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The Washington Redskins have been waiting for the right opportunity to have Santana Moss return a punt.
Moss returned a punt 80 yards early in the fourth quarter, scoring what proved to be Washington's game-winning touchdown in a 25-17 win over the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
"Once he gets open, he's tough to catch in the open field," Redskins coach Jim Zorn said.
Moss' second TD of the game came on his only punt return of the day and just his second of the season.
"I was telling somebody earlier in the year, 'It's not like I don't know how to do it anymore or I don't want to do it anymore,'" said Moss, whose last TD on a punt return was in 2002 with the New York Jets. "When the time is needed, I'm more than happy to go back there."
The Redskins are relieved to survive what seemed to be an easy three-game stretch -- playing St. Louis, Cleveland and Detroit -- with two victories that put them at 6-2 for the first time since 2000.
"Now this is the push here where the teams begin to define themselves halfway through the season," Zorn said. "We're hoping that we can keep this thing going."
Detroit's hopes of finally winning this season -- and for just the second time in 15 games -- were dashed despite going ahead for the first time in the opening quarter and leading nearly half the game.
Lions coach Rod Marinelli, though, refuses to believe his team is preconditioned to lose.
"I don't deal in couch therapy," Marinelli said. "I'll never do that. I'm going to go back and coach them."
As usual, Detroit allowed a quarterback to have a fantastic game.
Campbell was 23-of-28 for a season-high 328 yards with a touchdown and a career-high 127.4 passer rating, surpassing his performance last year against the Lions and continuing a trend.
In Detroit's seven losses, six quarterbacks have had a career-high passer rating against them.
Moss had a season-high nine receptions for 140 yards, including a 50-yard TD that put Washington ahead late in the third quarter.
The Redskins had a lot of success in the air because of what Clinton Portis did on the ground.
Portis ran for 126 yards, joining O.J. Simpson in the NFL record book as the only players with 120 yards rushing in five straight games.
"It's great company," said Portis, adding the offensive line deserved praise for creating holes without tackle Chris Samuels.
Portis got an earful from Zorn on the bench because the running back was having problems with his equipment when the Redskins had the ball and the coach didn't know he wasn't available.
"He just misunderstood the situation and we had a sweet exchange of words," Zorn said. "It was the heat of the game for me.
"We just came to an understanding. We talked about it at halftime. We talked about it in front of the team."
Portis said the confrontation shouldn't be blown out of proportion.
"It wasn't nothing major. It was just miscommunication," Portis said. "I regret that it happened because I never want someone to feel like I wasn't there."
When Moss wasn't scoring, Washington's kicker came through.
Shaun Suisham kicked four field goals, including a 42-yarder with 1:56 to go that put Washington ahead by 8 points and capped a drive that took nearly 5 minutes off the clock.
Detroit got the ball at its 23 with no timeouts left -- needing a touchdown and 2-point conversion to force overtime -- but the drive ended near midfield with a short pass on fourth down.
The Lions have lost three straight games by single digits after being routed in their first four, but that's of no consolation.
"We need a win," offensive tackle Jeff Backus said. "No moral victories."
REDSKINS 25, LIONS 17
First Quarter Was—FG Suisham 25, 8:12. Det—R.Johnson 11 run (Hanson kick), :13. Second Quarter Det—FG Hanson 43, 10:28. Was—FG Suisham 47, :00. Third Quarter Was—FG Suisham 45, 11:02. Was—Moss 50 pass from J.Campbell (Suisham kick), 4:42. Fourth Quarter Was—Moss 80 punt return (pass failed), 11:29. Det—C.Johnson 17 pass from Orlovsky (Hanson kick), 6:39. Was—FG Suisham 42, 1:56. A—54,312.
|Total Net Yards||439||274|
|Time of Possession||35:45||24:15|
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICSRUSHING—Washington, Portis 24-126, S.Alexander 6-11, J.Campbell 3-(minus 2). Detroit, R.Johnson 8-21, Orlovsky 2-17, Kev.Smith 4-12, C.Johnson 1-7.
PASSING—Washington, J.Campbell 23-28-0-328. Detroit, Orlovsky 21-35-0-223.
RECEIVING—Washington, Moss 9-140, Cooley 6-74, Randle El 3-47, Thrash 1-29, Yoder 1-14, S.Alexander 1-9, D.Thomas 1-9, Portis 1-6. Detroit, Kev.Smith 7-50, McDonald 5-68, C.Johnson 4-57, Gaines 2-28, Norris 2-10, R.Johnson 1-10.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—Washington, Suisham 50 (WR).