Jake Plummer to tight end Jeb Putzier, who got a step on linebacker Lemar Marshall downfield.
The reception put the ball at the Redskins' 9-yard line. Two plays later, Plummer found wide receiver Ashley Lelie in the end zone. Plummer threw the ball high in the air so that the 6-3, 200-pound Lelie could grab it over the shorter Jimoh.
The Redskins got on the scoreboard again just before halftime. Brunell connected on a 32-yard pass to Moss, putting the offense in scoring position at the Broncos' 20-yard line. The play led to a 34-yard field goal by Nick Novak.
In the third quarter, the Redskins appeared to have scored two points as a result of a safety, but the play was reversed on review.
On 3rd-and-5 at Denver's 7-yard line, Plummer dropped back to pass. He wound to throw, but then appeared to try to pull the ball back in. The ball dropped out of his hand and fluttered away. Plummer scooped it up in the end zone, where he was immediately tackled by Jimoh.
Replay officials ruled that Plummer's pass was incomplete because his arm was going forward. The safety was nullified and two points were taken off the scoreboard.
Midway through the third quarter, the Redskins got the ball back and moved the ball downfield. Portis began to get on track, picking up 21 yards on a sweep to the left, and another eight yards behind a block by Randy Thomas.
The offense stalled at Denver's 20-yard line. Novak came in to attempt a field goal. His kick was blocked by lineman Trevor Pryce and recovered by Wilson at the Denver 40-yard line. It was the second week in a row that Novak had a field goal attempt blocked.
The play seemed to give the Broncos momentum. Two plays later, Bell broke loose along the right sideline for a 55-yard touchdown run, putting the Broncos ahead 21-10. Bell followed a block by tight end Nate Jackson, who pushed aside Marcus Washington to free the second-year running back.
The Redskins' offense struggled to get going for much of the second half. Midway into the fourth quarter, linebacker Chris Clemons gave the Redskins some momentum when he blocked a punt by Denver's Todd Sauerbrun, giving the offense the ball at the Broncos' 40-yard line.
Brunell quickly completed a pass to Portis for 16 yards. That put the Redskins in position for another Novak field goal.
The Redskins' defense forced the Broncos to punt on the ensuing series, giving the Redskins one last shot. Brunell led a drive downfield that was aided by a defensive holding call after a fourth-down play fell incomplete.
Brunell got into a rhythm with Moss, completing two first-down passes before his touchdown to Cooley. But the dramatics ended there, as the Redskins were stopped on the two-point conversion.