The Redskins got off to a fast start on Sunday -- in more ways than one.
First, it was Clinton Portis who, on his first carry as a Redskin, burst for a 64-yard touchdown run, giving the Redskins an early 7-0 edge over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Redskins' defense had a strong start and finished the game with four sacks and two turnovers. The defense also kept the Bucs' offense out of the end zone.
It all added up to a 16-10 season-opening win for the Redskins.
It was head coach Joe Gibbs' first regular-season victory since returning to the Redskins last January.
It was the franchise's 500th regular-season win.
And it all played out in front of a record-setting crowd of 90,098 at FedExField.
"We're absolutely thrilled," head coach Joe Gibbs said. "I don't know when we've fought any harder. I think both teams laid it out there as best they could. It was a physical, hard-fought game.
"It was a big win for the Redskins organization. I didn't really think about that fact that this was the 500th win until someone mentioned it after the game. But it's big for the organization."
Portis's run seemed to set a tone.
He took a handoff from quarterback Mark Brunell and slashed right. He turned upfield, shifted right away from a would-be tackler and saw nothing but open field ahead. He turned on the speed and outraced everyone to the end zone for a 64-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
"The offensive line took the challenge first, going up against the top defense in the league in Tampa," said Portis, who finished his first game as a Redskin rushing for 148 yards on 19 carries. "We wanted to go out and make a statement. And the O-line did that.
"It was a great start, to set the standard. The O-line is going to expect a lot out of me, and I'm going to expect a lot out of the O-line. And the fans are going to expect a lot out of all of us. It was just a start and hopefully we can keep it up."
After Portis's run, the defense took over.
Assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams blitzed early and often, bringing the pressure from safeties, linebackers and defensive ends. The Redskins' defense limited the Bucs to just 169 total yards and 30 rushing yards in the game.
"We played well as a team," Williams said. "We only played eight or 10 snaps in the first quarter as a defense. Redskin football like Joe Gibbs talks about is controlling the line of scrimmage on offense. They kept us fresh so that in the second half, when we had to play more, we were fresh because in the first half we didn't have to play a lot of snaps."
First it was Matt Bowen who applied the pressure. He blitzed into Tampa's backfield and sacked Bucs' quarterback Brad Johnson. Bowen knocked the ball loose as Johnson tumbled to the turf. Cornelius Griffin recovered the fumble, giving the Redskins the ball at the Bucs' 34-yard line.
Portis and Betts led the offense downfield with some strong running. On 3rd and one, Brunell tried a quarterback sneak, but he was stopped short by Tampa linebacker Shelton Quarles. John Hall connected on a 20-yard field goal to give the Redskins a 10-0 advantage.
Tampa Bay's Frank Murphy returned the ensuing kickoff 54 yards, with Ade Jimoh making the touchdown-saving tackle. With Tampa Bay having a first down at the Redskins' 34-yard line, the Redskins' defense rose to the occasion again, limiting the Bucs to another 3-and-out. Martin Grammatica's 47-yard field goal put Tampa Bay on the scoreboard.
The game turned into a defensive struggle in the second and third quarters, as neither team was able to mount anything offensively.
The Bucs' defense got in the end zone midway through the third quarter. With the ball at the Redskins' 9-yard line, Brunell took the snap and suddenly stumbled. It appeared he was tripped on the play by an offensive lineman. Brunell fumbled the ball as he tried to hand it off to Portis. The ball bounced off the ground and high into the air. Cornerback Ronde Barber caught it in mid-air and raced nine yards into the end zone for the score.
The play seemed to knock the wind out of the capacity FedExField crowd. But early in the fourth quarter, the Redskins stole the momentum back. With the game tied at 10-10 and the Buccaneers trying to mount a drive, Brad Johnson threw a key interception. On the play, Johnson was leveled by defensive tackle Jermaine Haley just as he tossed the pass downfield. Linebacker Antonio Pierce leaped in front of the receiver for the interception, the second of his career.
With the ball at the Bucs' 39-yard line, the Redskins offense went to work. Portis's 16-yard run, in which he bounced off several tacklers, put the Redskins in field goal position. John Hall connected from 30 yards to put the Redskins ahead 13-10.
The defense stepped up again on the Bucs' next drive. Johnson was first pressured by Ron Warner and then sacked by Renaldo Wynn, putting the Redskins in a 3rd and 14. Then Bowen came on another safety blitz, sacking Johnson for a 9-yard loss and forcing the Bucs to punt.
It was classic Gibbs football from that point on. The Redskins had the ball with 5:03 on the game clock and proceeded to run down the clock. John Hall tacked on a 34-yard field goal with :21 seconds left.
On the last play of the game, Arrington put a capper on the season-opening win with a sack of Johnson.
"It's such an invigorating feeling right now," Arrington said. "I'm excited about the possibilities for this defense. We're going to keep on building on this."