The Redskins gained a measure of self-respect at FedExField yesterday when they made more key plays than the Carolina Panthers in a 17-13 win.
These two teams, traditionally, have staged dramatic and hard-hitting games. Yesterday's followed the same basic script as the Redskins won for the seventh time in eight meetings.
With one exception--when the Redskins won the 1997 matchup 24-10--every Carolina-Washington game has been decided by a touchdown or less.
The signature play yesterday was Jason Campbell's 66-yard TD connection with Chris Cooley with 4:26 left.
Along with that, what really decided the game in the Redskins' favor is that they managed to contain Steve Smith and to shut down Julius Peppers.
Smith and Peppers are the two players you have to think about when the subject of the Carolina Panthers comes up.
On Week 12, Smith came up with five catches for 34 yards and an eight-yard TD reception at the end of a Jake Delhomme pass. And Peppers, one of the NFL's most feared pass rushers, did not have a sack and finished with just three tackles.
A Redskins secondary that started Shawn Springs and Carlos Rogers at the corners and Sean Taylor and Vernon Fox at safety competed well against the dynamic Smith. Jon Jansen and the right side of the offensive line were trouble for Peppers.
Even Ade Jimoh got in the act, tackling Smith for no gain on a punt return with 1:49 left in the game.
On controlling Smith, Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs said: "Everybody out there has great respect for him. I think he's one of the toughest and most talented football players you face as an outside receiver.
"For us to be able to hold him down--he's ruined some people in this league--I felt like our defensive guys did a great job there."
In winning his first NFL game, Campbell went 11-for-23 for 118 yards and two TDs. He was intercepted once and if his overall game was a bit downsized from what he did at Tampa Bay, Campbell showed great a resilient streak.
He said he understood in the days leading up to the game that Peppers is a force to be reckoned with and that his offensive line to perform at a high level.
Added Campbell: "Peppers makes it tough on a quarterback. I'm 6-5 and I thought it would be easy to throw the ball over him. But it isn't. He jumps up and is a great athlete."
Speaking of great athletes, next up for the Redskins is the challenge of facing a player who is perhaps the NFL's best. His Atlanta Falcons are struggling, but Michael Vick was able to rush for an incredible 166 yards on Week 12 in a 31-13 loss to New Orleans.
They have a week to prepare for Vick, so for now the Redskins on the defensive side of the ball are thinking positive things after limiting Smith and keeping Carolina's running game in check. The Panthers ran for 101 yards on 25 tries.
"We really needed this win," defensive end Phillip Daniels said late Sunday afternoon after producing four tackles and a sack. "Hopefully we can get a streak going and see what happens."