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For Offense, A Block Party In Houston

Mark Brunell hit 22 straight passes and finished with a quarterback rating of 119.3. Ladell Betts chalked up 124 yards on the ground. Clinton Portis returned to action with two touchdowns.

Along with those stats, the one reason why the Redskins earned their first win of the season, by a 31-15 count Sunday in Houston, is this: They blocked well for each other, both at the point of attack and down the field.

Collectively, the offensive line had its best game of the season. Individually, Santana Moss, Mike Sellers and Chris Cooley were also exceptional in knocking off Houston defenders down the field.

Case in point, No. 1: Randy Thomas and Jon Jansen combined to block a pair of Houston defenders five yards off the line of scrimmage, freeing Clinton Portis on his 74-yard catch-and-run on a shovel pass. Wide receiver Brandon Lloyd shoved cornerback Dunta Robinson 20-30 yards downfield, allowing Portis to get to the Texans' 13-yard line.

Cast in point, No. 2: On Ladell Betts 9-yard touchdown run, Sellers brushed aside Mario Williams to open up the outside. Then Santana Moss kept Robinson from getting to Betts, assuring an easy score. That touchdown tied the game at 7-7.

Case in point, No. 3: Casey Rabach took out Texans linebacker DeMeco Ryans just before halftime on the sequence that allowed Portis his 30-yard TD scamper. That maneuver put the Redskins in control at 21-7.

Of his touchdown at the end of the first half, Portis said: "Coach Gibbs made a gutsy call and I was excited he made that call. Once I got on the field I knew the defense was going to be caught off guard and pass rush up field.

"Casey [Rabach] got a great block on the linebacker and I followed him through. Once he got me to the second level, it was downhill from there."

In their 0-4 preseason, as well as in their setbacks to Minnesota and Dallas, the Redskins did not fire out on their blocks or sustain them down the field like they did at Houston's Reliant Stadium.

Overall, the Redskins rushed 41 times for 234 yards, an average of 5.7 yards per carry.

Betts finished with 124 yards on 16 carries, while Portis had 86 yards on 16 carries.

Betts was outstanding versus the Texans for the second time in his NFL career. In the 2002 Houston-Washington matchup at FedExField, Betts, then a rookie, produced 116 yards on 20 carries in a 26-10 Redskins win.

"Gaining 100 yards? It's all a credit to my offensive line, receivers, and tight ends out there blocking for me," Betts said. "Once they got me through the second level, my job was easy."

Said right tackle Jon Jansen: "We were happy with the success of the running game today. We took a step in the right direction and we get to build on it."

So much for the skid versus AFC foes, which had reached 10 straight for the Redskins. They'll get a shot at another AFC opponent, a much tougher one in fact, late Sunday afternoon at FedExField.

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