- The Washington Times
Monday, October 5, 2009

As the clock wound down in a 16-13 victory by the Washington Redskins over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the stands at FedEx Field were filled with people whooping and hollering and hugging and generally enjoying the moment.

Never mind they won by the slimmest of margins against the worst team in the NFC, with an unheralded rookie quarterback making his first start.

That two-point win over the St. Louis Rams two weeks ago that everyone was pretty unhappy about is looking darn good right now.

Redskins fans didn’t revolt Sunday even though this win should be even less satisfying than the victory over the Rams - a better team than the Bucs. They booed when their team was down 10-0 at the first half, but there was no mass exodus from FedEx Field. They came back for more and were rewarded with a victory over winless Tampa Bay.

“It was great to see they stuck with us and for us to give the fans something to cheer about,” Clinton Portis said. “I don’t think anyone will be complaining this week. … We found a way to win the game.”

Here’s what happened Sunday at FedEx Field - the bar was lowered for everyone. Expectations have fallen, and fans, instead of venting their anger over what is likely to be another mediocre season of Redskins football at best, decided they had better enjoy the good times while they have them because there may not be too many of them this season.

Maybe they are smelling what Redskins coach Jim Zorn - whose job may have been saved by Jason Campbell’s 59-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss at the end of the third quarter that gave them the lead - is cooking. For Zorn, it’s a clean slate - a new quarter.

“This next quarter we are 0-0,” Zorn said after the game. “We still have a long way to go. It’s a long season.”

Maybe the Redskins will win the NFC East second-quarter title.

Sunday’s win redefined expectations and also released a little of the steam that had been building in Redskinsland following the embarrassing loss to the previously winless Detroit Lions last week. It takes some of the heat off Zorn, who was clearly feeling it on the sideline during this game.

“Everyone just wants to take a breath. … I was taking a few deep breaths,” Zorn said.

Added Portis: “This gets rid of some of that negative attention - ‘Get Jim Zorn out of here. He can’t win a game.’ He called a good game today.”

They had been a tight team all week because of the pressure. Campbell said he sat in the locker room at halftime and wondered, “If we don’t pull this out, I don’t know what we are going to do on Monday.”

They pulled it out and gave themselves some breathing room. But once everyone catches their breath, they may stop to realize that the problems that existed last week are still there. The questions about Zorn and his ability to be an NFL coach remain.

The Redskins opened the game with Campbell being sacked and fumbling the ball over to the Bucs at the Washington 10-yard line. Two plays later, Tampa Bay scored on an 8-yard touchdown pass from rookie Josh Johnson to Antonio Bryant for a 7-0 lead. The rest of the Redskins’ first-half possessions ended in punt, punt (the second one by kicker Shaun Suisham after Hunter Smith suffered a groin injury), two Campbell interceptions and another punt. Tampa Bay added a 37-yard field goal by Mike Nugent to take a 10-0 lead into the locker room at halftime as Redskins fans angrily booed their team’s exit from the field.

“I started looking at the game plan, wondering what else could go wrong that I called,” Zorn said. “It’s all on me. I’m the play caller.”

Of the first 20 first-down plays the Redskins called, 14 of them were running plays and 13 of them were by Portis. Sense a pattern here?

Nine points against the winless Rams. Fourteen points against the winless Lions. Sixteen points against the winless Bucs.

Sense a pattern here?

The Redskins are this - good enough to barely beat bad teams. Everyone in the stands at FedEx Field seemed to realize that Sunday. When they did, they had a pretty good time.

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.

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