Joe Gibbs talked all last week about getting back to hard-nosed football, run-oriented football. That was a signal to Ladell Betts that the offense was going to rely on him down the stretch.
On Sunday against Carolina, Betts logged 104 yards on 24 carries to help lead the Redskins to a 17-13 come-from-behind win over the Carolina Panthers at FedExField.
"The biggest thing we preached all week was controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides: the offensive and defensive lines," Betts said. "We did that. We came out and rushed for over 100 yards and the defense pretty much stopped the run. Whenever we do that, we give ourselves a chance to win."
It was Betts' fourth career 100-yard rushing game and second this season. (He rushed for a career-high 124 yards on 16 carries in the Redskins' 31-15 win over the Houston Texans in Week 3.)
Betts also has emerged as a reliable pass receiver out of the backfield. He leads the Redskins in receptions with 37 catches for 283 yards.
The ground game has been the one consistent for the 4-7 Redskins. The team is ranked 12th in the NFL in rushing yardage this season.
When Clinton Portis was sidelined for the season two weeks ago, the Redskins turned to Betts and little-used T.J. Duckett to shoulder the workload in the ground game.
Betts had runs of 13, 9, 11 and 12 yards against the Panthers' stout defense. Duckett had seven carries for 24 yards, but he reeled off a 19-yard pickup in the third quarter to help set up the Redskins' first touchdown.
"Ladell was explosive and he can run physical," Gibb said. "We'd love for him to carry it more and more and more. They're both classy guys. If you go to practice every single day, Ladell never says a word. He just says, 'Tell me what you want me to do.'
"And T.J.--nobody is more of a team guy and a consummate pro than that guy. He has been in a tough role ever since he got here. A lot of guys would have their lip out, and be throwing a fit, and that's the last thing in the world that he does."
Discussing Betts, center Casey Rabach said: "We look for him to step up and play big, like he always does when his number has been called. Everybody on the offensive line likes his style of running. He's not afraid to run somebody over and make plays around the edge. He has some good speed."
Speaking of Portis, he was on the sidelines for Sunday's win, encouraging Betts and Duckett.
Even though Portis is not regularly at Redskins Park as he recuperates from hand and shoulder injuries, he stays in touch with Betts, Duckett and Rock Cartwright.
"I talk to Ladell all the time," said Portis, who was drafted five spots ahead of Betts in the second round of the 2002 NFL Draft. "I tell him to continue to have fun and stay positive. He is a hard worker and runner. Everything is going to be all right for him."