Led by a suffocating defense, strong running by Clinton Portis and three John Hall field goals, the Redskins opened the 2005 regular season with a 9-7 win over the Chicago Bears at FedExField.
It's the fourth consecutive season that the Redskins have won their season opener. All four wins have come at FedExField.
On the injury front, quarterback Patrick Ramsey left the game with a neck sprain early in the second quarter and was replaced by backup Mark Brunell the rest of the game. Brunell completed 8-of-14 passes for 70 yards in relief of Ramsey.
Ramsey, who was 6-of-11 for 105 yards and one interception, wanted to go back into the game, but coaches decided to hold out the fourth-year quarterback.
"He hurt his neck," Gibbs said. "For me, I personally felt like Mark got in there, looked pretty smooth and looked good. I felt like I could stay with Mark."
Asked if he would stick with Brunell, Gibbs replied: "I have to see how this all shakes out. We will see how everybody heals up and then I will decide what we are going to do."
Also on the injury report was Hall, who re-aggravated a quad injury that sidelined him for half the season last year. Gibbs indicated the team may look into bringing in a free agent kicker next week.
In the fourth quarter, it was the Redskins' defense that rose up and stifled the Bears' struggling offense, which was led by a rookie quarterback in Kyle Orton. In the Bears' final possession, Cornelius Griffin recorded a sack of Orton. Griffin was able to jar the ball loose from Orton and pounce on the ball, ending the Bears' final drive.
"We fought hard all day and kept slugging," Gibbs said. "I was proud of our guys because they've got great heart. They found a way to win the ball game."
In the early going, it was a taut defensive battle--although Ramsey and Orton were errant on a number of passes. Ramsey's second pass of the game was off target and picked off by nickel cornerback Nathan Vasher.
For the Redskins, among the defensive stars in the first half were cornerback Walt Harris, who started opposite Shawn Springs and knocked away Orton's first pass of the game. Defensive end Phillip Daniels batted down two Orton passes in the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter, Ramsey finally got a big play. Ramsey connected with Santana Moss on a 52-yard pass play, giving the Redskins the ball at the Bears' 20-yard line.
Tough running by Ladell Betts put the Redskins inside the Bears' 10. Then an apparent touchdown pass to Chris Cooley was nullified because Cooley pushed off on a defender and was called for pass interference. On the play, Sean Taylor lined up at wide receiver, but served as a decoy.
On third down, the Bears brought a delayed blitz on Ramsey. Linebacker Lance Briggs knocked Ramsey to the ground with a clothesline tackle around the neck--a hit that Gibbs thought should have been penalized--and the ball popped loose. The fumble was recovered by Adewale Ogunleye.
Ramsey was slow to get up and had to be helped off the field. He was replaced by Brunell.
On the Redskins' next offensive series, Brunell tried to connect with Moss on a deep pass down the left sideline, but the ball was picked off by Vasher. Pass interference was called on Bears' defensive back Mike Green and the Redskins' offense were back in Bears territory. The ball was placed on Chicago's 29-yard line.
Brunell's third-down pass to Chris Cooley was well-covered by Bears' safety Mike Brown and the Redskins had to settle for a 40-yard field goal by John Hall.
Late in the second quarter, the Redskins got on the scoreboard again. Brunell led the offense on an 8-play, 47-yard drive that included some hard running by Clinton Portis and a 23-yard pass completion to Cooley.
With time winding down in the first half, Brunell could not connect on two passes to Moss and the Redskins again had to settle for a field goal. Hall was successful from 43 yards out.
The second half got off to an ominous start when Antonio Brown fumbled the opening kickoff, giving the Bears a first down at the Redskins' 23-yard line. Orton connected on a 10-yard pass to Justin Gage to give the Bears a 1st-and-goal at the 1-yard line. Thomas Jones crossed over the goal line one play later and the Bears had a 7-6 lead.
Betts replaced Brown on the next kickoff.
The Redskins responded with a scoring drive of their own. Guided by some hard running by Portis and Betts--they combined for 37 yards on the drive--the Redskins drove 63 yards on 15 plays.
Brunell completed passes to James Thrash and Robert Royal, and also dove for a first down on a key 4th-and-1 play.
The drive was thwarted when Cooley was stopped a yard short of a touchdown on 3rd-and-goal from the Bears' 3-yard line. Hall connected on his third field goal of the day, a 19-yarder. The Redskins took a lead they would not relinquish at 9-7.
The defense stepped up the rest of the way. Lemar Marshall intercepted a tipped pass in the end zone to stymie a Chicago scoring opportunity. Demetric Evans recorded a sack of Orton to help finish off another Bears drive. Griffin's heroics ended the game.
Overall, the Redskins defense yielded just 166 total yards and 11 first downs.
Gibbs credited Redskins fans for assisting in the win. At one point in the fourth quarter, the Bears had three consecutive false starts due to the crowd noise.
"That was FedExField the way I remember it," Gibbs said. "I really appreciate it and I want to say thanks to the fans. It was a big deal. We needed everything we could get today to win this game."