Clinton Portis made his first start of the 2006 season on Sunday against the Houston Texans--and it was as if the season had begun anew for the struggling Redskins.
Portis rushed for 86 yards on 16 carries, and also caught two passes for 78 yards. It was a74-yard reception, on a shovel pass from Mark Brunell, that finally put the Redskins' offense on track. The Redskins rode Portis and the ground game to a 31-15 win over the Texans.
Overall, the Redskins rushed for 235 yards on the game. Ladell Betts had 124 yards on 16 carries, including a 9-yard touchdown run. He also caught three passes for 27 yards.
"I think it was determination," Portis said after the game. "Everyone said, 'Let's get the running game going,' and that's what we did. It feels great to be back."
The Redskins went into the game looking to establish a strong ground game against a Texans defense that has struggled in stopping the run. The first three offensive plays? Three runs to Portis, for nine yards.
Even though the Redskins did not get a first down, the offense stuck with the ground game. Associate head coach-offense Al Saunders gave the ball twice more on the Redskins' next two offensive plays.
On 3rd-and-6, Saunders called the shovel pass from Brunell to Portis. It was logged on the play-by-play as a pass, but it might as well have been a run. Portis caught the pass at the line of scrimmage and followed strong blocks by Randy Thomas and Jon Jansen to break into the Texans' secondary.
In open field, Portis had only to beat cornerback Dunta Robinson for a touchdown, but Brandon Lloyd could not keep Robinson from forcing Portis out of bounds. Still, the play went for 74 yards, to the Texans' 13-yard line.
"We needed something to really give us a boost," wide receiver Santana Moss said. "When Portis made that play, there was no doubt in my mind that was what we needed, and we went on from there. Every time we got the ball, we made something happen."
Betts replaced a winded Portis and, one play later, he raced around left end for a 9-yard touchdown run. Mike Sellers, lined up at tight end, threw an impressive block to open up the outside for Betts and Moss blocked Robinson to get Betts into the end zone.
Late in the second quarter, the Redskins pieced together another scoring drive that was capped by a 30-yard touchdown run by Portis.
The score occurred with nine seconds left in the half. With the ball at the Texans' 30-yard line, head coach Joe Gibbs opted to run one more play to get the Redskins closer for a field goal.
On a draw, Brunell handed off to Portis, who burst up the middle and followed a block by center Casey Rabach. He shifted left and found himself in open field again. This time, there was no cornerback in his way, and Portis raced into the end zone for a touchdown, his second of the season.
"Coach Gibbs made a gutsy call and I was excited he made that call," Portis said. "Once I got on the field, I knew the defense was going to be caught off guard and pass-rush up-field. Casey got a great block on the linebacker and I followed him through."
Portis added a 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. With the Redskins holding a comfortable lead most of the second half, coaches rested Portis in the fourth quarter.
In his post-game press conference, Gibbs reported that Portis made it through the game without any injuries or increased soreness in his shoulder. The injury had limited him in the Week 1 game against Minnesota and forced him to sit out the Week 2 game at Dallas.
"I feel great, Portis said. "I came out of the game healthy, with no new injuries."
He added: "We needed this win. No team wants to go down 0-3. It keeps our hopes alive. We have a big game next week, and if we win, we can get right back to .500."