Campbell-to-Moss helps Redskins beat Saints 29-24

Published 7:07 pm Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The play most will recall, of course, is the 67-yard post route to Santana Moss for the go-ahead touchdown.

The play Washington Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell will relish at least as much, if not more, came much later in the game and did not result in any points.

It came with Washington facing fourth-and-2 at the opponent’s 34, nursing a narrow lead just after the 2-minute warning. Time to punt, perhaps? Or maybe run to chew up some clock? But a pass? Yes, new Redskins coach Jim Zorn wanted Campbell to throw.

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So Campbell did, completing an 8-yard toss to Moss. It not only settled Washington’s 29-24 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, and not only sealed Zorn’s first victory as an NFL head coach, it also solidified Campbell’s sense of self.

“Most teams would probably try to rush the ball right there. He gave me the opportunity to make the play, and it was a turning moment,” said Campbell, 8-for-8 down the stretch to cap a 24-for-36 performance for 321 yards.

“We talked a lot during the week,” Campbell added. “I said ’Coach, just trust me.’ And he said, ’I’ve got to trust you more.”’

Zorn’s West Coast offense presented problems for Campbell in a Week 1 loss to the New York Giants. And in the first half Sunday, there was more of the same: Washington (1-1) closed each of its five possessions with field-goal tries, including two misses.

A 10-9 halftime lead for the Saints (1-1) became 24-15 at the start of the fourth quarter, thanks to Drew Brees’ 19-yard touchdown pass to Robert Meachem — a 2007 first-round draft pick making his regular-season debut — and Reggie Bush’s 55-yard punt return for a TD.

“At that point,” said Brees, “we were feeling pretty good.”

By then, the Redskins were getting booed at home.

“We were fortunate to be up by nine going into the fourth quarter,” said Saints coach Sean Payton, whose contract extension through 2012 was announced before the game. “That teased us a little bit.”

Things looked even better for New Orleans when Will Smith sacked Campbell to set up a second-and-22 for Washington from its own 6.

That’s when Campbell got going, completing a 23-yarder to Chris Cooley against a Saints defense missing three injured starters and beginning to wilt in heat that reached 90 degrees. Campbell went 5-for-5 for 82 yards on that drive, and Clinton Portis scored his second touchdown of the game on an 8-yard run that made it 24-22.

That was followed by as short a drive as could be: On first down from his own 33, Campbell saw the Saints preparing to bring extra pressure. He also saw there was no safety help for rookie cornerback Tracy Porter.

Campbell avoided the rush, stepped forward and found Moss a step behind Porter for a career-long completion — precisely the type of play Zorn faulted his quarterback for flubbing against the Giants.

“He had to actually maneuver in the pocket, which we’ve been working on,” Zorn said. “And then to be able to crank one like that to Santana — wow, it was a big throw.”

Sure was: touchdown, lead, personal boost, all rolled into one.

“That play can do wonders for a guy like Jason — and for this team,” said Moss, who had seven catches for 164 yards.

“I’m thankful that we have a coach like Coach Z. He was aggressive,” Moss said, sounding as though he were drawing a comparison to Zorn’s predecessor, Joe Gibbs. “He said, ’Hey, if you’re not expecting it, then you better expect it.”’

That applied to the late call on fourth down, when Campbell connected again with Moss.

While the Saints turned too conservative to Bush’s liking — “I felt like maybe we went into our prevent offense,” he said — the Redskins were not shy about forcing the issue.

“A real gutsy call,” Redskins guard Pete Kendall said. “When I heard the play call come in, I thought, ’This could be really good, if it works out.”’

When Moss caught the ball, Zorn took off his headphones and sunglasses, enjoying win No. 1.

“I wish I could enjoy it as much as I had to endure last week,” Zorn said.

Similar sentiments for Campbell, who was drafted in the first round by Gibbs in 2005 and has made 22 NFL starts.

“It’s a confidence-builder for him,” Portis said, “after you get a week of press clippings like he got — you know, ’Time to replace him,’ and, ’Get him out of here, he’s not capable of doing that.”’

Notes: Brees was 22-for-33 for 216 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions. … Redskins rookie S Chris Horton had two interceptions and a fumble recovery. Horton is from New Orleans and had relatives at the game. “They’re like, ’Hey, don’t hurt us too bad today,”’ he said. “I think I hurt ’em pretty bad.”