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Portis Aims to Finish Strong -- Just Like '05

Two seasons ago, Clinton Portis became the Redskins' all-time, single-season rushing leader with 1,516 yards. In the process, he helped the Redskins earn a playoff berth.

This year it has been an up-and-down season for him.

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In Weeks 9 and 10, Portis rushed for 196 yards versus the Jets at the Meadowlands and 137 against Philly at FedExField.

By the same token, he was held to just 27 yards at New England and 36-yard efforts at Dallas and versus Chicago.

When you look at Portis's numbers overall, he has turned in another solid year.

Entering Sunday night's all-important NFC East matchup with the Giants in the Meadowlands, Portis is just 44 yards short of his fifth 1,000-yard season in six tries.

He ranks eighth in the entire NFL with 956 rushing yards. They've come in 255 attempts, for an average of 3.7 yards per rush.

In the NFC, only Minnesota's Adrian Peterson (1,200), Philadelphia's Brian Westbrook (1,110) and Arizona's Edgerrin James (968) have more rushing yards than Portis.

After Week 14, Pittsburgh's Willie Parker leads the league with 1,217 yards. Peterson, who the Redskins figure to face Dec. 23, ranks second in the NFL.

In 2005, Portis was the Redskins' pre-eminent closer. He went over 100 yards rushing in each of the final five regular-season games in leading the Redskins to the postseason.

Portis is now listed a full 18 pounds heavier than he was in 2005, which no doubt should make him more durable down the stretch.

If Portis can be an exceptional closer again, this time against the Giants, Vikings and Cowboys in the final three games, he could lead the Redskins to another playoff berth.

"It doesn't matter how you start, it is how you finish," Portis said. "This game against the Giants is a big part of our finish. If we win it, we keep our playoff hopes alive. If we don't, we will be going home with everybody else."

Earlier this season, Portis asked Joe Gibbs to put the offense "on his shoulders." He responded with strong efforts against the Jets and Eagles.

"We want to get the running game going and we know it's going to play a vital role in our season down the stretch," Portis said. "For us, it's an attitude, a mentality."

Portis has also made key contributions in the passing offense at times. And his blocking has continued to be first-rate when it comes to picking up blitzers or helping out Redskins wide receivers after a catch.

In the first Giants-Redskins encounter, back on Week 3 at FedExField, Portis rushed 14 times for a modest 60 yards, with one TD. He added six receptions from Jason Campbell, one of which went for 22 yards, a career-long.

That's a game the Redskins dominated in the first half and led 17-3 at halftime. But they missed out on an opportunity to bury the Giants in the early going and drop them to 0-3. New York already had lost at Dallas and to Green Bay.

Beating the Redskins at FedExField with a huge second-half rally really gave Tom Coughlin's team a lift. They're now 9-4 and entertaining serious playoff aspirations.

Through 13 games, the Giants rank near the middle of the pact in run defense. They've yielded 3.9 yards per carry, which is No. 13 among the NFL's 32 defenses. Minnesota is second in the league to Indianapolis in that department; Dallas ranks 11th.

All of which suggests that if Portis is to have big game in the latter stages of 2007, Sunday night may represent his best chance.

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