Clinton Portis managed to get off to a great start Sunday in St. Louis. Robert Royal proved in the early going that he was in for a productive afternoon, too.
On the Redskins' second possession on Week 13 at the Edward Jones Dome, Royal was part of the convoy of blockers that led Portis, on his fifth touch of the day, to a 47-yard touchdown blast.
From there, Portis was off to a game in which he finished with 27 carries, 136 yards and two TDs.
For Royal, to be part of that early Portis score no doubt helped the fourth-year tight end regain a measure of confidence.
After having trouble holding on to anything Mark Brunell threw his way versus San Diego, Royal bounced back with four catches for 40 yards, with a long catch of 29 yards, in the Redskins' 24-9 Week 13 road win.
Royal's teammates and coaches were behind him all week in the aftermath of his struggles against the Chargers at FedExField. He rewarded their support with key contributions at St. Louis as the Redskins broke a three-game losing skid.
"It's great to know that guys stand behind you whenever you have hard times," Royal said last week. "It's over and done with. I can't go back into the past. All I can do is practice and work harder for this week's game.
"You don't want to put too much pressure on yourself because you don't want to say after a bad game, 'I need to do this, this, and this.' That will backfire on you. You just have to continue to do the things that you did well and look to move ahead."
Royal is one of the team's more emotional players, so it was important for him to get his focus back.
As he said after the win on Sunday: "I'm glad I was able to come up with some catches. But the big thing is that we can get back on that plane knowing that we earned the 'W' out here.
"I found out last week that I have some great teammates. I'm a high-spirited player. Nobody likes to see a teammate struggle. I needed my teammates to help keep me up. But more than that, it's great to be part of a victory after three tough weeks."
Royal continued: "The key for us was being physical throughout the game. All week long, we talked about getting Clinton off to a fast start. Derrick [Dockery], Jon Jansen, Randy [Thomas] and all those guys played really well up front."
As Royal was saying this, you could see how much his outlook had improved over a week's time.
The real mystery of Week 13 in the Edward Jones Dome? Surprisingly, it had to be among the quietest atmospheres in the history of NFL dome games.
With that mentioned, Royal and his teammates have an even farther road trip ahead. At this point, it's a single-elimination tournament as the 6-6 Redskins face a game at Arizona that is as important as any against the Cowboys, Giants or Eagles.
In their 2000 desert trip, the Redskins were upset by Arizona 16-15. Aeneas Williams picked up a fumble that day and raced 103 yards for the touchdown that had the effect of ruining the Redskins' season.
For the Redskins of 2005 to have their upcoming NFC East stretch (Dallas, Giants, Philadelphia) mean anything, they'll need another road win, such as the dramatic Week 2 success at Dallas or the workmanlike effort yesterday at St. Louis.