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For the Defense, A Solid Beginning

It was an exhilarating 16-13 overtime win for the Redskins, who slugged it out with the Dolphins in Miami-like heat on Sunday and eventually ran their record to 6-2 all-time in FedExField openers.

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Following on the heels of a strong preseason, the Redskins' defense took another step toward showing that they have reverted to 2004-05 form, when they were a top 10 unit.

The defense allowed 273 total yards of offense and just 66 rushing yards. The only touchdown came with less than four seconds left in the first half.

London Fletcher had 12 tackles, Rocky McIntosh had 11 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble, Andre Carter had a sack to lead the stat sheet for the defense.

In 2006, the Redskins posted just 19 sacks and 12 turnovers as a team. They were off to a flying start yesterday, with Carter and McIntosh contributing early sacks and Shawn Springs pouncing on a fumble.

With that, the Redskins' combination of sacks and turnovers stands at three. Obviously, it eventually needs to exceed 31 in order to show significant improvement upon last year.

So, 31 is something of a magic number to watch in terms of the 2007 defense, which on the basis of one game already looks to be much faster and much more decisive.

Want to get really demanding, even in the aftermath of the Redskins' opening-day success?

One key turnover opportunity slipped away yesterday and in another setting it may have been an essential.

With the game in the balance, that is to say, tied at 13-13 and with just 28 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Miami quarterback Trent Green looked for Marty Booker in the right flat.

Green was looking for Booker, indeed, and Fred Smoot is still looking for the handle on the ball.

It bounced off Smoot's hands and chest and to the ground at about the Dolphins' 30-yard line.

As a veteran like Smoot knows, when the opposition gives you a better than 50-50 chance to come up with a game-changing turnover, you simply must make the play.

Immediately after the game, Smoot was the recipient of much good-natured shop talk from his teammates.

"I'll take the razzing until I get a pick," he declared. "When I pick one off, then they'll leave me alone for a minute. But today I should have ended the game."

On Monday, Smoot was more serious, saying that he had not slept a wink the night before.

"I've been thinking about that interception since I dropped it," he said. "I'm just glad we won the game. I could have ended it a lot quicker."

On this day, the failure of Smoot in the late going didn't cost the Redskins, who prevailed in something of an NFL street fight of a game when kicker Shaun Suisham made good from 39 yards out at 9:27 of overtime.

After the game, Smoot approached Suisham and thanked him for his game-winning effort. It was Suisham's third field goal of the day, as earlier he had made good from 31 and 44 yards.

Next Monday Night in Philadelphia, the Redskins can't let any turnover opportunities slip from their grips.

By the way, the Eagles lost their opener at Green Bay 16-13. Philly fumbled the ball away twice on special teams and Donovan McNabb yielded an interception.

"Season openers, they set a real standard for your team," said tight end Chris Cooley, who had a key block on the early third-quarter Clinton Portis TD and a key reception in overtime. "Hopefully, this win today will really give us momentum heading forward."

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