— It's easy to focus on talkative rookie coach Jim Zorn, whose West Coast offense surprisingly comes with a heavy dose of smashmouth. Or on Clinton Portis, who had a 175-yard game and is running better than ever.
Or on Santana Moss, whose three spin moves essentially produced two touchdowns. Or on the fact that two straight games have hinged on long field-goal attempts in the final seconds.
But how about some credit to the Washington Redskins' defense? With several big plays, the Redskins shut down the Cleveland Browns 14-11 Sunday, throttling a team that looked unstoppable against the world champions only a week earlier.
"Somebody's got to do the dirty work," said defensive tackle Kedric Golston, who batted away one of five passes deflected at the line of scrimmage, "and we take just as much pride in doing the dirty work as we do making the play."
Led by middle linebacker London Fletcher and missing injured cornerback Shawn Springs, the defense gave up only 236 yards and nearly didn't allow a touchdown for the second straight week. Carlos Rogers, nursing a calf injury, held Braylon Edwards to four catches. Demetric Evans knocked away a fourth-down pass near the goal line. Andre Carter had a sack for the Redskins (5-2), who have won five of six and bounced back from last week's last-play loss to the St. Louis Rams.
"They're the ones who kept us in the game," center Casey Rabach said. "When the offense finally decided to get it right and start playing football, we had a chance still."
The Browns (2-4), who had won two straight, had their point production drop from 35 against the Giants. Their yards total plummeted from 454. Derek Anderson went from 310 yards passing to 136 (14-for-37) and was hurt by several drops. Kellen Winslow, back after missing last week's game with an unidentified illness, didn't catch a pass until late.
"We might have underestimated the Redskins," Edwards said. "The defense played tremendous, and we've got to give them help. I was a little frustrated early in the game, and it messed me up."
Coach Romeo Crennel didn't think his players "had quite the energy they had on Monday night" against the Giants. Among the culprits was Anderson, who was 5-for-22 before the late rally.
"This team reverted back to some of the things they did earlier in the year," Crennel said. "It's hard to blame one particular guy, but as the quarterback, he takes a lot of the blame because he is the guy with the ball in his hands."
The game's first 14 possessions ended in 13 punts and a missed field goal, but Portis kept churning away, breaking a scoreless tie with a 3-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter. Portis, who entered the weekend as the NFL's leading rusher, had 27 carries despite a nagging hip flexor that limited him in practice most of last week.
Portis' fourth consecutive 100-yard game brought his season total to 818 yards. His only faux pas was a fourth-quarter fumble that led to the Browns' lone touchdown.
"He didn't practice much this week and he threw out a 175-yard rushing game. I'm not going to encourage that," Zorn said with a smile.
Jason Campbell went a modest 14-for-23 for 164 yards, but he still hasn't thrown an interception all season. Moss, kept quiet the previous two games, caught four passes for 75 yards. He made two spin moves on a 35-yard reception that set up Portis' touchdown, then spun around again at the 1 on his 18-yard scoring catch that put the Redskins ahead 14-3 early in the fourth.
But the Browns nearly recovered. Unable to score despite a first-and-goal at the 1, they got the ball back after Portis' fumble and found the end zone on Joshua Cribbs' 1-yard catch and added a 2-point conversion.
Cleveland then forced Washington to punt and drove to the Redskins 36 in the final minute, but Phil Dawson missed what would have been a career-long 54-yard field goal with 25 seconds to play.
The scene on the sideline was similar to last week, when the Redskins lost on a 49-yard kick on the game's last play.
"Very nervous," cornerback Fred Smoot said. "Especially after last week's field goal, which broke my heart. Once I saw it go to the right, it was a relief."
Notes: RB Shaun Alexander, signed by the Redskins on Tuesday, had three carries for 8 yards. ... Campbell tweaked his groin when his foot slipped while attempting a pass in the first quarter, but he did not miss a play. ... Browns injuries: DE Corey Williams (shoulder), LB Shantee Orr (foot). ... The Redskins' streak of 332 regular-season pass attempts without an interception surpasses the previous NFL team record of 281 set by Oakland in 2001. Campbell's individual streak is 224, still well short of Bernie Kosar's mark of 308. ... Anderson and FB Lawrence Vickers downplayed an on-field spat they had in the fourth quarter. "We were both trying to call a timeout. That's basically it," Vickers said. "No friction."
REDSKINS 14, BROWNS 11Cleveland0038—11Washington0077—14Third quarter Was—Portis 3 run (Suisham kick), 7:30. Cle—FG Dawson 37, 2:43. Fourth quarter Was—Moss 18 pass from J.Campbell (Suisham kick), 12:28. Cle—Cribbs 1 pass from Anderson (Edwards pass from Anderson), 2:44. A—90,487. CleWasFirst downs1617Total Net Yards236351Rushes-yards28-10236-193Passing134158Punt Returns5-484-30Kickoff Returns3-893-86Interceptions Ret.0-00-0Comp-Att-Int14-37-014-23-0Sacked-Yards Lost1-21-6Punts8-44.18-37.3Fumbles-Lost1-02-1Penalties-Yards4-255-38Time of Possession31:0828:52INDIVIDUAL STATISTICSRUSHING—Cleveland, Lewis 19-80, Harrison 3-12, Anderson 3-4, Cribbs 1-2, Vickers 1-2, J.Wright 1-2. Washington, Portis 27-175, Cartwright 3-12, S.Alexander 3-8, J.Campbell 2-1, Davis 1-(minus 3).
PASSING—Cleveland, Anderson 14-37-0-136. Washington, J.Campbell 14-23-0-164.
RECEIVING—Cleveland, Edwards 4-58, Stallworth 2-24, Winslow 2-17, Lewis 1-18, Heiden 1-10, Vickers 1-6, Dinkins 1-4, Cribbs 1-1, Ali 1-(minus 2). Washington, Moss 4-75, Randle El 4-56, Cooley 4-32, Portis 1-8, Cartwright 1-(minus 7).
MISSED FIELD GOALS—Cleveland, Dawson 54 (WR). Washington, Suisham 36 (WR).Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times